Uncle Brian’s Fun Falls and Forest tour is literally one of a kind. Brian and his ‘family’ of staff have gone to extreme lengths to transform what could be a mediocre tour of the Atherton Tablelands’ waterfalls in northern Queensland, Australia, into a full 12 hours of non-stop entertainment.
VISIT CAIRNS WITH CONTIKI…
…AND HAVE NO REGRETS
I signed up for Uncle Brian’s Fun Falls and Forest tour thanks to a recommendation from the guide of my Contiki BEACHES AND REEFS tour. The Beaches and Reefs trip extends all the way from Sydney to Cairns, at which point you have the choice of an AJ Hackett bungy, white water rafting or Uncle Brian’s. Do Uncle Brian’s. It is literally the best day trip in existence, and will round off the best two-week trip in style.
THE UNCLE BRIAN’S FUN BEGINS
At around 8 am I was picked up from my accommodation by ‘Gus the Wonder Bus’ and his driver, Cousin Amber. They both had us all in hysterics from the word go – Amber with her jokes and Gus with his tendency to overuse roundabouts and ‘dance’ in the style of the music being played…!
By the time we arrived at the first stop, we were having so much fun that I was actually disappointed to have to get off the bus.
Babinda Boulders is a popular swimming and picnic area surrounded by tropical rainforest, and it’s absolutely stunning.
Cousin Amber explained that some of the pools were restricted access, as people had lost their lives when strong currents had sucked them beneath the rocks.
There’s an aboriginal dreamtime story that explains the formation of the boulders as well as their deadly nature. Legend has it that when the Yidinji tribe lived in the Babinda Valley, there was a very beautiful young girl called Oolana who was married off to a very old and respected tribal elder named Waroonoo. Later, Oolana met Dyga – a young and handsome man from another tribe that was passing through the valley. Above, you can see Cousin Amber doing her best impression of a sexy young man swagger.
But back to the story… Dyga and Oolana were so attracted to each other that they met in secret and ran away together. The two tribes sent out search parties and eventually found the young lovers camping near the water’s edge. Dyga was forced to leave Oolana, whose tribe began dragging her back home. Suddenly, she broke free and flung herself into the creek, crying with grief for Dyga to return.
At that moment, the land shook. Rushing water came cascading through the valley and she disappeared. As huge granite boulders were thrown up from the earth, she seemed to become a part of them.
To this day, it is said that her spirit remains and that wandering travellers should keep their distance because she’s still searching for her lost lover. At least 17 people have lost their lives at the Babinda Boulders – most of them young men.
Josephine Falls is a beautiful three-stage waterfall. There are boardwalks and viewing areas for you to visit, but you’ll probably be too distracted by the natural water slide to get much hiking done.
Not only did Cousin Amber provide a full demonstration, including which route to use to climb up the rocks and how to avoid the currents in the plunge pool, she also inspired us with silly positions for the slide. Anything goes except standing up, she told us, before waving manically like a five year old and shooting down the rocks with her legs akimbo.
MILLA MILLA FALLS
After a buffet-style lunch at the Tea House, we headed off to the best swimming spot of the day – Milla Milla Falls. Aussies and Brits will know this as the background for Peter Andre’s abs in his music video for Mysterious Girl. Perplexingly, people from any other country appear to be completely oblivious to who he is, but they do tend to remember the Herbal Essences advert that was also filmed here.
Neither of the two men on our tour was willing to dance Andre-style, but everyone was keen to get involved with some hair flick action – even the bald guy!
As daylight began to fade, we pulled up at our penultimate spot and the final swimming hole of the day. Lake Eacham is a volcanic crater lake over 60 m deep.
Its mirror-like surface creates some fantastic photo opportunities. The lake is also home to some saw-shelled turtles with the ability to breathe through their rear ends. These turtles circulate water in and out of their cloaca, where thousands of tiny, blood-rich projections absorb oxygen in a similar manner to fish gills.
Lake Eacham has a pier you can jump from. Ask your guide to capture silhouette photos of you as you leap off into the water for one last refreshing dip.
Just up the road, Yungabarra is the final stop of the tour, where there’s a viewing platform for platypuses. The quieter you are, the more chance you have of spotting one. Depending on the season, you have about a 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 chance.
BITS IN BETWEEN
This is where Uncle Brian’s really stands out. On most tours, the drives in between the points of interest are a little on the boring side. Some companies leave you to sit in silence, while others make some attempt at commentary. On Uncle Brian’s, you’re thrown right in at the deep end.
Earlier in the day, we’d broken the ice by passing a ring up and down the bus using match sticks in our teeth. A little corny and crass? Maybe…but it definitely brought smiles to our faces and got the conversation flowing between strangers.
On the journey home, there were games, musical instruments, dance routines, enforced karaoke performances and a whole host of other surprises you’ll just have to join the tour to discover.
As we approached Cairns, Gus the Wonderbus shed a few tears (or rather, Cousin Amber gave the windscreen a squirt and turned the wipers on…). Despite the exhaustion of having been out on tour for over 12 hours, not one of us was ready to say goodbye.
I experienced Uncle Brian’s Fun Falls and Forest as an optional extra on Contiki’s Beaches and Reefs Tour. While Uncle Brian’s offered me a complimentary pass, all opinions expressed are genuine and unbiased. This truly was the best day tour I’ve ever done! For more information on Uncle Brian’s, visit their Facebook page, where you can also check out your group photos for free after each tour.