After our tour of the Daintree river to spot the local crocs, my boyfriend and I set off north for Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef. We drove up the the ferry that crosses the Daintree river and through the 160 million year-old Daintree forest. The drive was beautiful. As we drove further into the forest, it felt like we were driving into the clouds, and the rain began. The road north of the river had few cross roads and only a few houses or restaurants here and there (the Daintree is a protected forest, so there is very little development). We noticed that every 2 km or so, there was a sign warning drivers of potential cassowary crossings, followed by a speed bump.
I first learned about the cassowary a few years ago, when I read the book ‘Down Under’ by the travel author Bill Bryson. The Cassowary is a huge pre-historic land-bird. It is Australia’s heaviest bird, and in my opinion, the most unusual looking. It has a blue head with a big greyish hard helmet on the crown of its head and a red wattle on its throat (like a turkey). They have huge claws on their feet that can be very dangerous. In fact there has been at least one death in the past decade, resulting from a confrontation with a cassowary. During our little side-trip to Mossman gorge, I learned from one of the aboriginal bus drivers that the cassowary is an essential element to the Daintree rainforest, as it is the only animal able to eat the large fruit from some of the trees, which is the manner in which the trees are able to propagate and spread throughout the forest.
I was really hoping to be able to catch a glimpse of a cassowary in the wild, from a safe distance of course, but we weren’t so lucky. The only wild animal we spotted in the rainforest was the ubiquitous bush turkey. I was lucky enough to see a few cassowaries in a few animal sanctuaries in Australia.
As we approached the end of the paved road, we came across a little general store and a campground called Pk’s jungle village, that looked like it was popular with hippies and backpackers. There was also a cool looking bar that I would’ve liked to check out and have a drink at, had we had the time. We obtained a map of the area which showed all the walking trails, and noticed that there was a trail right next to the little store, so we decided to take that one. It was still raining, although not so heavily anymore and the rain seemed to be letting up. The trail was short and led to a small boardwalk through some mangroves and led up to the beach.
We were so happy that we finally made it to the point where the rainforest meets the reef!
After that, made our way back south to Port Douglas, where we were staying for the next two nights. We arrived at our hotel Mantra on the Port, at about 6:15pm, and were shocked to find the hotel locked and the reception closed down for the night! I hadn’t noticed when I booked the hotel, that the reception closed at 6pm on Sundays. There was a sign on the door saying that late check-ins were welcome and that all we had to do was press a number on the intercom next to the door which should connect us to the after-hours reception who would then give us the number to the safe containing our keys and check-in info. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. There was no answer on the other end when we tried the intercom, and no answer on the phone when we called the hotel’s phone number. After an hour of trying to get through to either the phone or the intercom, I finally decided to find the general phone number for all Mantra hotels, and finally managed to speak to an operator who was very helpful and managed to call the hotel manager and get him to come over and let us into our room. Once we get into our room, I found out that the jacuzzis were out of order for the entire hotel, this was very disappointing, as I having a jacuzzi was one of the reasons I chose that hotel. Needless to say, we weren’t too pleased with the Mantra on Port.
Port Douglas however, was a beautiful town. The main road was lined with great restaurants, cafes and pubs. The town was very clean and not nearly as noisy or busy as Cairns (there were a lot less backpackers there).
We booked a snorkelling excursion to the Great Barrier reef for the next morning. We used the Poseidon tour company, which offers both snorkelling and scuba diving tours. It is a medium sized tour, with less people on it than the Quicksilver tours.
We were at the end of the stinger season (the jelly fish), but we were given stinger suits to wear just to be safe. We were lucky that the weather on the day we went was the best so far that week, and the conditions were relatively calm. The tour included three dives at three separate locations on the reef. The first stop was a bit rough on the surface, and it felt like quite a workout to swim around. Once I got over the waves on the surface though, it was amazing to see all the life and colour beneath the ocean surface.
The second dive was better than the first, and the third dive was even better! The tour gave two guided snorkel tours at the third site, and one of the groups spotted a sea turtle.
Unfortunately for me, my boyfriend got to spot him since he went in the first group and I was held back due to an equipment change and I decided to go in the second group that missed the turtle 😦
Anyway, I still had an amazing experience, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I felt so lucky to be able to witness and experience such beauty and life.