An Excellent Itinerary for a Two Week Trip
Jul 6 - Jul 22, 2023
We couldn't have been happier with the itinerary that Gary prepared for us. As someone who had never been to Australia before, he successfully translated our requests and lack of knowledge into a schedule that was easy to follow--and thoroughly enjoyable. The places he recommended and organized for our trip were mind-blowingly spectacular. The Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu, Litchfield, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon, and Uluru---our only complaint was that we didn't have enough time at any of these locations! Even more impressive is that he was able to pull together an itinerary with not much time to spare. We connected with him only 8 weeks before our trip (during peak travel season), so we were quite impressed that he managed to pack as much into our two week trip as he did. Thank you!
Seeing the GBR was an amazing experience, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to do so. The crew was high energy the entire time, and made the journey there and back a pleasant one. What I was expecting, but didn't get, was any information about the GBR. I had assumed there'd be some type of presentation about the plants and animals we'd be seeing during our 2 hour journey there, and how to maximize our snorkeling/diving experience. Even better would have been a discussion about the issues that the GBR is facing as the oceans warm. All we got was a disjointed, generalized slideshow AFTER we had done the snorkeling. In addition, I was given a wetsuit that was too large (never having worn a wetsuit before, I had no idea). Thus, for me, the snorkeling was uncomfortably cold, and I ended up with non-stop shivering even after back on the boat. Thankfully, a crew member noticed on the second round of snorkeling, so that dive was much more enjoyable. Lastly, I wasn't blown over by the food provided. Since I stayed out snorkeling until called in for lunch, most of the food was already gone, since others had come in early. What I had was fine, but cold (all the hot food was gone), and not particularly memorable.
Another amazing experience. Thoroughly enjoyed visiting this area, and getting to see the tropical rainforest and learn a bit more about the original inhabitants, plants, and animals. The cable car up and train down were a fun way to get to the town. And I was thrilled the buffet lunch had food choices there was both healthy and tasty. My major critique is that the entire day was so tightly programmed, it did feel a bit rushed. I understand that this can be an occupational hazard of having a tight schedule, but in our case, we were dropped off at the cable car entrance and had to wait for an extended time (maybe 45 minutes?) for our guide to show up with our tickets. It wasn't exactly clear what was going on at the time. If it could be arranged, it would have been a better use of that time for us to have our tickets when we arrived at the cable car entrance, so we could have just immediately gone up. Even better, I'd recommend that the train be used to go up, and the cable car to go down. That would provide a bit more flexibility in heading back down, rather than having to be at a precise location at a precise time in order to leave.
This tour was probably the least favorite of the activities we did on this trip (of course, it's competing with some heavy hitters!). That being said, this overview of Darwin was pretty disjointed, and didn't give us much information about Darwin at all. Basically, it was a bus ride pointing out various buildings (and even that not done clearly), then trips to several locations. To be fair, the guide was also the driver (I don't know if this is normal), and she mentioned she hadn't done this tour in quite a while. Since I don't have much interest in aviation history, that museum wasn't a highlight for me, but I definitely enjoyed the trip to the Botanic Garden and the Museum and Art Gallery.
This cruise was amazing! It shows what difference a good guide can make on a trip like this. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, entertaining, and open to questions and discussions. If we had had the time, I would have booked the afternoon cruise with him. I felt like I learned so much about the area, and the plants and animals that inhabit it. And he was so good at spotting things!
For a large bus tour, it was pretty well organized. Clearly the tour operators have a clear system for their trips. It was a bit wild, how many people were lining up before dawn for multiple bus tours. We had an awesome guide, Glennon--very high energy, and very knowledgeable. I very much appreciated that he gave us commentary while we drove to the sites. I think we might have gotten off to a late start, however--there really wasn't enough time to do the breakfast, see Uluru, then get back on the bus. I think all of that had to occur within a 1/2 hour, which meant that we had to leave Uluru just 10 minutes after the sun rose. The walk in Kata Tjuta was amazing. I've never seen that type of unconsolidated amalgamation of rock before. I very much enjoyed the experience of being in that place, and I appreciated that Glennon had us all gather at the end and engage in a minute of silence so that we could fully be present in this space. The only critique--and I know this is so common with large groups--is that he stopped several times to make a presentation, but didn't wait for the entire group to catch up, so only a small percentage of the overall group got to hear it.
Yet another event that I found tremendously moving. For a large group event (two buses worth of people), they did a fantastic job of making it feel special and more intimate. The setting is spectacular, the food was delicious, the didgeridoo player was phenomenal, and the star gazing was out of this world. And the time of silence was sublime. As a city dweller, I think that might be the first time I've ever seen the Milky Way! My suggestions for improvements are minor: I would have liked the star storytelling to be twice as long (at least). I so enjoyed it, but it seemed much too brief. A side note: the laser pointer he used was awesome! And they did something odd with the food service: we happened to be the first table that got served. (They ask each table to go up to the buffet line separately.) But then they reverse it for the desert, so we were the last to go up for desert. Thus we had a huge gap in our meal, and then only had 5 minutes to eat the desert before we had to depart. Not sure why the swap--it doesn't really make sense for the meal flow. And they need to provide a bit more time between when the last desert is served and the guests are asked to leave.