We decided to stay in the Daintree, at Noah Beach for three nights. We had already booked a guided walk so we could learn more about the area and booked on the 10am walk with Cooper Creek Wilderness, the only guided walking in the area. It is ran from there home as they own a patch of land in the National Park which has protected status as being extremely important.
The Daintree is the oldest continual rainforest in the world and is one of the most biologically diverse areas. It is the most significant living record of plants and animals evolution over the past 400 million years. Walking through the trees even as someone with no knowledge is humbling. Everywhere you look giant trees grapple for space with each other, vines entwine around branches and trucks, spiked stems attach to other plants and it is filled with so many species of animals and insects that they haven't accounted for them all yet. This is why we decided to do a guided walk, to learn more and appreciate how ancient and important each aspect of the forest is to our world.
Our guide, Tony was as passionate as we had hoped. He took us onto the property and explained that it was once owned by a farmer, who started to clear the forest and plant a tropical fruit orchard until he was told he could no longer cut down the trees as it was protected. He then sold the land to the current owners. They couldn't dig the orchard up as that would unearth the soil, wash in into the creeks and the ocean, straight onto the Great Barrier Reef so they were advised to leave it and slowly let the rain forest take back the land. Slowly but surely the forest is encroaching, a few metres at a time. Ferns are growing on fruit trees and slowly, experts advise that in 150 years the forest will have taken back over the orchard.
As we walked through the land and into the rainforest you could immediately feel the difference, it was cooler and the air was heavy and wet. We spent two hours walking through the forest while Tony showed us different plants, fruits, insects and explained the biodiversity and the importance of the forest. Each aspect of the forest relates and often relies upon another to survive. The plants and animals communicate to each other in a way we didn't think was possible and he explained to us that instead of looking at it as different parts we should try to see the forest as one living thing, all connected to each other and supporting each other to live. Most of the trees were several hundred years old, one of them he showed us was 1200 years old, a huge monster of a tree, towering above the rest with a trunk so wide it dwarfed everyone.
Lots of the plants rely on each other, some actually growing upon each other, some overtaking and killing the others, some happily living in coexistence. One surprising thing we didn't know is that after a cyclone, the forest is aware that it has been damaged and all the trees and plants release seeds, like a baby boom they know they must try to reproduce to fill in the gaps in the canopy.
One of the trees he showed us had a mutual relationship with insects and could communicate with them. The tree purposefully drops one of its branches and sends out a pheromone to attract a beetle. This then bores a hole where the branch has fallen and lays grubs, which then makes tunnels in the trunk before they hatch and leave the tree. The tree then sends out a different pheromone to attract a type of ant to colonise it. Once an ant colony decide to live here it then somehow tells the tree to close in the hole the beetle has bored a little to make it small enough just for an ant. The tree then grows its bark over the hole, just big enough for an ant and they live inside the tree. It does this several times until the ants completely colonise the trunk. The tree produces a nectar which the ants feed off and the ants bring in nutrients from outside and protect it from other tree colonising insects like termites. The tree then sprouts flowers directly out of its trunk which get pollenated by possums, as a reward for the possums the tree produces fruit which the possums then eat and disperse around the forest. This is just one type of tree in a huge, dense rainforest but everything we looked at had a complex and intricate connection to something else.
One of the plants he showed us could change its temperature deliberately by 12 degrees, another one proved that this bit of forest had been there for at least 170 million years.
Another amazing and scary thing we learned is that studies in the Daintree have shown that when a tree doesn't get enough water, it stops absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen, it reverses its natural process and starts actually producing carbon dioxide. When it then rains it goes back to normal.
The area of rainforest we walked through is predominantly rare fan Palm, a beautiful bright green, fan like palm leaf that feels almost like plastic and is waterproof. It is slow growing and as we walked through the forest we were often completely shaded from light and the elements, we could hear the rain falling in the treetops but it is so dense that you hardly feel any at all.
He showed us poisonous fruits and seeds and we tried some edible forest fruits straight from the tree, a tiny yellow fruit that tasted a little like sweet corn. He even encouraged us to try a green ant, something Aboriginals often ate and Liam eagerly licked its bum and said it tasted of citrus.
He also explained to us the importance of the Cassowary. This 2m high bird is the only animal that can digest and fertilise some of the trees fruits and seeds. It swallows them hole and can eat even some of the most poisonous fruits and then disperses them around the forest. Some trees have a ninety percent success rate of germinating after being eaten by a Cassowary and only a ten percent chance if not. They have three adult Cassowary's living around the property but we were not lucky enough to spot them.
We absolutely loved our walk through the rainforest and was in awe of its magnificence, it's age and its importance. We would encourage everyone who visits to go on the walk, it was $55 each and worth every penny.
Afterwords we went to a local cafe which he recommended as the owner rescues animals and often has them out in the sun on the lawn. We were not disappointed and we got to see a rare musky rat kangaroo that our guide had rescued when it's mother had died. It is the smallest member of the kangaroo family and was only about a foot high.
We also got up close and personal with some snakes, and got to hold a python and feel its rubbery skin and contracting muscles before our lunch which was amazing.
On our way home we had a walk on one of the boardwalks in the area through a patch of rainforest and mangrove area and spotted a giant golden orb spider. Bigger than an entire hand it tended to its web while we watched it in horror and awe. They are not dangerous to humans..... Just very creepy.
On our last day in the Daintree we decided to Drive up to Cape Tribulation, only a few kilometres on. Here the sealed road that leads all the way up the Australian East Coast ends and it becomes a four wheel drive track only. We drove to the end of the road and did a few walks around Cape Tribulation through the forest and onto the different beaches. The beaches are deserted tropical paradises, lined with palms and an ocean full of deadly jellyfish and crocodiles.
After walking all morning we were incredibly hot and sweaty as the humidity was unbelievable so we went to a beach front cafe on Thorntons beach for a beer and some lunch.
The Daintree and Cape Tribulation is a tropical wilderness, wet, humid and dense, being in the forest for four days feels almost claustrophobic. But we have absolutely loved it. We have learned a lot and enjoyed spending so much time just admiring nature. It is very different to anything we have seen so far and we are grateful to have seen one of the wonders of our planet.