18 July 2017
Visiting the Daintree Rainforest was one of my ‘must see’ things in Far North Queensland, and this Billy Tea Safaris day trip promised the Daintree Rainforest, Daintree River, Cape Tribulation (where the rainforest meets the reef) and some of the 4WD Bloomfield Track. It is another early start – a 7.10am pick up, and we are delighted to see that we have Matthew (our driver from yesterday) again and that we are the second people on the bus so get to have a front seat this time. We head north past the North Cairns beaches and then onto the picturesque Captain Cook Highway (one of the most scenic drives in Australia along with the Great Ocean Road that I travelled earlier this year) to Port Douglas. We make good time in the approx 1 hour drive to Port Douglas so are able to have a short stop at the beach before we pick up the rest of our group.
We stop briefly at Mossman near the start of the Daintree Rainforest to meet up with another Billy Tea Safari group that we will be travelling with today. Our first real stop is at Daintree Village where we have morning tea and then board our boat for a cruise on the Daintree River. We get a fantastic view of rainforest and river vegetation including mangroves and all sorts of different root structures. It is very cold today for most tropical wildlife but we do get to see several different crocodiles all sunning themselves on the banks, including a large alpha male, a couple of females and some yearlings. It is estimated that there is approximately one crocodile per 100 metres in the river. We also saw the magnificent Azure Kingfisher darting amongst the mangroves (and spent quite a bit of time trying to photograph it!). We disembark at the Daintree River Ferry Crossing – a vehicular ferry that is operated on cables across the river – and meet up with Matthew and our vehicle.
Then we ascend the Alexandra Range and stop for photos of the magnificent views of the rainforest meeting the reef before going for a guided rainforest walk. Matthew is very knowledgeable about the flora, fauna and their use in aboriginal culture. There are signs everywhere saying watch out for cassowary crossing the road; although they are relatively rare, they are far too often hit by cars. Unfortunately we were not to see them in the wild today but they are huge flightless birds standing about 5 foot high and related to kiwi and moa. There are many plants that only survive because of their relationship with the cassowary: their seeds need to pass through a cassowary in order to germinate. A spectacular example of this is the bright blue Cassowary Plum – and we see a pile of cassowary poop with blue bits through it. There are also some ancient cycad palms that are hundreds of years old – they are very slow growing and can live to thousands of years old.
After our walk, we stopped for lunch at a roadhouse that had a wide range of interesting wildlife for us to get ‘up close and personal’ with: I was happy feeding the wallabies sweet potato, and the noisy parrots joining us for lunch were entertaining, but I drew the line at getting close to the large snakes even if they weren’t poisonous – one was curled up on a table. Thankfully these were not in the immediate vicinity of our barbeque lunch.
Then we drove further north through the Daintree Rainforest beyond Cape Tribulation and along the first part of the 4WD Bloomfield track to beautiful Emmagen Creek. It is a beautiful spot for swimming and Matthew prepares a feast of different tropical fruits for us to try: sweet bananas, pineapple, cherimoya (custard apple), rollinia (yellow custard apple – very sweet), sapodilla (brown fruit with orange flesh that tastes like caramelised pears), and red dragonfruit. He also brews up some of the namesake Billy Tea – prepared in a metal billy can over a fire (gas in this instance as we are in the national park) using Daintree bush tea and a very upmarket Damper Bread that has dried fruit in it and served with golden syrup.
We head back to Cape Tribulation and walk on the beautiful beach down to where the rainforest does indeed meet the reef. Much as a swim may have been tempting to some, there are numerous signs reminding us of all the nasty things around including stinger jellyfish and crocodiles.
On our way back to the ferry crossing we stop at a place where they make icecream using local tropical ingredients. We have a taste of all 4 of today’s flavours: guava, passionfruit, wattle seed (caramel flavour), and a lemony flavoured one that I didn’t get the name of. Once back across the river we have a long drive back home along the coast punctuated by watching the sugar cane being harvested and loaded onto trains to be taken to the local refinery for processing. Back in Cairns we again have dinner in town – this time sharing a pizza – and of course a glass of wine.
Our itinerary for the week:
Arrive in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland
Kuranda Scenic Train and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Chillagoe Caves and Outback Tour
Daintree, Cape Tribulation and 4WD Bloomfield Track
Magical Outer Reef Experience to Moore Reef
Atherton Tablelands and Waterfalls Tour
Daintree Dreaming Tour with Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk