Our trip to Australia predated my understanding that “Rainforest” doth not equal “Willy Wonka’s Wonderland of Animals.” While the rainforest may indeed be jam-packed with wildlife, thou shalt not see any. That’s so consistently the case across the continents that if I had a Ten Commandments of Adventure Travel, that would make it onto the stone tablets.
Day #10,337 (Daintree, Queensland, Australia): As Mr. M & I started in on our first hike in northeast Australia’s Lower Daintree Rainforest, I fancied myself a soon-to-be Crocodile Huntress, enchanting tree frogs and taming goanna monitor lizards.
Instead, I found myself faced with a whole lot of leafy green. The kind of gorgeous leafy green that obscures any well-camouflaged wildlife you’d hope to see.
The key to Rainforest Enjoyment seems to lie not in lowering expectations, but in gently adjusting them… to cover flora rather than fauna.
In fact, the only non-avian creature we saw was this handsome little snake.
Although snakes comprise Mr. M’s one & only fear, he handled himself quite well. No pushing me in its way and running off screaming this time. (Please note that snakes are the one & only thing of which I’m not afraid. The rest of the world is fair game.)
To access the heart of the rainforest, you have to cross the Daintree River via ferry. A bridge has purposely not been built to help limit the number of people coming into this delicate ecosystem. While we waited a few minutes to drive our rental car onto the ferry, roadside signs tried to excite me into believing I’d get a glimpse of one of Australia’s rarest creatures: the cassowary.
The cassowary is a 6-foot tall, flightless bird… like the Technicolor version of a prehistoric ostrich. While these fruit-eaters are generally shy, they get territorial and come well-equipped to kick hapless intruders with their 5-inch long talons. By the time we reached the Daintree Discovery Centre, all those road-side signs had me itching for a real live sighting.
Cassie would be our only wild cassowary of the trip, which may have been for the best, as Mr. M had warned me that the cassowaries would be my domain, if they ever tried to throw down. Is it kosher to street-fight a clawed, territorial bird? Would my defensive ninja-kick only elicit some skewed muay thai match with Avian Scissorclaws, which I would inevitably lose? Welcome to my head. It’s exhausting in here.
The road continues up Australia’s Queensland coast- happily, with frequent opportunities for rainforest hiking- until the pavement literally runs out 40 minutes later in the town of Cape Tribulation.
Besides having an awesomely foreboding name, the town of Cape Tribulation houses a flying fox rehabilitation center called The Bat House (Lot 2, Cape Tribulation Rd). Feeling a bit animal-starved, Mr. M & I went inside to talk to the resident caretaker about their work raising orphaned bats.
As cool as it was getting to see a flying fox up close, the flora takes center stage in the Daintree. I thought it might be neat to taste test some tropical fruits while Mr. M & I were in the Southern Hemisphere but didn’t expect the Cape Trib Exotic Fruit Farm (Lot 5, Nicole Drive) would be one of my favorite stops in Australia.
Digby & Alison set up an organic tropical fruit orchard after visiting the area and being amazed by all of the unusual fruits commonly available there. Now they offer daily fruit tasting sessions to inspire farm visitors to become adventurous fruit-eaters. They sample whatever fruits from their orchard that are ripe- most of which Mr. M & I had never before seen.
Alison started us off with a glass of West Indian Lime juice sweetened with a bit of agave. Then things got weird. Deliciously weird.
We started with breadfruit…
… then abiu (Mr. M’s favorite)…
… yellow sapote (which kinda tasted like pumpkin to me- very sweet)… black sapote…
… atemoya (very similar to cherimoya, the custard apple)… rollinia…
… Davidson’s plum (tangy & sour)… rambai (my favorite)…
… and guanábana, or soursop, as they’re called outside Spanish-speaking countries.
There’s so much more to the fruit bowl than the standard apple, banana, and orange we have in the US.
The low point was looking up to see THIS in the corner of the fruit-tasting hut.
A local Australian woman saw me quietly hyperventilating and cooed that it was “just” a golden orb weaver spider. Apparently these things are considered mere garden pests down under. Hells to the no.
On our drive back down the coast to our home base in Port Douglas, we had to pull over for one last celebration of the Daintree Rainforest flora.
Everything’s better in ice cream form!
Animal-lover that I am, I seem always to veer towards wildlife-centric activities on our trips. But often, the environment in which wildlife lives (or hides… refer to the Commandment above) is equally as magnificent and fascinating. I think those frugivorous cassowaries & flying foxes were trying to tell me something delicious: it’s all about the fruit in Australia’s rainforest!
Details of the Day:
Getting to Daintree: All visitors to Australia make a pilgrimage through Cairns to marvel at The Great Barrier Reef. You’ve come all this way to the Land Down Under- may as well drive a bit further north to Daintree, right? From Cairns, we drove about an hour to our new home base, Port Douglas. Daintree is an easy day-trip from Port Douglas, plus, it gives you another chance to see a different portion of the Reef.
The Daintree Discovery Centre offers a bit more information and a multi-tiered hiking trail that allows you to see the flora at different elevations. While interesting, it wasn’t worth the $30 each that we paid in admission. I much preferred just walking the numerous other trails on our own.
Daintree Ice Cream Company specializes in DELISH ice cream flavored with tropical fruits!
Every order yields a sample cup of all four of their seasonal flavors. Plus, they have pretty nice public restrooms. Always important on a roadtrip.
Tips & Tricks of the Road: The Daintree River ferry can get busy on summer afternoons, as the ferry is only able to carry 40 cars at a time. Wake up a bit earlier, and you’ll avoid a wait.
The pavement honestly does end at Cape Tribulation. If you want to continue on, you’ll need a 4×4 to handle the so-called Bloomfield Track (which is completely impassable after it rains). Edge of the earth, friends!