Daintree Rainforest is the world’s oldest tropical rainforest with unique endemic flora and fauna. It’s the only place where two natural UNESCO World Heritage sites meet – the Daintree area and the Great Barrier Reef.
After exploring the Great Barrier Reef for a few days, we land in Cairns. From here we travel to Port Douglas – a getaway to the Daintree. The flight is early, however, our driver already awaits us. It’s surprising that there are many options to travel from Cairns to Port Douglas, but almost nothing in the opposite direction. After extensive research and reading about no shows, 3+ hours drive instead of 1.5, I booked our transport both ways. The price felt like a fist in the stomach, but that was the only option in our favor. Let’s hope for the best outcome.
The scenic drive Cairns-Port Douglas doesn’t leave us unimpressed. Pristine beaches on one side and the rainforest on the other, fields of sugar cane along the road – every view is worth a photo break.
Port Douglas – vibrant colors, toads on the streets, and live music
We have barely arrived and the hot, humid air already leaves us breathless. Our room with an intense scent of real vanilla in the vibrant motel with a vintage look and feel is not ready, so we chat for a while with the friendly Aussie guy at the reception desk and rush to explore the town. Or crawl, to be more precise. I definitely won’t make friends with tropical Queensland weather.
My first impression of Port Douglas is of shooting in vivid mode. The main street, overcrowded with restaurants and stores, is so vibrant, lively, and noisy. Colorful birds hidden in the trees bring the sounds of the rainforest to our hears.
We are lucky to be in town for the local market. Handmade seed jewelry, Australian bush teas, and even dog food are just a small range of the locally made curiosities.
More touristy than I expected, in the evening the resort transforms into a concert stage. Live rock music blasts from almost every restaurant, people enjoy the music and applause the performers. Not so far from the nocturnal noise of Port Douglas, while exploring the area, we hear rustling coming from the nearby tree. A huge toad (probably a cane toad) stares at us with apathy.
The rest of the evening we celebrate our wedding anniversary in an elegant and sophisticated restaurant off the main street with Australian wine and local delicacies.
Early the next morning, dressed in light colors to keep insects away, we are excited to set our feet in a rainforest for the first time. I have carefully selected an eco-certified tour which promises to spend as little time on the vehicle as possible. In addition, it’s supposed to be a small group too. We are only 8 people on the tour and I am more than happy, large tour groups are not my cup of tea. I am also not a fan of tours and avoid them at all costs unless this is the only way to see a place. In this case, it is.
Our guide is a tropical ecologist and for the first time ever someone tells stories and provides information non-stop. There is not a single minute of silence, I notice happily.
The Daintree is a well-organized rainforest. There are many elevated wooden paths around with beautiful views of the floral landscape. For those who swim, a crocodile-free rainforest stream offers salvation from the heat.
A cruise across Daintree River takes us deep into the rainforest. The tide is high and we are disappointed to miss the ”Estuarine” crocodiles. But they are there, lurking in the waters below us.
Orange signs warn to avoid swimming in the river. I learn that one should additionally avoid walking close to the water at dusk – crocodiles can jump high and far to get you.
We have breakfast with Daintree black tea and cinnamon muffins and are splashed by a quick tropical shower. Rainforest at its best!
There is not a single poisonous snake or any other scary fauna around to see. However, we encounter a huge spider, lazily moving in its spiderweb. It’s not uncommon to encounter well-camouflaged spiders which are nearly impossible to see, they look exactly like the tree bark and we stare in disbelief.
Soon we reach the heart of the Daintree rainforest, a World Heritage listed private property. We find one of the most primitive flowering plants besides species that exist only here. One of the rarest trees in the world is also in the Daintree – there are only 19 trees left.
It’s time to stop for a lunch under the canopy of the prehistoric rainforest. I am curious to try damper, an Australian soda bread. One of the Aussies in the group, Elisabeth from Melbourne, offers to photograph me while I try vegemite – a black Australian spread made from yeast extract. Infamously inedible for visitors, it turns out it’s an acquired taste even for Australians. I have already tried it, however, I mimic a horrified face for the picture. We spot a huge lizard hiding in the shade. It poses for photos and videos for a few minutes and it vanishes in the bush, looking for food.
The tour ends with a bang: we visit Cape Tribulation, the only place in the world where two UNESCO sites meet – the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. It’s a beautiful beach with mangrove trees and crocodiles. As this is not enough to finish our tropical rainforest adventure, we enjoy a local ice cream made of the exotic fruits grown in the surrounding orchard (soursop, passion fruit, wattleseed, and jackfruit). I quickly realize that this is one of the most delicious ice creams I’ve ever tasted.