Surprising Discoveries:

-          The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world, estimated to be 165 million years old, vs. the Amazon at 8 million

-          There are marsupials in Australia because there are no large predators that hunt them

-          The bum of a yellow ant indigenous to Daintree tastes like lemon and is a natural energy boost

-          The Daindree rains 8-10x more annually than London

-          In Cape Tribulation, which is in the center of the Daintree, there is one school for 1st through 12th grade, yet attendance is extremely low, because the one road to get to school is often flooded

-          The national park service and the coast guard disputed over who has authority over the beach in Cape Tribulation – they compromised with the park service having authority during low-tide, and the coast guard having authority during high tide

-          Captain Cook named it Cape Tribulation in 1770 after his ship struck reef and nearly sunk; it is an apt name because crocodiles and sting rays lurk in the water

-          Plants in the Daintree coexisted with dinosaurs

-          The Daintree was named after a geologist – not a tree

What I did –

Cape Tribulation Tour

Cape Tribulation is a cape with a beach that is in the center of the Daintree Rainforest, which is in the northeast region of Queensland. I took a two day tour of the rainforest, which began with a tour bus picking me up from my hostel in Cairns. The ride went along the beautiful coastal Cook Highway. As all the tour guides in Australia have been, this tour guide was a total cheeseball. He had a mic so he could talk to us as we were going to our destination. When he wasn’t talking or cracking jokes, he had a music playlist playing, which was the ultimate one-hit wonders of the 90’s. He also said we could play whatever we wanted, as long as it wasn’t Justin Bieber.

Our first stop was Mossman, an aborigine rainforest walk that was started by an aborigine who gave visitors walks through his “backyard”. The tour began with an aborigine giving us a little demonstration on body paint made from local plants. He then made sure we all had some traditional body paint on our arms and faces. Following the demonstration, we walked through the rainforest to a stream with a waterfall, where we swam and rode the current. The water was cold, yet it was refreshing and a good way to get to know the others on the bus.

Watering hole during the Mossman rainforest walk

Watering hole during the Mossman rainforest walk

After the rainforest walk and swim, we went croc watching. Coincidentally, it was the 10 year anniversary of Steve Irwin’s death, who was killed by a sting ray only 25 miles from where we were, by a barrier reef off of Port Douglas.

The tour group piled onto a long platoon, and we floated around a tropical river, which conjured up images from the movie Anaconda with J-Lo and Ice Cube. We saw two crocs – one large female and one small young croc. It was high-tide, and as a result, a lot of the crocs were under the water, so we didn’t see as many as we’d hoped. The guide spoke a lot about the plants – I think he was trying to distract us so we wouldn’t focus on the fact that we weren’t seeing too many crocs.

Our tour-guide told us her name is Beatrice

Our tour-guide told us her name is Beatrice

Following the croc watching, we went to a jungle resort called the Beach House by Cape Tribulation. This resort is made up of small bunks scattered around one long path in the middle of the rainforest. It is absolutely remote, lush, and beautiful. There is a laid-back vibe with no signs of commercialism. This was where a group of us spent the night (for some, it was only a day trip).

Walkway through the resort

Walkway through the resort

At about 4pm the same day, a group of us took a beach tour. Our tour guide, a young English guy who was working at the resort, told us all about the wild life and pointed out a lot of interesting plants, which are actually some of the most interesting things in the rainforest. Vines that grow around trees for hundreds of meters, mangrove plants whose roots shoot upward out of the sand to filter out salt water, and stinging plants are just a few of the weird tropical plants you can find here. Our guide also went to a tree and found some yellow ants. He told us that if you lick their bum, it tastes like lemon. We all thought he was joking, but he picked an ant off the tree someone from the group volunteered to give it a lick. I tried it too – it indeed did taste like lemon! According to the guide, the ant secretes a liquid which is a defense the ant uses to deter predators. The lemony taste also provides a little energy boost for humans – a trick aborigines have been using for 1000’s of years. Perhaps instead of their morning joe, they had their morning ant bum.

Licking a yellow ants bum

Licking a yellow ants bum

Mangroves on the Cape Tribulation beach. The tree-covered hill in the background is the cape itself.

Mangroves on the Cape Tribulation beach. The tree-covered hill in the background is the cape itself.

The next day, the tour picked up at 2pm, so I had some time to relax and enjoy the resort. I was excited to find out that one of the guys who works at the resort set up a beach volleyball net by the beach and wanted to get a pickup game going. So I headed over with him and we recruited a Swede and Canadian. Everyone turned out to be decent, and we had a great friendly game.

Sweden and Australia vs. Canada and USA.

Sweden and Australia vs. Canada and USA.

At around 2pm, we hopped back on the bus – different tour guide this time, yet equally as cheesy. We did another jungle walk, and then stopped off at a well-known ice cream maker that has many unique ice cream flavors such as Daintree and Spice of Life. The bus finally dropped me off at a hostel in Port Douglass, where I stayed until around 5pm the following day.

Cairns –

Cairns is often where people go to dive by the outter reef of the Great Barrier Reef. I did a snorkeling / helicopter tour of the reef. The water was warm and blue, and the snorkeling was awesome. However, I didn’t see as many fish as I did in the Whitsundays. I then took a helicopter ride over the reef. This was absolutely awesome. The reef looks like light green blobs in the blue ocean. It was tough to get a sense of how high we were, since blue water was all around us. The only thing to gauge our height was looking down at the boat on which we road to the reef. The guide told us we went up about 500 meters (or 1,600 feet). I sat in the front of the helicopter right next to the pilot.

Next stop: Auckland, New Zealand. As the tour guide in the Daintree said, “Australia and New Zealand are like chalk and cheese mate!”. I guess I’ll find out what that means very soon!

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