Diving, bushwalking, beaches, and the world's biggest gay parade
An adventure vacation in Australia: Frequently-Asked Questions about Boomerang!
See five faces of the globe's biggest island. Bushwalk in primeval forest. Enjoy the world's most festive gay parade! Then dive or snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef.
This FAQ page is intended to accompany other pages about this trip and about our company (see links at left). Some of the answers below may include links to other other sites; please use the BACK key of your browser to return to this page.
When does the trip start and end?
No activities are planned for the last day, so you can depart at whatever time is best for you.
If you do wish to arrive earlier or depart later, please note that (as of this writing) check-in time is 4:00 pm, and check-out time is 9:00 am. You can leave luggage with the hotel desk if necessary.
The evenings in Sydney on which we do not have dinner or other events scheduled are:
In addition, about two months before the trip begins, we'll send out a list of several options available. Those who do not sign up for the 4-additional-dinners option will also have the following open time:
I'm traveling alone. Will everyone else be in couples?
What's the weather like in Australia?
Weather will be similar in the Blue Mountains, two hours inland from Sydney, but temperatures will probably be a little cooler, and the mountains are often overcast with the blue mist (a result of eucalyptus oils) that gives this region its name.
Up in Port Douglas and on the Great Barrier Reef, we'll be in the sub-tropics. Temperatures can reach into the 80s F (30+ C.), but every day you have opportunities to cool off in the water, whether that's the Coral Sea, a river in the rainforest, or the hotel pool. This is considered the rainy season up north, but that generally means a few hours of rain during the day, not a full day, and it's rarely interfered with our chosen activities: snorkeling and diving, rafting, and visiting the rainforest.
Are airport transfers included on this trip?
1.) On arrival in Sydney, you'll need to get to our hotel. This transfer is not included, because people will be arriving at different times, and even on different days. However, our colorful yellow luggage tags will help you spot others at the airport who are part of our group, and you can arrange to share a cab if you like. (You can catch a cab or shuttle to our hotel for around U.S. $30 to $40.)
2.) Departing from Sydney for Port Douglas, a transfer from our hotel to Sydney Airport is included if you're on one of the morning flights we recommend (see FAQ regarding flight recommendations). If you take a different flight, then again it's an easy cab or shuttle ride to the airport.
3) It's about an hour ride from the Cairns airport to our hotel in Port Douglas. On Day 10 (March 3 in 2008), we will provide a transfer from Cairns Airport to Port Douglas at about 1:00 pm, after the arrival of our suggested flights. If you arrive earlier, you can arrange your own transportation or wait for this transfer.
4) On the final day of the trip, we will provide a transfer from Port Douglas to Cairns Airport to meet the first flight of the morning, and to meet a mid-day flight to Sydney. This transfer is on your own if you are departing at another time or another day.
What flight should I get from Sydney to Cairns/Port Douglas?
Therefore, for 2008 we recommend the following:
March 3, 2008: DJ 387 (non-stop flight on 737): Depart Sydney (SYD) Domestic Terminal 2 at 10:00 am; Arrive Cairns (CNS) Domestic Terminal at 12:05 pm
March 7, 2008: We will provide transfers to the Virgin Blue flights departing Cairns Domestic Terminal at 6:20 am and 12:35 pm. (Add 4 hours to get the arrival time in Sydney, after a 3-hour flight and a 1-hour time change). There are Qantas departing around the same times.
Please note that Virgin Blue requires payment with booking, and tickets are non-refundable.
If you are adding your flights within Australia to a Qantas international ticket, we recommend taking Qantas Airlines 9:35 am flight (QF 924; departs from the domestic terminal) from Sydney to Cairns/Port Douglas on Monday, March 3, 2008. If necessary, we'll provide a group transfer from the hotel to the airport in time for these flights.
If you want more time in Sydney, feel free to take an afternoon flight, but you'll have to arrange the transfers between the hotels and the airports on your own. We have no group activities scheduled for that afternoon, so as long as you arrive by dinnertime, you won't miss anything.
What's the difference between Cairns and Port Douglas?
