Head north to the rainforests of the Daintree and you will find many ways to discover the delights of the wet tropics, says Lee Mylne.
DAINTREE NATIONAL PARK
The World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest has remained largely unchanged over the past 110 million years, and is home to many rare plants. The Daintree is part of the wet tropics, which provides the habitat for half of Australia’s animal and plant species. Cycads, dinosaur trees, fan palms, giant strangler figs, and epiphytes like the basket fern, staghorn, and elkhorn are all easily spotted in the 56,000-hectare Daintree National Park. Pythons, lizards, frogs, and electric blue Ulysses butterflies live in the rainforest. A visit should include the Marrdja Botanical Walk on the Daintree/Cape Tribulation Road, just north of Noah Creek. This 1100-metre loop through rainforest and mangroves to a viewing platform over Noah Creek has signs explaining the evolution of plants and the break up of Gondwanan rainforests.
On a day-long bushwalk into a tract of privately owned rainforest with Pete Baxendell, a naturalist and professional tour guide, you can taste green ants (its an interesting experience) and other native bush tucker, discover how to make a toothbrush from a shrub, learn about bush medicine and the wildlife around you, and clamber up a stream to a waterfall. Pete’s Heritage & Interpretive Tours takes a maximum of six people, leaving from Port Douglas. The price is $120 for adults and $95 for children, including lunch. Walks operate Tuesday and Saturday, or you can charter Baxendell and his 4WD on other days for day bushwalks for $175 a person (minimum of two) or for a go-anywhere adventure for $590 a day. link
Spend some time on the Daintree River with Dan Irbys (Mangrove Adventures), whose small open boat can get up side creeks the bigger boats can’t. Irbys is extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife and habitat. He takes no more than 10 people at a time on two, three and four hour cruises. Chances are you will spot lots of wildlife including crocodiles – on his two-hour night cruise, but even if you don’t, it’s worth it just to see the stars. You can combine both day and night trips by taking an afternoon tour, followed by a 45-minute break for a snack at Daintree Eco Lodge, then the night tour. Tour costs start from $45. Mangrove Adventures
Rainforest Habitat wildlife sanctuary, home to about 180 species from the wet tropics, is a great place to see animals that are too shy to be spotted in the wild. There are saltwater and freshwater crocodiles, kangaroos, koalas, pythons and more. The highlight is walking through the re-created environments which house more than 100 wet tropics bird species, including cassowaries. Free guided tours run every half hour from 9am to 3pm. Admission is $28 for adults, $14 for children aged four to 14. Between 8am and 11am, the park serves a champagne buffet breakfast for $39 for adults and $19.50 for kids, including admission. Rainforest Habitat
Members of the KuKu-Yalanji tribe will teach you about bush medicines and food, Dreamtime legends, and the sacred sites their families have called home for tens of thousands of years on tours run by the local community on Mossman Gorge Road. KuKu-Yalanji Dreamtime Walks offers 30- or 90-minute guided treks through the rainforest to see rock art and visit special sites. The tour is followed by billy tea and damper in a bark shelter. There is also an information centre, gift shop and art gallery. Short walks are conducted four times a day and longer walks three times a day on weekdays only. The cost is $20 (adults) and $12.50 (children) for the 90-minute walk, $11 and $7 for the short walk. Yalanyi