grass roots Ttheake conservation to Amazon jungle, where volunteer travellers are helping to raise awareness and care for wildlife. Many of the species are seldom seen outside the Amazon, such as tamarind, squirrel monkeys, coatis, tayras and kinkajous, tigrillos, caimans, macaws and parrakeets. Volunteer placements run from two to six weeks. For two weeks, pay $1729 to cover accommodation, emergency assistance and airport transfer. Six weeks costs $3359.
words and photos: seanna cronin Deep space? No, it’s the Jellyfish Lake
atrainbow’send Need an island getaway that’s more than your average white sand, blue water and palm trees? Welcome to Palau alau is where the rainbow ends ... so my immigration entry card and travel brochures tell me as I sit under the fluorescent lights in the 747’s cabin. I’m on Pacific Flier’s first official flight to Palau, a cluster of islands east of Guam and the Philippines. The new airline, founded by Gold Coast businessmen Grant Vickers and Reg Free, flies direct between the Gold Coast and Koror, Palau’s capital, cutting the travel time to this remote Pacific country from more than a day to just six hours. When we land we find no pots of gold but something much better – an unspoilt island paradise full of the weird and wonderful. Before jumping into the water, where many of Palau’s natural treasures lie, I go for a helicopter tour of the islands to get a bird’s eye view of the country’s striking rock islands. Our pilot Matt is an Australian expat who has the laidback attitude that can only come from living on island time for a decade. His accent is an interesting mix of Australian, American and a hint of Palauan. Matt suggests we’ll have a more exhilarating experience if we do our aerial tour of the islands without the doors on the helicopter. Nothing between us and the view but an airplane-style seatbelt. Standing on the roof next to the chopper, it sounds like a wonderful idea but when we take off we soon find out how windy the next 15 minutes will be. Once my face adjusts to the buffeting I can take in the spectacular view. Hovering a few hundred metres above the rock islands, it looks like a someone has scattered dollops of green meringue across a sheet of turquoise paper. The limestone islands are shaped like tall mushrooms, covered with an impenetrable fur of dense green foliage.
earn how to Lcuisine cook Balinese with raw ingredients in an organic garden during a gourmet holiday with a twist. Stay at the secluded Alila Manggis resort, enjoy a master cooking class and take part in tai chi from $469 per person twin share with four nights’ accommodation, return airport transfers, breakfast daily. The package is on sale until October 31 for travel from September 16 to December 19.
Many of Palau’s treasures lie beneath the ocean’s surface
swims right up to me and looks at its reflection in the dome port of my camera, perhaps admiring the explosion of colour on its body. I save the most anticipated site for the last day of my trip. Palau’s Jellyfish Lakes are unique microcosms where jellyfish separated from the ocean thousands of years ago have lost their stingers. Swimming through this fishbowl of evolution, with the smooth tops of the jellyfish brushing against your skin, is a foreign, yet relaxing, experience. Everyone is quiet as they float on the surface, arms outstretched to gaze at the hundreds of thousands of pinkish brown jellies. As we walk back to the boat it’s like returning from deep space. There isn’t much else to say except ‘wow’.
Phone 1300 799 783 or visit www.escapetravel.com.au
mineral ne hour from O Cairns International Airport, The Crystal Caves, on the Atherton Tablelands, offers more than 600 mineralogical specimens such as crystals, gemstones and fossils. Visitors are able to explore at their leisure, touching the ancient treasures of the earth. Enlarged several times since it was created in 1986, guests are given a miners helmet, a light and a comprehensive map through the cave system.
Getting there: Pacific Flier, tickets from Gold Coast to Palau on sale from $199 until July 31, for travel up to December 1. Visit www.pacificflier.com Watersports: Fish ’N Fins www.fishnfins.com Staying there: Palau Pacific Resort www.palauppr.com
The view from the dive boat the next day reveals a different perspective of the islands. As we weave in between the nearly vertical green walls I can see how precariously the islands are perched above the water. There is an overhang at the waterline where the soft limestone is fighting a losing battle against the saltwater. The erosion has created some interesting structures, including an arch our captain confidently steers the dive boat through without slowing down, smiling as we all applaud the fact he only had a few feet of clearance on either side. When we pull up to a mooring it’s time to jump in the water to see the true star of Palau – the coral reefs. Perched on the edge of Blue Corner, Palau’s famous drop-off, the reef is like a bustling highway of fish. White-tipped reef sharks hover in the current as schools of snapper, surgeon fish and barracuda parade past, their silver scales flashing in the sunlight filtering down through the crystal clear water. A metre-long Napoleon wrasse