Exploring the Daintree Rainforest

Exploring the Daintree Rainforest

In far north Queensland lies two world heritage listed sites, side by side. The only place in the world where this occurs. The first, and most well known of these is the Great Barrier Reef. The second is the Daintree Rainforest.

Interested in the Great Barrier Reef? You can read more about it in this post;

7 things you didn’t know about the Great Barrier Reef

An ancient rainforest thought to be the oldest continuous rainforest in the world, Daintree Rainforest is home to unique plants and wildlife species not found anywhere is in the world.

Just a short drive north of Cairns you suddenly become surrounded by another world. Like driving through a time warp, the rainforest takes you back to a time before man ruled the world but lived in harmony with it. An era with and all its associated traditions and stories that the aboriginal people of Australia have struggled to preserve.

Aboriginal Heritage

Like most of Australia, prior to the “white man” arriving this area was inhabited by aboriginals, specifically of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji tribe.

Calling the Daintree Rainforest home and living in small camps scattered along the rivers and creeks of the area it wasn’t until the discovery of gold in the area that the Eastern Kuku Yalanji changed for the worse.

The traditional lands of the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people extend from around Cooktown all the way down to Port Douglas. Like most aboriginal tribes throughout Australia, they would travel throughout their lands seasonally notably with the lowlands being particularly productive and able to cope with a relatively large population.

The complex networks of traditional walking tracks which were used by the aboriginal people to travel between destinations are a cultural characteristic of the Daintree rainforest. Many of these tracks have since been developed on the roads and tracks that are used today.

The Ancient traditions and connection to the Earth that aboriginal people have given them a great understanding of the weather cycles and where best to find food at different times of the year.

For example, when Jilngan (mat grass) is in flower, they know that it is time to collect jarruka (Orange-footed scrubfowl) eggs.

The rainforest

Rainforests are well known for having their own ecosystem and the Daintree rainforest is no exception. At over 100 million years old it contains one of the most complete and diverse living records of the major stages in the evolution of land plants. Especially in relation to the origin, evolution, and dispersal of flowering plants. Plus with species of marsupials and songbirds older than human life calling the Daintree Rainforest home it also gives a glimpse into their history too!

daintree rainforest, east coast australia adventure
Even just off the path, it is a jumbled up, entwined, impenetrable-looking mass of plant life

Jam packed full of biodiversity this area accounts for the largest range of plant and animal species that are rare, or threatened, anywhere in the world. This includes;

  • 30% of all frog, marsupial and reptile species in Australia
  • 65% of all bats and butterfly species
  • Approximately 430 species of birds
    • Including 13 species unique to Daintree

Whatsmore is scientists are still discovering new species all the time!

The Rivers

The Daintree rainforest is bounded by the Mossman River in the south and Bloomfield River in the north. However, right smack bang through its heart flows the magnificent Daintree River, and a little further north is Coopers Creek.

30 different species of mangrove can be found along the Daintree River but it is the Saltwater Crocodiles that are the real stars of the rivers. So much so that there are a variety of different cruises complete with expert guides that can help you spot one (or even a few if you’re lucky) of these prehistoric creatures.

crocodile daintree rainforest east coast australia adventure
Crocodile spotting down Coopers creek

Just remember though to not get too close the banks of the river or go for a swim because it might be the last thing you do!

These crocs are definitely not selfie-friendly!

The Beaches

Where the rainforest meets the reef you can find some stunning and often deserted beaches. With a backdrop of tropical vegetation and a near empty beach lined with swaying palms, you’d be mistaken for thinking you had dropped in on the latest Jurassic Park film set. The much-unchanged landscape means it doesn’t take much to imagine what must have greeted the crew of the Endeavour as the voyaged along the East Coast.

cape tribulation beach, daintree rainforest eact coast australia backpacker adventure
The view from Cape Tribulation beach

There are several of these untouched beaches for you to discover. Including Wonga, Cape Kimberley, Cow Bay, Thornton’s, Coconut, Myal, Emmagen, and Cape Tribulation.

Having only visited the latter I can only account for the sense of peace, calm and beauty that this beach provided me with. I am sure, however, that the others are just as stunning.

The Cassowary

“The what?” was my initial reaction when I was first told about this ancient bird.

Sure I’d heard about sharks and crocodiles and emus and wombats but a giant ancient bird? You’re having me on right?

Apparently not.

The Cassowary is a large flightless bird that kind of looks like someone crossbred and emu, ostrich, and turkey.

It can grow as tall as 2m and has a distinctive bare blue and red skin on its neck and head with a bony helmet on its head. All the better for headbutting you with.

Cassowary Daintree Rainforest, east coast australia adventure
The Cassowary

Its an endangered species but the Daintree rainforest has a relatively large population. So you’re chances of seeing one can be quite good. I, however, did not spot one in the wild during my adventures in the area.

It is important to note that these birds are not very friendly. You should never feed them and ensure that any food is secured.

If you are lucky/unlucky enough to meet a cassowary in the wild it is advised that you should back away calmly holding a bag or other item in front of your body. Try to get a tree between you and the bird but whatever you do do not run. Cassowaries are fast.

Like even Usain Bolt would struggle to outrun one so it’s probably best if you don’t try.

There are lots of different ways to explore the wonders of the rainforest. From day and overnight tours to specific areas such as Cape Tribulation, doing it yourself by car, or jumping on a cruise down the Daintree river, there are options to suit every type of adventure. Start planning your Daintree Rainforest adventure at Destination Daintree.


Until Next Time

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