4.1 C
New York

Exploring Australia’s Daintree Rainforest, hailed by David Attenborough as ‘extraordinary’

Published:

You could be surprised to learn that the world’s oldest tropical lowland rainforest – which dates back about 180 million years to the Jurassic era – is in Australia.

Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest, described by Sir David Attenborough as essentially the most extraordinary place on Earth, measures just 463 square miles yet it packs in additional tree species in a single hectare than in the whole 210,000 square miles of the UK.

An astonishing 430 bird species, including the enormous cassowary, call it home, 13 of that are found nowhere else on the planet. Its biggest tree is as tall because the Statue of Liberty, and there are 12,000 insect species in addition to crocodiles and the reclusive Boyd’s forest dragon, a species of lizard.

Nature’s oasis: Claudia Joseph explores the sights of Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest, described by Sir David Attenborough as essentially the most extraordinary place on Earth. Above is one in all the spots she visits – Cape Tribulation, which is the one place on the planet where two Unesco World Heritage sites meet: Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef

As Sir David enthused: ‘It has, for the naturalist, the whole lot. It is kind of unlike every other rainforest on the planet.’

Although not as famous because the Amazon, and tiny by comparison, visiting this unique region is an incredible experience.

My base is the Daintree Ecolodge, near Daintree Village in the guts of the rainforest, where you possibly can drift into one other realm due to its glorious landscape, enriching natural spa treatments and vibrant cuisine.

It’s the only boutique accommodation within the rainforest, and its awe-inspiring setting will revitalise all of your senses. With just 15 eco-friendly bayans – or treehouses – it might appeal to anyone who simply wants time to face still. 

Claudia checks into a bayan at the Daintree Ecolodge near Daintree Village in the heart of the rainforest. Pictured is the lodge's Waterfall Deck

Claudia checks right into a bayan on the Daintree Ecolodge near Daintree Village in the guts of the rainforest. Pictured is the lodge’s Waterfall Deck

Inside one of the 15 eco-friendly bayans ¿ or treehouses ¿ at Daintree Ecolodge. The properties 'appeal to anyone who simply wants time to stand still'

Inside one in all the 15 eco-friendly bayans – or treehouses – at Daintree Ecolodge. The properties ‘appeal to anyone who simply wants time to face still’

After a drive 90 miles north from Cairns Airport on Captain Cook Highway – one in all Australia’s most spectacular coastal roads – I find the lodge on the bank of the Daintree River. 

Set in the midst of the rainforest, it feels totally distant and is the right retreat from the stresses of life.

My bayan, nestled among the many foliage within the breathtaking rainforest cover, has floor-to-ceiling windows and a screened balcony to make sure you’re feeling as near nature as possible.

'Set in the middle of the rainforest, it feels totally remote and is the perfect retreat from the stresses of life,' Claudia says of the lodge

‘Set in the midst of the rainforest, it feels totally distant and is the right retreat from the stresses of life,’ Claudia says of the lodge

In fitting with its environment, the Daintree Ecolodge goals to cut back its carbon footprint with solar panels, a biocycle waste-water plant which recycles all its water, a herb and vegetable patch to supply a relentless supply of fresh produce, and toxic-free cleansing products. 

After dinner on the balcony of Julaymba Restaurant overlooking the lagoon – a melt-in-the-mouth spanner crab risotto with corn, chive and crustacean oil followed by a young beef rump cap with celeriac, mushroom, onion, kale and black garlic – I stroll back to my bayan and drift off to sleep to the gentle sounds of the nearby waterfall.

The next morning I wake on the daybreak to the sound of curlews, and sit on the balcony watching this unique world go by, before making my strategy to breakfast at Julaymba. I plump for a spinach, chorizo, pepper, onion and parmesan omelette.

The Daintree Ecolodge, which aims to reduce its carbon footprint, has a herb and vegetable patch to provide a constant supply of fresh produce

The Daintree Ecolodge, which goals to cut back its carbon footprint, has a herb and vegetable patch to supply a relentless supply of fresh produce

Above is the lodge's Julaymba restaurant, where Claudia tucks into a melt-in-the-mouth spanner crab risotto with corn, chive and crustacean oil for dinner

Above is the lodge’s Julaymba restaurant, where Claudia tucks right into a melt-in-the-mouth spanner crab risotto with corn, chive and crustacean oil for dinner 

During her stay at the lodge, Claudia wakes 'at the crack of dawn to the sound of curlews'

During her stay on the lodge, Claudia wakes ‘on the daybreak to the sound of curlews’

Guests can then enjoy a leisurely stroll to the waterfall, take a dip within the pool or visit the health spa.

