The sounds. That’s the first thing I noticed as we stepped off of the minibus that was transporting us around the rainforest. Above us, insects buzzed among the trees and tropical birds sang their songs to one another; whilst below, lizards moved among the leaf litter, setting off an unexpected paranoia of giant creatures out to bite me. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of water flowing down the river and closer, the sound of fish surfacing for insects hovering just above them.
The smell is indescribable to anyone who has not visited a tropical rainforest- damp and fresh at the same time. The smell of rain constantly filling your nostrils even though it hasn’t rained for days.
But, it’s the views that are ingrained on your memory. On the approach, hills stretch in all directions covered in dense forest. Green; everywhere is so green. Some trees stand tall and straight whilst others intertwine with their neighbour, dancing their way to the sunlight. The same goes when walking through the rainforest. Bushes at knee level are sprawling as far as they can across the forest floor. Vines weave their way from tree to tree, constricting them in a desperate bid to reach the sunlight. Trees that have fell victim to the vines have become skeletal and hollow inside. Others continue the desperate fight up in order to survive.
Amongst all of this, there’s me and my group. The rainforest has no concern for us. It continues on as it has done for 135 million years. It is the oldest tropical rainforest on Earth and the people of Queensland are proud to show us what it’s got to offer.
Our tour was booked through Daintree Rainforest Tour and before I get on to telling you how amazing it was you should know, I paid full price for this trip. No freebies, no you scratch my back situation, no discounts. We opted for the 2 day Cape Tribulation & Daintree Tour at $175 each and man was it worth it.
Now, I am a nature lover. I love animals and wildlife and trees. I would be vegan if I could sacrifice milk and cheese; but I am British and we love cheese and we also love tea (with milk). I love hiking but not because I enjoy the torture of having sweat dripping in my eyes, my thighs being set alight or my heart literally trying to beat its way out of my chest. No, I love it for the sights and smells and sounds you hear along the way and the even more amazing sights you’re met with at the top. So naturally, I couldn’t pass up the chance to stay overnight in the middle of the oldest rainforest on the planet. O.M.G.
Lewis was less pleased, fearing that a tarantula the size of a Yorkshire Terrier would be waiting for him in every bathroom and kitchen and besides every window, sun lounger, tree… you get the picture. Fortunately for him, it was just some Golden Orb-web spiders with huge webs that were the size of three Yorkshire Terriers to contend with instead!
With a little convincing about how epic it would be to tell the grandkids one day and reassurances that I would totally deal with any spider that enter his personal space we booked it online and set off for Cairns.
I’m not going to write about Cairns here because this post is about Daintree specifically but Calypso Inn Backpackers stored all of our luggage whilst we were gone despite not having booked this through them so big thank you to those guys! Again, no freebies although without any asking they did give us an upgrade to a private air con from a fan dorm at no extra cost- hashtag winning.
Andy was our driver and guide for day one and picked us up early before beginning the 3 hour drive to Daintree Rainforest. Mid-way, we stopped off for morning tea which included a locally made Daintree Tea and a Tim Tam. Now, being British I have to just point out that the Daintree Tea is so good. Lewis didn’t have his so I’ve kept a tea bag for when I want to treat myself (I am hardcore rock and roll, I know).
We then drove up to the Alexandra Range lookout which was pretty epic as it looked down over a valley and out over the sea. Next we headed over to the Marrdja Boardwalk; set amongst a mangrove forest, I really felt like this place was alive. There were insects everywhere and this was where Lewis encountered his first Golden Orb-web spider (although despite it roughly spanning to the size of one of those fancy little tea cup saucers, we were told it was just a little one…). If the sandflies weren’t such a pain, it would have been easy to spend a few hours wandering through. In total we spent just over an hour and a half there and our guide Andy was really thorough and passionate explaining about the plant and wild life. He even showed us photos and videos that he’d captured from previous tours.
If you’re doing the 1 day version of this tour, you’d then head off to Cape Tribulation for lunch but as we were staying for the night, we were dropped off at our accommodation.
