Where the Reef Meets the Rainforest

Location: Cairns

Today began like many other days on this trip, waking up at o’dark thirty to get ready to go on an all day tour. Our destination today was the Daintree rain forest and Cape Tribulation. We were the first ones on the tour bus this morning  Our driver Kelvin (Down Under Tours) was extremely knowledgeable about the area; and he all spends six month of the year doing tours in Namibia and Bali. After picking up a few other passengers we made our way north to Port Douglas and then to the rain forest.

Our first stop in the rain forest was the Daintree Discovery Centre. Our guide at the center was the Piggy, a very knowledgeable zoologist who specializes in Australian wild pigs. After a morning tea, he showed us around a short trail/elevated boardwalk in the jungle; pointing out numerous Australian plants and birds. At one point we went up a ~70 ft tower to see the forest at the canopy level.

Rachel and Ryan atop the daintree rainforest canopy
Rachel and Ryan atop the daintree rainforest canopy
Yellow sunbirds on the tree tops in the rainforest
Yellow sunbirds on the tree tops in the rainforest
Q: What's black with red eyes and also found in Papua New Guinea?A:  The Metallic Starling
Q: What’s black with red eyes and also found in Papua New Guinea?
A: The Metallic Starling

As we drove to our next stop, we saw numerous signs warning drivers to slow and be aware of the cassowarys and the speed bumps. The tall birds are the keystone of the rainforest.

The result of not slowing for cassoways.  We were told it is one of the most photographed signs in the country and it gets stolen often.  This famous sign even has its own facebook page.
The result of not slowing for cassoways. We were told it is one of the most photographed signs in the country and it gets stolen often. This famous sign even has its own facebook page.

Only about 80 remain in the national park, and without them the long term viability of the jungle is questionable. Most of the trees in the park rely on the cassowary to help transport and plant their seeds. We didn’t see any of the large birds on this trip, but below is a picture of one we saw at a zoo near Sydney.

A cassoway at the zoo
A cassoway at the zoo

Our next stop was Cape Tribulation. At low tide this is where the great barrier reef meets the Daintree rainforest, both of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. A couple hundred years ago, this is also where Lt. James Cook nearly ended his first voyage of discovery by reefing the Endevour. They eventually got it loose and made their way back to England. The cape is named for one of his journal entries where he described freeing his ship through “many trials and tribulations”.

Through Trials and Tribulations, we managed to get this photo
Through Trials and Tribulations, we managed to get this photo

Following this, we made our way to an Australian bar-b-que lunch in the rainforest. Kelvin let us off near the begining of a short trail leading to the picnic location. Before we set on the trail, he pointed out a Boyd’s Forest Dragon resting on a nearby tree. The lizard was studied extensively by Steven Spielberg and company for the first Jurassic Park movie to help simulate the movements of the some of dinosaurs in the movie. The forest dragon walks and crawls on four legs but runs very fast on its two hind legs. Rachel and others got a lot of good pictures of the lizard. It didn’t seem to mind the people and attention and almost seemed happy to pose for the cameras.

It's like Jurassic Park, but real, and less deadly
It’s like Jurassic Park, but real, and less deadly.

After the shutterbugs had their fun, we walked down a short trail through the woods and about 10 minutes later had a tasty bar-b-que lunch.

Rainforest river

After lunch we made our way to the Daintree river cruise, but stopped at Alexandra lookout to see the awesome sight of the river letting out into the reef, from hundreds of feet up and miles away. Kelvin also pointed out Batt Reef, which is where Steve Irwin had his final wildlife encounter.

Panaoramic of the Daintree meeting the reef
Panaoramic of the Daintree meeting the reef

A short time later we made way to the river and boarded a small catamaran for a river cruise.

I think they are trying to tell us how cute and cuddly the crocs are?
I think they are trying to tell us how cute and cuddly the crocs are?

The driver on boat was also quite knowledgeable of the area and pointed out numerous plants and birds on the hour long journey.

A Heron in the Daintree River
A Heron in the Daintree River

The main purpose of the trip was to spot salt water crocodiles. Because of the tides and the time of year, seeing a crocodile would not be easy. But after about 45 minutes of searching the guide spotted Lizzy, a 2.5m ‘salty’ (that’s what Aussies call them), resting under a mangrove tree on the shore of the river. Our guide radioed other riverboat captains to let them know of his find and gave us plenty of time to take pictures.

Lizzy the Salty hiding in the Daintree
Lizzy the Salty hiding in the Daintree

After the river boat cruise we have afternoon tea at the riverboat HQ, and some a local collection of rainforest insects. Following this we made our way back to Cairns.

Today was the last ‘planned’ day of the honeymoon. Tomorrow we don’t have any official plans, beyond exploring the city a bit, picking up last minute souvenirs and possibly taking in an in-promptu half day excursion. Tomorrow (Sun Dec 2) will also be part of our “longest day” because we leave for home at 1:20 AM the day after tomorrow (Mon Dec 3), which means that we may not be getting any sleep before our 23.5 hour trip back to DC (of which we land at 9:40 AM (Mon Dec 3).

Word Drops: 2

Pictures taken so far: 8996

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