There may be a wealth of places to go to within the rainforest, including Mossman Gorge, the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation. The one-day Daintree Discovery Tour showcases the highlights, starting with a visit to the Mossman Gorge Visitors Centre.

As I walk in, I spot plenty of golden orb spiders spinning their webs. ‘She has a stunning role in life,’ says tour guide Mel Micallef. ‘She mates after which she eats her mate. She’s really cool.’

It becomes something of a theme: the feminine cassowary mates and lays her eggs before abandoning them for one more partner, leaving her original partner to take care of the offspring. ‘It’s something of a matriarchal society,’ Mel jokes.

To reach the rainforest, Claudia drives north from Cairns Airport on Captain Cook Highway ¿ one of Australia¿s most spectacular coastal roads. Above is the view from the Rex Lookout along the highway

To achieve the rainforest, Claudia drives north from Cairns Airport on Captain Cook Highway – one in all Australia’s most spectacular coastal roads. Above is the view from the Rex Lookout along the highway

The tour begins with a conventional smoking ceremony by a guide from the Kuku Yalanji tribe to ward off bad spirits. He demonstrates how he paints his body with a Totem, or ‘personal guardian angel’, which signals his tribe to other indigenous Australians. 

Different paints, he says, have alternative advantages – the clay accommodates calcium for bone density; the black charcoal is a substitute for toothpaste; and the zinc doubles as suntan lotion and is sweet for treating mosquito bites.

We then head into Mossman Gorge along a wood boardwalk, amongst birds’ nests and basket ferns. ‘You’re feeling like George of the Jungle up here,’ laughs Mel. ‘The ferns are just like the apartment blocks of the rainforest. They’re fighting to take over – they climb their strategy to the highest to get light.’

On a one-day Daintree Discovery Tour, Claudia embarks on a 'mesmerising' boat trip up the mighty Daintree River

On a one-day Daintree Discovery Tour, Claudia embarks on a ‘mesmerising’ boat trip up the mighty Daintree River

We also spot balanophora fungosa, the world’s only flowering mushrooms, and cassowary plums, which appear to be blue avocados and, unless you might be one in all the enormous birds, are toxic. ‘Should you get the juice in your eye, it should blind you,’ adds Mel.

After tea and dampers (giant scones dotted with wattleseed), we wind our way along Captain Cook Highway, past fields of sugar cane and banana plantations, as much as the mighty Daintree River. The landscape is mesmerising and seems to go on for ever, with giant mountains and plush green valleys in the gap.

We go through the township of Mossman, which has essentially the most northern mill in Australia, inbuilt 1904 to convert sugar cane to raw sugar, and spot trains trundling along the tracks from field to mill, laden with canes.

We then pass a saltwater barramundi farm – the fish, which may reach 6ft and weigh 130 lb, is a delicacy in these parts – before crossing the Daintree River aboard its traditional wood ferry, with white herons swarming over us.

The tour takes Claudia into the Mossman Gorge (pictured) along a wooden boardwalk, among birds¿ nests and basket ferns

The tour takes Claudia into the Mossman Gorge (pictured) along a wood boardwalk, amongst birds’ nests and basket ferns 

Claudia enjoys lunch at On The Turps, an open-air restaurant where they serve barramundi or steak and chips, Thai curry and fettucini

Claudia enjoys lunch at On The Turps, an open-air restaurant where they serve barramundi or steak and chips, Thai curry and fettucini

The second walk of the day took us along the Jindalba Boardwalk, where we discover sheoak trees, that are utilized by indigenous Australians who carve boomerangs out of the overground roots.

After lunch at On The Turps, an open-air restaurant within the Heritage Lodge where they serve barramundi or steak and chips, Thai curry and fettucini, there may be time for a refreshing swim in Cooper Creek. 

The following highlight is the drive from Cooper Creek to Cape Tribulation, where we kept our eyes peeled for cassowary, the third-tallest and second-heaviest bird on the planet, in addition to essentially the most lethal: it has often been labelled the world’s most dangerous bird as its giant claws do a whole lot of damage to humans should you upset them.

‘Should you come across a cassowary within the wild, put your backpack in front of you and back away slowly,’ warns Mel. 