The same international airport serves both cities. Properly called the Cairns-Port Douglas Airport, it's often just referred to as the Cairns Airport. It is about an hour's drive from the airport to Port Douglas.
Are Mardi Gras tickets included?
We include tickets for premier seating at the official Mardi Gras parade. We don't include party tickets, because many people in our group are coming primarily for the outdoor activities, and have little or no interest in circuit parties.
If you'd like to go to the party, first you become an International Member of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras; this allows you to then purchase one ticket for personal use.
We spend one full day out on the reef, with snorkeling, swimming, and lunch. This boat excursion is included in the trip, so there's no extra charge. We expect to use a boat that is equiped for scuba diving as well as snorkeling, so if you prefer to dive, you can select the scuba diving option for this day.
During our other two full days in Port Douglas, we offer optional whitewater rafting on one day, and the other day is free, so divers can also head out for a dive on one of these days. On the free day, you can select from the wide choice of options available here, or just relax by the pool.
If you're an avid scuba diver, we suggest that rather than skip other activities up here, you may want to extend your stay a few days so you can spend more time diving the world's largest reef. Our pre-trip newsletter makes it easy to find out if there are others in our group who might like to dive with you, either during or after the trip.
What's this "canyoning activity" you mention?
I'm not rappelling through any waterfall! What else can I do that day?
Others can choose from options that include hiking, horseback riding, touring the spectacular Jenolan Caves, or riding the aptly-named Zig Zag Railway, one of Australia's earliest railroading landmarks. The Blue Mountains are a relatively compact area, so you can fit several of these activities into one day.
How many days are there in a 13-day trip?
Our "13-day" trip thus consists of 12 full days and two partial days. And no, this question isn't analogous to asking "Who is buried in Grant's Tomb?" Some companies promote a trip of this length as being 14 days since it includes pieces of 14 different days. We feel it's more accurate to refer to this as 13 days.
What books could I read to get ready for this trip?
Even the best guidebook should be supplemented with a broader perspective. Here are three books we liked, although each with some caveats:
The Fatal Shore: The Epic of Australia's Founding, by Robert Hughes. The United States was founded by Europeans seeking freedom; Australia was founded by convicts that England wanted to ship as far away as possible. Our similar societies thus sprang from vastly different roots.
Hughes's colorful, gripping account of Australia's early history became a national best-seller and won critical praise: Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. called it "a brilliant and enduring achievement . . . a vivid narrative and thoughtful assessment." But start reading now! At 688 pages, this is too much to save for the airplane, and perhaps too heavy to carry to Australia.
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin. Robert Hughes focused on Australia's early European settlers, not on the aboriginal inhabitants who predated them. Bruce Chatwin, the late gay travel writer, took a great interest in aboriginal culture, and particularly in the nomadic tribes that used epic songs as a way of communication. Critics have questioned just how well Chatwin truly understood these cultures, and he often relied on secondary sources while implying he had first-hand knowledge. Nonetheless, The Songlines paints a fascinating picture. It's questionable whether anyone raised in one culture can entirely understand a fundamentally different society; Chatwin's book may be the closest a westerner can get to understanding aboriginal and nomadic life.
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Bryson follows his popular account of his journey along the Appalachian amble, A Walk in the Woods, with this entertaining story of his exploits in Australia. Bryson's light, engaging style will appeal to most visitors to Australia. But he's not an adventure traveler -- he never even gets under water on the Great Barrier Reef, and he's certainly not rappelling down any waterfalls! -- and he'll occasionally sacrifice depth in favor of humor.
Priscilla: Queen of the Desert, a popular, hyper-camp look at the world of three Aussie drag queens;
The Sum of Us, with Russell Crowe and Jack Thompson about a gay man and his father, set just outside Sydney;
A Cry in the Dark, starring Meryl Streep. Did a dingo really eat her baby?
Gallipoli, starring Mark Lee and Mel Gibson, about an episode that still raises fierce emotions;
Can I talk to someone who's been on this trip?
Our website includes a full page of comments from past travelers. Most of them have volunteered to talk about their experiences with future potential travelers. Please call for the names and phone numbers of references in your area.