Cape Tribulation

Daintree dreaming in Australia: part 2

If I told you there is only one place in this stunning world where you can find a prehistoric, outdoor museum with living plants and animals from the dinosaur era … where might it be?

Hint: think far north Queensland in Australia.

It is the Daintree Rainforest.

On arrival in the 135 million-year-old fantasy world I absolutely must take off my watch. Because this place is timeless.

I also get head to toe, steaming, sweating, saturated. And when there’s no water left in my body I almost think my mind has started evaporating.

How can foliage from the dinosaur era still exist?

Birds six-foot tall that don’t fly?

Daintree River and Rainforest, Queensland Australia. Photo: Tourism Qld

And 1000-pound crocodiles which smirk with the confidence of their death roll infamy?

On arrival in the 135 million-year-old fantasy world I absolutely must take off my watch. Because this place is timeless.

A one-hour drive north from Cairns airport along the Captain Cook Highway lives the World Heritage Listed Daintree Rainforest – the largest surviving tract of tropical lowland rainforest in Australia and a remnant of Gondwanaland –from 300 to 500 million years ago.

With such intense immersion into dense rainforest combined with heavy humidity, I slow down and fall into a dreamlike state.

Each my senses is activated as I get the chance to explore a place like no other while cocooned in the Beauty, peacefulness and power of untouched Earth.

Ulysses Butterfly, Daintree Rainforest. Photo: Tourism Qld

Walbul-Walbul means butterfly and the Daintree offers the brightest black and lime striped fluttering creatures dancing from plant to plant.

Continuing the enchantment the Ulysses butterflies are fluorescent blue. These phenomena are the norm in the Daintree. What science can explain elsewhere, the Daintree delights to confuse.

Croaking frogs are so loud with a booming screech, they are often mistaken for monkeys. While a regular symphony of cicadas grows loud then disappears.

When there’s no water left in my body I almost think my mind has started evaporating.

Rain is constant (with more than 80 inches a year) which is how the Daintree National Park can cover 745 square miles and sustain eight wildlife habitats known as billabong, open grass land, mangroves, riverine, low land rainforest, creeks and estuaries.

And number eight ? Cane sugar plantations. An invasive intrusion on the landscape since colonial settlement but an important part of Australian agricultural industry.

The lush enveloping drops are a blessing on a planet increasingly losing its river systems, drinkable water and natural flora.

Daintree Walking Trail in Queensland, Australia. Photo: Tourism Qld

To get up close the Australian Government has developed walking tracks within the park which extend from Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation, to help protect nature and visitors.

Each my senses is activated as I get the chance to explore a place like no other while cocooned in the beauty, peacefulness and power of untouched Earth.

Self-guided walks are on offer for all abilities and include the Jindalba Boardwalk (a 700 metre loop); Dubuji Boardwalk (1.2km); Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit (a long 4km hike) and Mossman Gorge River Circuit (500 metre return).

The Daintree Ferry can take you across the river where you can access the Alexandra Range lookout to watch the Daintree River gushing through the rainforest and into the Coral Sea.

Bragging rights for the Daintree includes 3,000 plant and 315 mammal species all adapted and codependent on its tropical, lush ecosystem.

Be certain to read up before you venture here or take a free warning brochure at the entrance to the park to minimise your trip turning into a Jurassic nightmare.

As with most species developed over millennia, some are peaceful to human beings while others have their inbuilt safeguards which likely helped them survive so long.

The song says never smile at a crocodile but don’t look away either! Photo: Tourism Qld

For instance, the Quondong tree’s delicious blue fruit which look like grapes, have a tart taste, are extremely high in vitamin C and is popular throughout Australia as part of bush tucker or indigenous food.

But go near the leaves of a Gympie-Gympie, one of many species better known as stinging trees, you could feel like you’ve been burnt with hot acid.

The Daintree River is also home for around 70 estuarine crocodiles. All are extremely dangerous. So while you can go fishing in plenty of the streams and creeks, a boat with a local is better than fishing off the banks.

