Cape Tribulation, located 141 kilometres north of Cairns, is a remote town in the Daintree Rainforest. The 3-hour long drive there takes you along the Queensland coast, through the rainforest and involves a ferry across the Daintree River.
Cape Tribulation beach, which the locals describe to be the most beautiful in Australia, is located directly between not one, but two World Heritage listed sites: The Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics Rainforest. Although the Wet Tropics Rainforest runs all over Queensland, the Daintree specifically is the oldest living rainforest in the world, and its tropical ecosystem makes it one of the most complex on Earth.
The Daintree Rainforest contains a large amount of Australia species, including:
30% of the frog, reptiles and marsupials
90% of bats and butterfly species
7% of bird species
It’s also home to the cassowary (also known as the ‘dinosaur-bird’). Found only in Papua New Guinea and the Tropical North Queensland, a cassowary looks like a more colourful ostrich, with a large horn on its head. It can be up to 6 feet tall, but its razor-sharp talons are what makes it one of the most deadly birds in the world.
When driving in Canada, it’s not uncommon to come across a caution sign for ‘Deer Crossing’ (in Australia it’s ‘Kangaroo Crossing’), but up in the Daintree you will find ‘Cassowary Crossing’ zones, and vehicles are advised to slow down.
Matt was the one who spotted the cassowary on our guided rainforest walk. I was at the front of the group, chasing a blue butterfly, whereas Matt was at the back, taking his time and scanning the rainforest. All of a sudden he yelled, ‘Ally! Cassowary!”. The whole group ran back to where Matt was standing, and sure enough, about 10 feet away was a large cassowary. It was eating something on the grass and kept its distance from us. The cassowary sure was tall, but I really enjoyed its colours.
The other animal to be aware of when venturing through the Daintree is the crocodile. Saltwater crocs live in the Daintree River and can even be found on the beaches between dusk and dawn. Males crocs measure between 5-6 metres, and the females come in at a still-impressive 3 metres in length. Despite this, one of the most popular Daintree attractions is a wildlife river cruise, where guides take you along the river and help you to spot wild crocodiles.
On our river cruise, we spotted two crocodiles: One was a baby, roughly two years old and no more than 1 metre long. The other was a large, nesting female closer to 3 metres long. The boat driver had found this mama croc a few weeks earlier and had to pull the boat almost onto land so we could see her with his flashlight. It was terrifying! Crocodiles, especially nesting crocodiles, are very territorial; one wrong move and she could have come snapping at the boat. Thankfully, everyone had enough time for a quick peek and we left without incident, and we didn’t see any more crocs on our trip.
When visiting the Daintree, it is important to treat everything with respect – this is the oldest living rainforest in the world after all. Learn about the surroundings, how to minimise your damage/imprint on the area and how to stay safe from wildlife.
You wouldn’t believe the cautionary tale we were told from our tour guide on our way up to Daintree… Roughly one month before our trip, a girl was attacked by a crocodile while in Cape Tribulation. She was spending the night in the rainforest with her friends and they were on the beach at dusk, recording one of the jumping fish in shallow waters. No one saw it coming, but all of a sudden, there was a crocodile attached to her leg and everyone was screaming! Luckily for her, it was only a young crocodile who didn’t have enough strength to pull her back into the water, and eventually let go. Had it been an adult, the incident could have been over in minutes, and their friend never to be seen again.
It’s important to be Crocwise:
- Never swim where crocodiles may live, only in designated safe swimming areas.
- Always keep a look out for crocodiles.
- Avoid approaching the water’s edge, especially between dusk or dawn.
- If a crocodile comes running at you and you’re lucky enough to see it coming, ZIG-ZAG. Crocodiles can only run straight, and they are surprisingly fast.
- Avoid returning regularly to the same spot at the water’s edge.
You’ve been warned!
Crocodiles don’t eat smart people.