So time seems to be going at superhuman speed at the minute and I still need to tell you all about our experience in the Daintree Rainforest and diving the Great Barrier in Cairns! So before I let anymore time escape us, let me begin….
To the Daintree!
Now this was a trip I had been dreaming about ever since thinking of coming to Australia. Everytime we studied our Lonely Planet guide back in England, I would point at the photos of the Daintree excitedly, squeeling ‘we have to go here!!’
And we had good reasons to be excited:
1. It is the oldest living tropical rainforest…IN THE WORLD!
2. Some of the plants and animals living in the rainforest cannot be found anywhere else.
3. If you’re lucky you can see cool dinosaur-era-looking MASSIVE birds called Cassowaries that look like this:
(Image courtesy of Google)
4. It is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sights meet: the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef.
5. There are crocodiles.
Our journey to the Daintree began in Port Douglas.
This is one of the last larger towns before you get into the more remote areas as you head North into the forest. We stayed here one night, camping up in our van at Dougies Hostel just out of the town centre. The hostel was a lively one, with the kitchen opening out to a large seating area, with pool table, bar and band stage. We spent our time here looking around the shops, resupplying and enjoying an excellent open-mic night at Dougies.
Along with a new T-shirt (for me) and flip-flops (for Mark) we purchased an audio guide from the shops in Port Douglas. This included a CD and map to take us on a guided journey through the Daintree.
It was $12 from a Tourist shop. Bargain!
Our next stop on the way up to the rainforest was the quaint little Daintree Village. Nestled snuggley against the Daintree River the village basically consisted of a couple of houses, a tiny museum and one store that catered for everything: restaurant, general store, tourist souvenirs, hotel, bar, post office, you name it!
We stayed at the Daintree Riverview campsite for the night. This was fronted with an ice cream van that also made toasted sandwiches (as they do) and there was even a saw mill museum attached:
It seemed that the main attraction for the town and the entire reason for its existence was of course the river.
Which we had prime view of:
Now the water may look serene and enticing, but you certainly wouldn’t want to go for a swim in its deadly waters. The next day we went on a boat trip to prove it….
We were informed by our Crocodile Hunter-like guide that the river was home to a number of large (very sharp-teethed) Saltwater crocodiles. And that’s not all. If for some unfortunate reason you did end up in its waters, you may also come face to face with a Bull Shark or snake. Then if that wasn’t enough, when trying to get out of its shores you could even get stuck in some sinking mud. Great.
So of we went, looking for crocodiles and keeping our arms and elbows very much away from the edge!
After some peering around the river, our guide finally managed to spot the tail and snout of one of these miraculous creatures, hidden in the bushes.
Ok….so it may be quite hard to see! But it is there! Just under the leaves and the red arrow 🙂
Towards the end of our boat trip we managed to spot a second, but it zoomed under the water before any photo opportunities could take place. So perhaps not the closest and most visible encounters, but amazing nonetheless to be able to see these crocs in their natural habitats.
Across the river
In order to gain access to the highly protected Daintree Rainforest, you have to first cross the river in a ferry. So off we went in our campervan to begin our forest trip:
(Mark driver, I was scared of driving on the ferry…)
It took a grand total of 2 minutes to get across!
And then we were there! In the midst of the worlds oldest rainforest! 🙂
With our map to follow and audio guide to listen to we headed North:
Our destination was Cape Tribulation to the very top of the forest (our camp for the night), but first we had all day to explore!
The first place that we stopped off was a beautiful viewing area called ‘Walu Wugirriga’ (or Alexandra lookout). Here you could see the rainforest and river stretch out to meet the distant ocean:
Next stop was the Daintree Discovery Centre. This was an amazingly informative centre right in the heart of the forest. It had an aerial walking platform, a viewing tower, an audio guide to take you through the information of all the different plant/animal species of the forest and a centre of education. Which included examples of bush tucker food, films on climate change and Aboriginal talks.
These were some views from the platform walk:
At the education centre we learnt about the different levels of the rainforest canopy and I got to have a go making fire the original Aboriginal way!
Next up was the climb up the tower to the very top of the canopy….. it was pretty high:
We spotted some birds in the branches feeding and calling to each other:
At the top we could see right over the trees to the mountains in the distance. It was magnificent.
We had certainly picked a great day for exploring.
That evening we stayed at the aptly named Jungle Village in Cape Tribulation, at the very top of the Daintree. To even attempt to go any further North above Cape the roads are only accessible with a four-wheel drive. So we settled in our jungle hostel for the night. It had individual bays for campervans or tents, a lively bar and even the chance to wake up to the sight of a shy Cassowari.
The next day we drove around some more exploring and looking for wildlife. We stopped at one the many stunning secluded beaches, where the rainforest comes right up to the waters edge:
Then we took a another walk (this time on lower ground!) through more rainforest. Here we spotted huge fan leaves:
And we finally saw our first big spider!
(We think we have identified it as a Golden Orb Weaver, apparently if bitten it hurts…alot)
Mark took the photo (crazy person) whilst I kept a safe (sensible) distance.
Before we knew it, it was time to leave and head back down the windy roads South to Cairns. We didn’t spot any Cassowaries, but what an adventure we did have. Daintree, you lived up to all the expectations.