There are three options through the tour and we opted for Ferntree Rainforest Lodge which was set right up the hill from Cape Tribulation and back from the ‘main road’. We were placed in a 6 bed dorm cabin which had air con (needed in the humidity!) and an en suite (saves having to stop and do spider checks if you’re busting for the loo in the middle of the night!). There was a kitchen that we felt was a little basic and would be too narrow if there were more than a few people in there. The highlight was the lagoon style pool; just what we needed to cool down in after an afternoon walking through the rainforest. Ferntree didn’t have wifi available unless you paid and at 100mb for $5 we didn’t bother. Luckily, everything was in order for when we returned to Cairns but definitely get things sorted before heading up. Then you can use the time to relax and enjoy being cut off from the rest of the world (it’s only one night!). There’s also limited options to buy food to cook yourself unless you want to pay a lot more so get your food back in Cairns too!
The next morning we had the time to ourselves and headed out early to try and spot a cassowary but we had no luck! When we got back to the hostel I walked head first into the biggest moth in the world- the Hercules moth. I’m really, really scared of moths. I couldn’t even look at a photo once upon a time and even now, videos are a no no. I’m not embarrassed to say that I’ve literally spoke to a therapist about this and learnt mechanisms to cope… nothing could have prepared me for this big bugger though! Miraculously, I decided fight was better than flight this time and using methods learnt over the years stood around long enough to take photos of it!
We used the rest of the time to swim and sun bathe before our guide for the day, Wylie, picked us up at 12.30 for the second day of the trip! Now, if you ever meet Wylie, you should be prepared for an onslaught of constant sarcasm and laughs. He also has a ton of facts to throw out at you along the way… and great taste in music so the bus time is never dull.
Day two was croc time! I didn’t realise how scared I was of seeing a crocodile until Lewis joked, a week prior to the trip, that I wouldn’t outrun one if we stumbled across it (probs true) and I burst into tears in sheer fear!
Before we headed down to the river, we stopped off at the Exotic Fruit Ice Cream shop. For $6.50 we got a pre made tub with four flavours (mango, passionfruit, banana and wattle seed)- not the most exotic but probably some of the best ice cream I’ve had! They only take cash though so have your money ready before you go!
As we waited for the boat to pull on to the bank for us to get on board, I was frantically trying to remember everything David Attenborough had taught me over the years and decided I had to be the first on board. The first zebra crossing the river never gets attacked because the crocs are waiting for all the other zebras to feel secure and get in to so they can pick the juiciest one for lunch… Except I was the juiciest one (no joke), shit. I practically ran on to the boat and plonked myself in front of the driver/guide, Adam.
Adam knew absolutely everything there was to know about crocs and could spot even the small ones hiding along the riverbed. I was surprised to learn that only 1% of crocs make it to sexual maturity- bigger crocs are not afraid to kill of any smaller, slower ones! Scar Face was the big boy of the day, measuring 4.5 metres he really was a sight to behold.
The cruise lasted an hour and then we had some afternoon tea before getting back on the mini bus and heading to Mossman Gorge.
Controlled by the town, the only way there is on the shuttle bus from the Mossman Gorge Centre (the cost is covered in the tour but if you’re going by yourself it’s $9.50 each).
After doing so much walking we spent our time here relaxing at the creek where you can swim without fear of being a crocodile’s dinner! Don’t forget your swim suits and towel if you’re keen but remember it’s nature’s own bath so it’s bloody cold.
The drive back was long but Wylie kept us entertained with plenty of anecdotes along the way and even stopped off for an impromptu sunset photoshoot at a beautiful spot.
I cannot recommend this tour enough and even though the overnight trip offers the same as the day trip, it’s not often you can say you slept in the oldest rainforest in the world so it’s well worth taking this up. There are also plenty of activities locally you can book onto in the afternoon/morning, if you don’t want to lounge by the pool. Ziplining, kayaking and horse riding are just a few options on offer and can be arranged through your accommodation. If not, just sit back and watch the birds and butterflies overhead in the day and the bats and moths appear come dusk. Or wander down to the beach to find that insta perfect photo!