Cassowary, Daintree Rainforest. Photo: Tourism Queensland.

The river is also home to more than 200 species of fish, while bird lovers can view more than 400 feathered friends which fly and one that doesn’t, which is the cassowary.

Cassowaries are Australia’s second-largest flightless bird (the first is the emu) with a middle ‘claw’ five inches long. Enough to end a fist fight in seconds, so don’t go near them!

But take the time to consider how such a distinctive bird managed to survive such a treacherous landscape and forest for so long.

Even seeing a rare tree kangaroo under the 75-foot canopy of giant palms is like being transported back in time, as if you are witness to a secret place not everyone will see.

“Go ahead. Feel how smooth my chin is.”: Forest Dragon. Photo: Tourism Qld

Another descendant from the dinosaur era is the spine-covered Forest Dragon, usually wrapped around a tree branch and able to camouflage itself to match the foliage.

Their beautiful colouring and conical spines soften its sharp and uninviting skin texture.

Luckily, the Forest Dragon prefers to feed on insects but they are agile enough to pounce on predators with speed.

But if you really wish to immerse yourself and prefer cultural Travel, getting to know local Kuku Yalanji Rainforest Aboriginal beliefs means learning about a history of oral knowledge passed on across tens of thousands of years.

Juan Walker from Walkabout Adventures. Photo: James Fisher & Tourism Australia

Juan Walker is a well-known Kuku Yalanji Rainforest Aboriginal guide from the Mossman and Daintree area and also works at the Daintree Eco Lodge.

He tailors cultural day trips to the reef and coastal habitats so visitors can hike, sample bush tucker, swim in one of the freshwater streams (with no crocs) or go fishing and hunting in the mangroves.

The history of different clans of Aboriginal people across Australia is a fascination for me ~ undisturbed stewardship of these lands, waters and oceans for such a long time means they have a connection so spiritual, their DNA is entirely intertwined with every cell of the intricate living world.

With such intense immersion into dense rainforest combined with heavy humidity, I slow down and fall into a dreamlike state.

I have the greatest respect and awe for Juan’s incredible work, sharing the deepest aspects of his familial lineage with visitors can only be based on trust. Trust that others will respect his home and his history, and trust from his own ancestors to pass this information on.

I feel as though I experience the ancestors passed on, simply through hearing Juan tell the story of the importance of a particular tree; places they don’t go because of the atroc

Even a long drive along the highway has Juan talking story about the incredible feats and terrible tragedies of his people and secrets of the local area you may otherwise never learn.

I even get to visit his beautiful community where Juan is building a house. It is an immaculately kept township nestled right on the beach and defies the challenges some indigenous communities experience.

Prehistoric foliage along Barratt Creek, Daintree Rainforest. Photo: Renee @ Spirit Sorbet

For more nature loving, Daintree Cruises offers a way to see the Daintree from the water along the 5km Barratt Creek.

Here the waterscape mesmerises.

The air is so clean, fungi species which grow only in 99% pure air thrive as well as plants from the dinosaur era.

Foliage weave and wrap around each other, with some trees growing right off another tree’s branch and the root system drizzling downwards mid-air.

Opening out onto the Daintree River, here is where crocodiles laze until lunch and yellow-bellied snakes hang out, so watch your head.

Getting there

With limited transport options to the Daintree, hire a car at Cairns airport. You can find self-drive maps at

More information


  • Off-road driving is strictly for experienced drivers. Flash flooding can occur.
  • Stay out of rivers and creeks inhabited by crocodiles and never leave children unattended.
  • Ocean stingers and jellyfish can harm or kill during summer months.

Warmest, Renee

Disclaimer: this blog post is intended as a beautiful and thought-provoking article for entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for medical care.  No representations are made as to the completeness of any information and the author is not liable for any losses, injuries or damages from the use of this information.


Renee Bes

Renee Bes

Renee Bes is an international journalist and author who loves delving into the spiral of energy which keeps our Earth spinning: and believes storytelling with a focus on beloved language and powerful words can be a healing journey. Read more articles on her personal website and blog.

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