Location: Cairns, Australia

Today was a shore-time day for all of us! Right after breakfast and putting the boat away, many shipmates decided to take the day to do some adventuring down undah. I didn’t venture off the boat until lunchtime; meanwhile, some of my friends were bungee jumping (and apparently being all-around radical) while some ventured to the wildlife dome, where I found myself later. I noticed that our duffel bags and luggage had all been brought out from storage in the bilges, and things became really real for a minute; I realized that in just a few days, we were all going to part ways until we next meet again (Vegas in a few years, guys?). Made a friend from one of the neighboring yachts, a Mr. Sebastian on the yacht Antipodean (this means backward, as in Australian people are backward from British, and the vessel is Australian and manned by Australians), who recommended that if I wanted to see a croc, a koala, and many other animals I listed, I should head up to the Wildlife Dome at the top of the casino. I wandered around Cairns for a bit, looking for the last of the souvenirs that I had listed in my mind to get as gifts, and finally found my way there. It was spectacular. Small as it was, it housed a great number of birds and mammals, salt and freshwater crocs, all sorts of indigenous animals. As the frogmouths (a bird with a huge mouth that looks like a squat owl) and kookaburra were being fed by a staff member, Michelle, we were informed that many of their birds and animals were rescues, given a second chance at life. The birds there were amazing, and apparently, their favorite snack is almonds, which they will eat right out of your hand. I learned that kookaburras are actually pretty nasty birds, living in family groups, with the adults acting as distracters, drawing other birds away from their nests, and the younger ones steal eggs or chicks. They had a few different kinds of kookaburras there, laughing, leucistic (like albino, but the pigments are only lost in the skin and feathers, still present in the eyes; this is more rare than albino), and blue-winged. I got to see them all, and they were really cool. I have had the kookaburra song stuck in my head ever since.Apparently, frogmouths are quite the predators as well. Though they look like owls, they actually aren’t in the same family, as they don’t have talons. They actually use their HUGE beak to do most of their hunting. I actually got to meet one of them who was a bit more friendly than the others, Gomez, who looked right at me with his HUGE red eyes when I called him by name. His feathers were super soft, which they have in order to fly silently and colored in a way that makes them look like the bark of a tree so that they may rest in peace during the day. He also had this funny little tuft of feathers sticking out right above his beak, which, aside from looking silly and cute, makes it so he can feel insects flying around at night. Anyway, the dome tries to minimize glass and cages, so most of the enclosures are open, and the birds and lizards are free to move about the whole space, flying around to land on our shoulder. The crocs, however, are not free to roam around. There were some freshwater crocodiles, maybe 4 feet long, resting on the banks. I saw a sign that said estuarine (salt) crocodiles and saw a tiny billabong (the name for a stagnant pool of water) and a little baby. I turned the corner and saw underwater viewing into a huge pool, but no croc. I was a little disappointed, thinking that there wasn’t a large saltie in the place. However, I soon noticed that platforms all over the place weren’t just for the zip-liners, anyone could walk around, and that’s how you reached the topside of the enclosure for Goliath, their massive salt-water crocodile. He was resting on the bank, absolutely motionless, but man, did he look fierce!! It was like looking at a dinosaur. After making my way around, it was time for pictures with koalas. I got to have a cuddle with Kiah, an 8-year-old female. I was a little nervous as first; I had heard that koalas have sharp claws and aren’t known to have the nicest disposition. This girl was so sweet; I could have cuddled her all day. I got to take a picture, give her a good snuggle, and pet; then, it was time for her to go back to her tree. Not long after, I got to meet a sugar glider who was so tiny and fluffy, with huge eyes and this fluffy prehensile tail that she kept wrapping around Michelle’s finger. Then I got to meet some cedar gliders, which are a lot bigger. During this, I learned that the dome had done a lot to try to save these endangered species, which have become so mostly due to habitat loss as they live in the forests that have been turned into farmland. They have a captive breeding and release program. They have also put rope bridges over highways so that they can cross without risk of being hit, as well as put nesting boxes in the forest as recent cyclones have knocked down most of the hollow trees they would normally inhabit. Then we met Narla, a juvenile Rufous Bettong, which is a nocturnal marsupial, which is closely related to things like wallabies. Michelle walked over to a little hollow rock, knocked on it, and this little beauty hopped on out, following Michelle around the enclosure as she had been a rescue and hand-raised as well. These cannot move their back legs, which are huge, separately, nor can they move backward, they can only take leaps forward, which she did very well. Apparently, many feral, non-indigenous animals are preying upon these that they have too become endangered. I got to give her a pet, and she was lovely and soft, though not as soft as the sugar glider, and headed out.My squeeze question tonight was asking my shipmates about what is something that makes you feel as if you have experienced summer, for some, it could be bonfires or Smores, or swimming in the ocean. I thought of Ms. Pac-Man at Pas with Courtney, trying to get a high score without getting heatstroke. After dinner (surrounded by much didgeridoo playing), most of us headed back out for some last-minute souveniring, as the next two days will prove to be packed to the brim with activities. Overall, a lovely day and a lovely evening surrounded by people I know I will miss TONS! Sorry for all the nerdy animal talk? but you should expect nothing different from me 😛