Before I ever had the opportunity to visit Australia, I had an image of it in my mind, like something out of a movie. Well, to be honest, it really was out of a movie, the movie Australia. You know, with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman?
I imagined hot dry deserts, red sand, few trees and fewer people, and a hell of a lot of cattle. If you’ve kept up with my Australia posts on my blog, you have probably guessed that my experience down under couldn’t have been more different.
After a handful of trips over to the “big island” from New Zealand, and mostly to Queensland, my perception was quickly adjusted. Now when I think of Australia, I think of dense green trees and vines around the Daintree Rainforest and the sparkling turquoise water of the Great Barrier Reef. I think of the pure white sands around the Whitsundays, orange sunsets in Byron Bay and cuddling grey koalas outside Brisbane.
But no red Outback….yet.
I briefly mentioned before how much I love this part of the world, so I was so excited to head back over to Tropical North Queensland with Canon Australia to share my perspective of a place I’ve grown to love. This time I got to experience the Australia of my imagination at the beginnings of the Outback in the far north in a place called the Mareeba Wetlands.
When most people think of the Australian Outback, they probably think of Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the red center, right? No shame, that’s what I thought too, but it’s so much more than that.
While I still haven’t ticked that particular sight off my massive bucketlist, I was able to visit another part of the Outback, this time in Queensland.
An hour and a half inland from Cairns over the beautiful mountains and the landscape will suddenly change from tropical to wetlands, flattening out quickly with a hint of that infamous red soil. It almost felt like I was back in Africa, on the grasslands of the Savannah.
Bring it on!
I couldn’t think of a better example to include on my Visa #notatourist campaign. If you want to visit a secret part of Australia and really experience the true Outback, you must head here. Even in places as remote and off the beaten path as this, you can still pay with Visa and know your money is secure.
It was a sunny and beautiful day when we made our way over the mountains to Mareeba, heading towards the Jabiru Safari Lodge where we were staying the night. As we got closer I noticed a dense cloud on the horizon. At first I thought it was thunderstorm brewing, something I’m used to seeing a lot growing up in the South in the United States.
I quickly realized it was actually smoke from fires; farmers in the area were doing preventive burns to prevent wildfires in the future since it rains so little. The land around this part of the Outback can light up like a match without controlled burns.
It felt so surreal to be in such a dry place.
After we checked in and made our way to our safari-style tents (though I hate to call them tents because it just doesn’t do it justice) we climbed into a little boat and went on a tour of the wetlands, the perfect introduction to Mareeba.
I eagerly climbed to the front of the boat, pestering the captain (loosely named) with questions like are there crocs in there (nope), and how deep is the water (not very), all the while peeping through binoculars and trying to spot as many animals as possible and letting my inner Bird Nerd out.
The marshy lake was covered in lily pads and still as glass, and I felt absolutely 100% at peace with the world here.
As the sun started to set we climbed in an open safari truck to go explore the wetlands.
I love it when the afternoon light turns everything gold and the birds start calling again. The land changes for me, maybe it’s because I think a lot more about light with photography, but dusk has always been my favorite time of day.
Out on the dirt roads of the Outback, I felt like this was the Australia I had been waiting for.
And as if things couldn’t get better, our driver stopped, seeing something no one else could. Peering through the tall grasses, eventually my eyes adjusted and I could see a handful of kangaroos, with a big mother in front with a joey peeping out of her pouch! I couldn’t believe it!
We saw countless other beautiful birds and wildlife before making our way back to the lodge for supper. The sun set bright red and massive behind the smoky clouds in the distance, seeming larger than life. We ate dinner as the stars began to pop out with an orange glow on the horizon of the small fires. It felt very surreal.
As crickets started chirping after dark and the sound of the night began, it reminded me a bit of my home in rural Virginia. I love being out in the wild, especially in a place as comfortable as this lodge!
I fell asleep in my huge glamping tent listening to the pitter patter of little animal feet walking by and god knows what else. Does it get any better than that?
I don’t think so.
Have you ever been to the Outback in Australia? Does the Mareeba Wetlands sound appealing to you too?
Many thanks to Visa, Canon Australia, Tropical North Queensland and Queensland for hosting me on this trip. Like always I’m keeping it real, all opinions are my own, like you could expect less from me!
For more tips from Visa on exploring the world like #notatourist, visit Travel with Visa.