Daintree - Where the Rainforest Meets the Reef

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
Trip End Mar 24, 2011

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's tour brought me to a lush and interesting part of Australia north of Cairns in Queensland.  I headed up to the Daintree rainforest which is an amazing area containing such diverse animal and plantlife that it has been listed as a world heritage site.


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.  We arrived for a brief stop in Port Douglas, which is a nice little resort type of town and our guide told us that it was here, just a few kilometres off the coast, that the 'Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin died on a diving expedition 5 years ago. 

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!  As soon as our group dispersed to wander amongst the crocs and roos, I was off like a shot to the koala habitat area - there was on little guy wrapped around a tree, snoozing so I let him be and found my way to the koala demonstration area where I was in luck - there were two koalas that were at least semi-awake and I noticed that here, you could get your photo taken with one of these cuddly cuties.  There was a deal on this day where I could save $5 by posing with two different animals but as my choices were either a baby crocodile or a large snake, I opted out of the sale price.  One of the staffers brought over Glen, my picture perfect little koala friend and then taught me how to hold him properly - I was to lace my fingers together to make a basket or seat for Glen to sit in and when he was placed with me, I was to stand fairly still and 'be his tree'.  Got it.  I was assured that Glen was a professional and would pose and look at the photographer's camera with little to no problem, but for some reason, on this day, Glen was unusually alert (koalas are typically very sleepy and have little energy) and he kept looking back behind us at his friend Grizzly who was making some growling noises (I know he was just jealous and wanted to pose with me too) so it took some coaxing and trickery to bring Glen around (literally).  As we were working on the photo shoot, I noticed how heavy little Glen was and his fur was kind of soft but also a little coarse.  He had little tiny teeth under his big black nose (he was sniffing my face for a while - I must give off a little eucalyptus scent).  Speaking of smelling, Glen also was a little rank smelling - I guess most 'wild' animals would be though - I didn't hold that against him.  Eventually we got the money shot and after about 5 minutes, my koala experience was over.  No matter though - it was one of the coolest things I've done here in Australia in my opinion!

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).  It is neat to have such high and lush trees high overhead making the walk a little dark and atmospheric and to hear birds calling and water flowing nearby.  There is a swing bridge at the end of one of the walks that you can cross for more views of this lovely area.


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.  This was a cool spot that was in a tropical setting - a dining room with windows and walls open to the rainforest and an amazing meal chosen from a varied menu.  I had fish and chips and I think the fish was a type of local perch.  It was quite filling but I found the taste a little 'fishy' for my liking, if you know what I mean.  After the rain stopped, we carried on to the beach at Cape Tribulation which was a beautiful spot (and the sun even came out to make it nicer).  This area was so named by Captain Cook because his ship, The Endeavor, hit a reef near this point of land and he wrote in his journal that it was here 'that our troubles began'.  I think he named another spot close by Cape Sorrow - he was just not having fun up around this area!  There was a self-guided walk through the rainforest at Cape Tribulation beach which came to a nice lookout point where you could see down the beach and out to the point.  While walking along the nice sandy beach, you could see really interesting formations on the sand.  Some were like little piles of sand-spaghetti and these were made by some type of little sandworm.  At other areas of the beach you could see what looked like sand-art made with little sand pearls forming interesting shapes,  It turns out that these little sand pearls are made by little crabs who ball up bits of sand, then suck out all the nutrients and spit out the leftovers, forming these perfectly round teensy pearls.  They abandon these little balls of sand in interesting formations that look like well thought out patterns and shapes.  Enterprising little creatures!


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!
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Ann on

No wonder people follow your blog - you make it so interesting. I am glad you enjoyed all the things you saw & the photos are great.
Take care. Hope to see you again sometime. I wonder if Ida in Mareeba could see it. May be that grandson of hers could sort it our
Cheers Ann

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