Daintree - Where the Rainforest Meets the Reef
Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
84Trip End Mar 24, 2011
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The first part of the day was my favourite as we left Cairns and travelled along the Captain Cook Highway (that guy sure got around the South Pacific - you see evidence of his travels everywhere) which is situated along the coastline and allows for amazing views of thick forest and mountain ranges on the left side of the road and beautiful beaches on the right side of the road. These views have lead to the locals' statement that this is where "the rainforest meets the reef" as you experience both at the same time while driving
Just on the outskirts of Port Douglas is an amazing wildlife reserve called the Rainforest Habitat which is a wildlife sanctuary featuring unique native Australian animals. I am not a fan of zoos as I don't like to see animals caged and having to live in unnatural circumstances for our entertainment, but this spot was very different. There were animals literally walking around freely everywhere in this lovely park - with birds hopping around the restaurant area and out on the grounds and then as you are walking through the park, it is not unusual to see wallabies, kangaroos and various other little marsupials hopping along beside you or stopped on the walkways in front of you. It was really cool. I must say that luckily the crocodiles were in a bit more of a controlled area - you could walk on the pathway that went above their water habitats :)
We had limited time at the wildlife sanctuary so I was focused on one of my main goals while visiting Australia - seeing and hopefully holding a koala bear
After my koala photo shoot, I only had about 10 minutes to quickly see some of the rest of the animals in the habitat. I flew around out amongst the kangaroos and wallabies and I was amazed at the number of sizes and species that were out there hopping about. There were little tiny ones that were about the size of a kitten and huge ones that were my size or bigger and they were quite used to people as you can buy 'roo food' in the giftshop and feed them as you walk around. Because of this, these animals will allow you to walk right up to them or they will approach you. I was very surprised to see most, if not all, of the larger kangaroos lying sprawled around the lawns - it must have been morning nap time. I was hoping to see hopping - not the supine flat out kangaroos that I had already seen on the roadways while driving through parts of Australia (but at least these ones were alive)! There were a couple of crocodiles submerged in the muddy water - we were told that they might prefer the water at this time of year because it could be warmer than the surrounding land and the crocs, being cold-blooded, need to find heat sources on land or water to absorb the heat for energy (in order to jump out of the water and eat unsuspecting tourists like me). In this park, there were also tons of incredibly unusual and interesting birds and I didn't get to see many due to time constraints. One very rare and beautiful Australian bird is the cassowary and I did see one of these at the park and then later in the day in the wild. This is a large bird about the size of an emu but it is very striking looking - it has glossy black feathers, strong legs and razor sharp claws. There is vibrant red and blue coloring on it's head and neck and the cassowary has a 'cask' on its head which looks like a crown and it is made of the same type of material as our fingernails.
Leaving the wonderful wildlife sanctuary, we travelled on to the Mossman Gorge nearby which is a lovely walk through the rainforest up to a river (which was running high when we were there due to recent rainstorms)
Putting the rain in 'rainforest', we experienced torrential rains throughout the day as well as warm sunshine - this is a very tropical area! We left Mossman Gorge and took a cable ferry over the Daintree River at lunchtime. This little ferry crossing took about 2 minutes! On the other side, we drove through thick rainforest while or guide pointed out various giant ferns and indigenous trees and we were really lucky to spot a male cassowary on the side of the road with his little chick! Apparently the males are the ones to look after the eggs and then they raise the chicks. They are fierce protectors and can be vicious when someone or something approaches their chick. We kept a safe distance but it was so neat to see this rare sight!
We arrived just before another massive downpour at our lunch spot called the Cassowary Cafe in Cape Tribulation
The next part of the day included a one-hour tour down the Daintree River on a guided tourboat. Again, the tour started in sunshine and ended in a heavy downpour. We had a chance to see some world-renowned mangrove trees that lined the river - these are studied by local and international scientists because of the diversity of the growth in this particular area. We were told to keep a lookout for some of the wildlife in the area, such as snakes, birds and crocodiles. There was a baby crocodile resting out on an outstretched tree branch, resting his chin on the tree and watching us watching him but no larger crocodiles (thankfully). You have to love the warning signs posted all over our boat warning us not to hang body parts off the side of the boat as crocodiles can jump. Nice. Later in the cruise, we saw a colorful blue kingfisher bird as well as a wily heron who was watching for fish. The non-highlight of the cruise was when our boat stalled out and wouldn't start during a particularly heavy downpour while we were in an area infested with crocs and snakes. Yeah. Fun times in the jungle.
All in all, this was a really great day with more Australian wildlife than I've seen in the past 2 weeks and gorgeous rainforest walks and beaches. I could have done without the river drama and the rain, but wouldn't have missed the koalas or cassowaries - they were amazing!