We’ve been travelling through the Wet Tropics for some weeks and have enjoyed the changing landscapes and how green it is. The gorgeous diversity of plants, the profusion of colours and textures is stunning.
It was an early start for us as we had to get the ferry across to the northern side of the river. The Daintree River cable ferry – the only access to northern reaches of the Daintree National Park, Cows Bay and Cape Tribulation. The crossing is just five minutes and the ferry’s capacity of 27 vehicles, and frequent departure times maintains a steady vehicle flow in both directions.
Before we head into the day, some background information. The Daintree National Park is part of the Wet Tropics which, in 1988 was inscripted on the World Heritage list recognising it’s exceptional natural values: values that deserve protection for the benefit of humanity. Unlike most national parks, there are both private and public tenures which are managed under the Wet Tropics World Heritage Protection and Management Act 1993. All activities and land use is monitored and managed under the Management Plan (1998). Without these laws it is unlikely this nook would be in the relatively unspoiled state it is today.
Yes there are a number of tourism-focussed establishments which are regulated to leave the smallest footprint possible. We humans are a destructive lot and left to our own devices we’d no doubt have stripped the region, planted palms and sent wildlife on its way. To that end great care had been taken to educate visitors who visit. The information boards along the walks are informative and educate the public, with reminders of how we can minimize our impact on the environment. It seems we have taken this to heart as it is one of a few places we’ve visited with a heritage listing that remains unspoiled by the presence of people.
We saw no graffiti, discarded beer bottles or soft drink cans and no fast food packaging, the latter more probably due to the wonderful absence of any such establishments. We did see a few set ups along the bush line, bordering the beaches, that looked permanent and how these have managed to escape the rangers I don’t know.
From the ferry crossing to Cape Tribulation is only 43kms but we were keen to see what camping options were available. It seems all preferences are caused for, from downright luxurious resort-type accommodation to the most basic camping areas with no facilities, not even toilets.
The Daintree is one of the few places where the rainforest meets the reef, but at 180 million years old it is also the oldest rainforest in the world. To place this in perspective the Amazon is about seven million years old; so the Daintree is a pretty special place. It covers an area of 1200 square kilometres and is the largest tropical rainforest in Australia, having survived through the ages and cataclysmic events that wiped out the dinosaurs and other life forms.
How amazing are these fan palms (pictured above)? They can grow to 20 meters as they reach for essential sunlight and have palm fronds staying 2 meters in diameter. Their natural fan and umbrella shape helps them survive in oxygen-poor conditions and a shallow root system allows absorbs surface water and nutrients.
Cape Tribulation is surrounded by six stunning beaches along the Daintree coastline. At one time the only threat to life along this coastline were the extremely venomous box jelly fish. More recently there have been a number of deaths when people have been taken by saltwater crocodiles. Information on the website indicated these takings were of people who did not take due care, were alcohol affected, at night or camped in swampy mangrove areas of the forest. Despite this, these pristine beaches most are deserted as signs alert us to the dangers.
But wildlife aren’t the only dangers in this region. While it is invigorating walking the tracks through the ancient rainforests of Northern Queensland and being surrounded by so much beauty, some plants just aren’t nice. Like the spiky palms that are everywhere, you wouldn’t want to touch them or lose balance and reach for support. They’re magnificent to look at, have superb texture (no kidding) but are the real “pricks” of the forests. With such dense vegetation on all sides it pays to be vigilant.
These forests are known as ” closed” forests because they are closed ecosystems. Their living parts – their soil, nutrients and water – are totally integrated. If the system is extensively damaged, say by fire, erosion or clearing, the rainforest may never regenerate or return to its current pristine state. But when conditions are right rainforests are rapid colonisers advancing around one metre each year.
Originally the older of the two vines (pictured above) would have climbed up to the canopy using an established tree or palm for support, allowing the second vine to fast-track its way to the top by spiraling around the host vine. While these started out as two single strands, the lower sections have fused together becoming one stem.
The bird life is prolific, so we read, but it has eluded us this day. We are surrounded by so many birds calls and catch sight of some add they go about their day but as far as identifying any new-to-us species… very few. These scrubfowl were the only birds we saw all day.
- The natural canopy that sheltered us from the rain
- The information boards that made me a fount of information for a day
- Cooler temperatures.