Wet Tropics

Paradise fresh water hole - Paluma NP

Paradise fresh water hole – Paluma NP

After three amazing days sailing the Solway Lass in the Whitsundays, I continued my journey up north to the Wet Tropics. Andrea & Nicole would join me to Cairns while Collin decided to stay in Airlie Beach hoping to find a job as a dive instructor on a sailing boat. Our first stop was Paluma National Park, a few kilometers inland between Townsville & Ingham. It’s the most southern point of the ‘Wet Tropics’, with an altitude of 2927ft or about 1000m above sea level. It was a pleasant change of climate & scenery with waterfalls, rivers, tropical forests and fresh waterholes, the perfect place to cool off on those hot & sticky days. After a nice van-cooked dinner & a good night sleep in the minivan, we explored Paluma’s rainforest & drove to Big Crystal Creek afterwards for breakfast and a refreshing swim in the ‘Paradise’ freshwater waterhole, nestled between cascading waterfalls, lush forests & mountains covered by a layer of misty clouds.

Cardwell coastline

Cardwell coastline

After the refreshing swim, we continued to travel up the east coast passing pittoresk towns such as Cardwell & Mission Beach were we stopped for dinner. Both places had golden sandy beaches and one of the few places where the tropical rainforests meet the Great Barrier Reef. Unfortunately it’s strongly recommended not to swim in the ocean due to several predators such as crocodiles, sharks, …
We spent the night in Babinda Boulders, one of the few free camping sites in Queensland. The Babinda Boulders are part of the traditional lands of the Yidinjy people.

Babinda Boulders waterfall

Babinda Boulders waterfall

Their lives, customs and beliefs are intricately entwined with the plants, animals & seasons of the tropical forest. The Boulders are a series of huge round outcrops of granite strewn along the creek, similar to the ones in New-Zealand. After a short walk down the river with cascading waterfalls winding their way through the boulders, we drove to Cairns, Australia’s tropical capital and cosmopolitan getaway.

Cairns

Cairns

Andrea & Nicole hired themselves a minivan of their own, having a few more weeks to travel. I had only 2 days left so my plan was to spend those days in the Daintree National Park, 2h north of Cairns. Cecile, a french girl I met in Tasmania & later in Brisbane where she was an ‘au pair’, happened to be in Cairns for a short holiday so she joined me for the trip up north.

A Cassowary flightless bird

A Cassowary flightless bird

Our trip started with a wonderful coastal drive leading to the Daintree river, where a short ferry ride (22$ – return) brings you to this magical place where the world’s most ancient rainforests meet the unspoiled reefs of the Pacific… Daintree National Park. A naturalist’s paradise where you can lose yourself in misty rainforests and untouched, pristine white sand beaches. This is also the place where you can easily spot Australia’s second largest flightless bird, the Cassowary. Other rainforest residents are harder to spot due to the tick, tall canopy and dim light. That means you often hear animals but you don’t see them. But if we listen closely to the rustling of the leaves, musky rat kangaroos forage on the ground for insect and fallen fruit.

Fascinating fauna & flora in Daintree NP

Fascinating fauna & flora in Daintree NP

Just by being quiet we catched a fleeting glimpse of these secretive marsupials dissapearing into the twisted undergrowth. From above we could hear the clear call of the bridled honeyeater as they searched for their canopy dinner. Their brushed-tipped tongues delve deeply into the blossoms of plants that provide them with nutrient rich nectar. We also heared popping noises… It could have been a bursting mangrove seed-pod or a mud crab moving about and changing the pressure in its hole. Suddenly we hear a loud plop and repeating clicking noises… A mudskipper jumping into the water and a small pistol shrimp stunning its prey before it attacks… The Daintree rainforest is simply a fascinating place full of hidden activity only revealing its secrets to the careful listener.

Cecile & me @ Cape Tribulation (Daintree Forest NP)

Cecile & me @ Cape Tribulation (Daintree NP)

The Daintree National Park is also home to several wonderful spots such as the renowned Cape Tribulation but Cape Kimberley, Cow Bay, Jindalba,… are certainly equally worth a visit! Jindalba is the Kuku Yalanji name for the area. For thousand of years, these ridges were the southern getaway to the Daintree Coast. Early settlers followed the original Kuku Yalanji pathways and if you look closely, the forest is crisscrossed with horse trails and wagon tracks.

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