I’ve told you about the Daintree Rainforest before. In particular, I’ve told you a little about is complicated political history – you’ll find the post here.
Last time we were in this part of the world we drove ourselves up to Cape Tribulation and had a fantastic day. This time I booked myself on a small group tour with Discovery Tours Australia.
After a 7am pick-up at my hotel in Cairns, first stop was Port Douglas – both to collect more guests and to check out the look-out. I also managed to nab a pic of this cute little (non-denominational) church – St Mary’s By The Sea.
Heritage listed, it was built in 1913-1914 to replace the previous church that was destroyed in a cyclone. With massive picture windows overlooking the Coral Sea it’s apparently booked out for high season (May-October) Saturday weddings for a couple of years.
The gateway to the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest – the oldest rainforest on the planet – we arrived in the middle of a downpour. This isn’t unusual – during the wet season Mossman Gorge receives almost 2 metres of rain. While it’s heavy, it doesn’t last long.
Last time we were here we called in at the visitor centre but didn’t go up into the gorge itself – you can’t take your car up there and it was late in the afternoon.
At the visitor centre we sampled some Daintree Tea – grown just up the road – and a damper that had been baked in a muffin tin and was served scone-like with jam and cream.
Once in the gorge itself, some of the guests in our tour had a swim in the water – which was so clear you could see the fish swimming along with you. The guide did warn us that during the wet season, the levels of the water – and the currents – can change ridiculously fast, so there are signs up advising people that swimming is not recommended.
Others (me included) went for a walk up the track a bit. There are heaps of walking tracks in here and you could easily spend most of a day exploring them.
Unfortunately due to Covid, they’re not running the Indigenous-led Dreamtime Walks with their traditional “smoking” ceremony at the moment. These will, though, be recommencing from April 1…so maybe next time…
Daintree Teahouse Restaurant
Back on the road for the short drive to the village of Daintree and our lunch stop – the Daintree Teahouse Restaurant.
Lunch was a choice of barramundi, kangaroo, chicken or a vegetarian option – served with chips and tropical fruits. I went with the local (non-farmed) barramundi – and it really was lovely.
After we’d eaten the owner took us through the tropical fruits we’d had on our plates and a little about the indigenous medicinal uses for these as well.
No tour in this part of the country is complete without a croc cruise – ie a boat trip down the Daintree River on the search for crocs. There are, apparently, plenty of them around, and the boat drivers know them by name, habit and habitat.
Unfortunately (?) we didn’t see any big ones today – our driver explained that during the summer months they spend a lot more time below the surface and can hold their breath for hours. It’s way too hot for them to lie around on the shore as they do during the dry season.
We did, however, see a few toddlers from last year’s crop of new crocs
and the cutest hatchlings from this year. Just 2 weeks old they were camouflaged so well – apologies for the photo quality – even with my telephoto lens on you have trouble seeing them. Apparently, Mumma croc hangs about them for the first couple of months to discourage predators, but they pretty much need to be able to fend for themselves from the time they hatch.
There are also plenty of facts about crocs along the way – including the way in which they’re attempting to manage the way in which crocs and people coexist in the far north.
On the drive to Cape Tribulation we were lucky enough to see a cassowary with his chick – yes, I did say *his* chick. Mamma cassowaries lay their eggs and leave the rest of it to him. He’ll sit on the nest for a couple of months and keep the chicks with him for around 9 months after hatching.
They’re highly endangered so a sighting (albeit with a very blurry photo through the windscreen of the bus) was exciting indeed.
Cape Trib is the only place where two world heritage sites meet – the rainforest and the reef. It’s said to be one of the most biologically diverse places in the world.
Cape Tribulation was named by Captain Cook the morning after his ship ran aground on a reef during the night. He wrote in his diary “Here begin my trials and tribulations.” and, on seeing the cape the next morning, named it accordingly. Cook also named the mountain behind the cape “Mount Sorrow” and Weary Bay got its name for the same reason.
As beautiful as it is, you can’t swim here – don’t even think about it. In fact, don’t even think about putting your feet in the water. Not only is it croc country, but at this time of the year marine stingers are out and about – and by stingers I mean specifically box jellyfish.
On the drive back we stopped a few times – for a wander through the rainforest, an ice cream made from local tropical fruit, and to check out a couple of lookouts.
Steve, our driver, also told us about the bouncing stones at Thornton Beach (where we stopped for lunch last time I was up here). True story. The stones in one part of the pebbly beach do, apparently, bounce against each other, as in properly bounce.
When the road was a dirt track this place, thanks to the Leyland Brothers (who were travelling all over the countryside in a TV series in the late 70s) this place was signposted and part of the tourist trail.
The problem is, and it’s a big problem, the site is sacred to traditional indigenous people of the area and was an area where the women of the tribe discussed their secret women’s business. Anyways, people began taking some of these stones home with them and bad stuff began to happen to them – accidents, illnesses, deaths. Were the stones cursed? I’ll leave that one to you. In any case, the signs were taken down and stones were sent back – care of the general store at Cape Trib.
He also told us the story of Black Mountain – the Bermuda Triangle of Far North Queensland; a place were entire mobs of cattle can disappear. You can read about it here.
In any case, a great day out – albeit a long one – and the best way to not just see this area, but to learn about it too.