We flew up to Cairns from Brisbane, rented a car, and set off on our little adventure. We didn’t have much time (only 4 or 5 days), so I tried to plan our itinerary in advance so that we could make the most of our time there. On our first night, we stayed in Cairns. It is not a very big city, but has a very laid-back and holiday vibe about it. It is a very popular destination with young backpackers, and I was brought back to my college years when I backpacked across Europe (it made me feel a little old actually, haha). A couple of things I liked about Cairns were the city pool, and the shopping street and night market. The swimming pool is salt-water and made to look like a beach (with sand and all). It is right next to the actual ocean, but I think it is usually unsafe to swim in the ocean there, due to the jelly fish. There is a beautiful boardwalk and park area along the water, and I noticed that the city offers free fitness classes there (such a great idea!!).
So the first night, we had dinner at a nice backpackers/locals’ pub, and browsed the night market, I bought some hand-made soaps, and some macadamia flavoured Queensland coffee, and headed back to our hotel, just in time to almost miss a huge tropical rainstorm.
The next day, after getting a yummy breakfast at a french macarron-themed cafe, we set off for the Daintree rainforest. According to my guidebook and my preliminary research, the Daintree is the oldest surviving rainforest in the world, at approximately 160 million years old. We had two main goals for that day, firstly, we wanted to take a river cruise and hopefully spot a crocrodile, and secondly, we wanted to make it up north to cape tribulation, which is where the rainforest meets the great barrier reef. Cape Tribulation is also the end of the paved road (you would need an all-terrain or 4-wheel drive vehicle to go any further than that). The drive up from Cairns to the rain forest was breathtaking. In my opinion, it is likely the most scenic drive in Australia (granted, I’m not an expert on Australia, but it was pretty hard to beat). We decided to take Bruce Belcher’s river cruise, so we called ahead that morning and reserved the 1:30pm tour.
On our way to the Daintree, we decided at the last minute to take a detour to check out Mossman gorge in the southern part of the Daintree national park. It is a site which is cared for by the indigenous people (Kuku yanlanji people). There is a beautiful walking trail snaking through the rainforest and over the gorge. The water was pristine and looked very refreshing (you are allowed to swim there if you want). We didn’t have time to do the full 2km walking trail, but we were so glad that we decided to stop to visit the site.
We managed to make it to Bruce Belcher’s river cruise just on time. We were not disappointed. Bruce was a great guide, his family has lived on the banks of the Daintree river for decades, so he knew about all the river flora and fauna, and best of all, he knew exactly where all the crocs were. I say all the crocs, because we must have seen about 15 of them in the hour and a half cruise. He started off pointing out the tiny little (15 month-old) baby croc resting up on the bank just a few meters over from the dock where his boat was parked. Next up were a few more little ones, and a few more.. Then we coasted up alongside a pretty large female with a few babies next to her, and finally, the big dominant male croc of the area, ‘Scarface’. He was very impressive. It was so crazy to be so close to such a huge creature, in the wild!!