Great Barrier Reef, Australia and Papua New Guinea
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Eclipse and Outer Space

On Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 06.38 a total solar eclipse was visible in Northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. We witnessed this spectacular astronomical phenomenon at sea off Cairns at the end of a very interesting cultural cruise around the east coast of Papua New Guinea. On our cruise ship a guest speaker was Tom Jones, a veteran Astranaut who, during his time with NASA flew on 4 space shuttle missions to Earth orbit and led 3 spacewalks to help build the International Space Station.


Cairns, North Queensland with a population of over 120,000, is a blend of colonial architecture on wide streets, and gives an impression of a relaxed, backpacker town. It is the gateway to the World Heritage sites of the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and the Atherton Tablelands, a fertile plateau that is part of the Great Dividing Range, once a volcanic area.  A series of long white beaches, mostly sparse, link Port Douglas to the Daintree Rainforest region and Cape Tribulation.

Just south of the equator, 160km north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is part of a great arc of mountains stretching from Asia, through Indonesia and into the South Pacific. This fascinating land has more than 600 islands and more than 800 indigenous languages (tok ples), and is home to the largest area of intact rainforest outside of the Amazon. Despite stories of headhunters, the people we met were the friendliest and happiest we had ever encountered. They even thanked us for taking their photo - to them it was an honour.

The Great Barrier Reef is made up of over 2900 reefs and 900 islands. It is the largest reef structure and marine park in the world -  so large that it is visible from the moon.

Beneath the water's surface lies an incredible underwater world. Whether you experience it by snorkelling, diving or glass bottom boat, it is a mystical world filled with an abundance of coral, marine life and vibrant tropical fish.

The Daintree National Park is probably the only place on the planet where two separate World Heritage sites sit alongside each other (the Daintree Forest and the Great Barrier Reef).

The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforest containing the most complete record of the evolution of plant life dating back to the beginning of life on Earth. Trekking through the ancient, 150million year old forest at Cooper Creek was a fascinating and wonderful experience.
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