Lush: You can spy sheoak trees, which are used by indigenous Australians who carve boomerangs out of the overground roots, on the Jindalba Boardwalk (pictured)

Lush: You possibly can spy sheoak trees, that are utilized by indigenous Australians who carve boomerangs out of the overground roots, on the Jindalba Boardwalk (pictured) 

Claudia goes for a refreshing swim in Cooper Creek, pictured, before her tour takes her to Cape Tribulation

Claudia goes for a refreshing swim in Cooper Creek, pictured, before her tour takes her to Cape Tribulation 

An astonishing 430 bird species, including the giant cassowary (pictured) - which has 'often been labelled the world¿s most dangerous bird' - call the rainforest home. Claudia's guide tells her: ¿If you come across a cassowary in the wild, put your backpack in front of you and back away slowly' The reclusive Boyd¿s forest dragon, a species of lizard (pictured), can be spotted in the rainforest

An astonishing 430 bird species, including the enormous cassowary (left) – which has ‘often been labelled the world’s most dangerous bird’ – call the rainforest home. Claudia’s guide tells her: ‘Should you come across a cassowary within the wild, put your backpack in front of you and back away slowly.’ The reclusive Boyd’s forest dragon, a species of lizard (right), may also be spotted within the rainforest

TRAVEL FACTS 

Claudia Joseph was a guest of Northern Escape Collection. A lagoon bayan at Daintree Ecolodge costs from A$475 an evening for 2, including breakfast. The complete-day Daintree Discovery Tour costs A$224 per adult and A$204 per child aged ten to 14 (daintreediscoverytours.com.au).

Luckily, we’re in a sturdy four-wheel-drive vehicle after we spot a trio of birds – a male and two babies – on our strategy to Cape Tribulation.

Nevertheless it is on our way back that we encounter a rarity: a pair of cassowaries with their offspring. 

Even a gaggle of motorcyclists, held up by them crossing the road, stop to take photographs. 

You don’t often see a pair together, as the feminine will likely be long gone, in line with Mel.

Cape Tribulation itself is a rare botanical treasure – the one place on the planet where two Unesco World Heritage sites meet: Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.

I make my way on to the horseshoe-shaped coastline, which is lined with mangrove trees, and it’s incredible to experience the juxtaposition of tropical rainforest and coral reef.

Finally we take a cruise in a flat-bottomed boat along Daintree River, trying to find saltwater crocodiles – generally known as salties – the biggest of all reptiles. 

Claudia spots a 10ft-long adult female crocodile basking in the sunshine on the banks of the Daintree River (pictured)

Claudia spots a 10ft-long adult female crocodile basking within the sunshine on the banks of the Daintree River (pictured) 

Claudia watches as Thornton Peak, Queensland¿s third-highest mountain, disappears into the clouds. Above is the view from the top of the peak, image courtesy of Creative Commons

Claudia watches as Thornton Peak, Queensland’s third-highest mountain, disappears into the clouds. Above is the view from the highest of the height, image courtesy of Creative Commons

And inside minutes we spot a young crocodile spreadeagled on a beach together with the river.

But then, as we watch Thornton Peak, Queensland’s third-highest mountain, disappear into the clouds, we spy the piece de resistance: a 10ft-long adult female basking within the sunshine on the riverbank.

I’m sure that even Sir David Attenborough would have been impressed.

AUSTRALIA BOOMS FOR GOLDEN GAP YEAR TRAVELLERS  

It’s generally known as the ‘Golden Gap 12 months’ – an prolonged holiday for individuals who are retired or who wish to take a sabbatical out of every day life – and Australia is proving a well-liked destination for it.

In line with research from Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), 4 out of ten Baby Boomers are planning trips of about nine months, with 38 per cent fancying a while in Australia. Horseback-riding through the rainforest and scuba-diving on the Great Barrier Reef are among the many things they might most wish to experience.

For many who don’t want to book an organised tour, a fly-drive or rail experience cruise is proving a well-liked option – with half of those surveyed saying that travel is a worthwhile use of their money, and 20 per cent saying they’ll take a cruise in the following two years.

NCL’s 12-day cruise on Norwegian Spirit from Auckland and taking in Melbourne and Sydney, from February 20 to March 4, 2023, costs from £3,303pp.

An analogous 12-day cruise in January 2024 goes the opposite way, starting in Sydney and including an overnight stop in Melbourne and time in Auckland to benefit from its beautiful beaches and coastal trails.

More details at ncl.com.

sportinbits@gmail.com
sportinbits@gmail.comhttps://sportinbits.com
Get the latest Sports Updates (Soccer, NBA, NFL, Hockey, Racing, etc.) and Breaking News From the United States, United Kingdom, and all around the world.

Related articles

spot_img

Recent articles

spot_img