Monday morning we were up early again to meet a shuttle, this time to the Daintree Rainforest, which was about a two hour drive from our hotel in Port Douglas. The sun bus driver who picked us up was an older German man, who, like so many others we have met in Australia, visited the country when he was quite young on a whim, and liked it so much that he never left. He had a thick German accent and talked to us about Europe and Australia all the way up to the rainforest.
As we were getting closer to our final destination the foliage on either side of the road got more and more dense and we started to see lots of signs for cassowary crossing. A cassowary is a large black flightless bird that is quite mean. It is the largest bird to be found in the pacific region and definitely the largest one in Australia. While it can be found in parts of Paupa New Guinea and on some island nations in the pacific, the largest concentration of them can be found in tropical north Queensland in Australia. Since cassowaries do not fly, they forage for food on the forest floor, often eating fallen fruit, and they are capable of eating many fruits and plants that would be toxic to other animals. Interestingly, cassowaries are solitary birds, only paring up during mating season, and once the female lays the egg it then becomes the males job to build the nest and incubate the egg by himself. These animals look more ridiculous than intimidating, but they have thick razor sharp claws that are capable of doing serious harm if provoked, and from what I have heard this is easy to do, i.e. they are mean. While these birds are very populous in Queensland they are slowly working their way onto the endangered species list due to habitat loss and being hit by cars, hence all the signs. While we saw a bunch of these signs on our drive up, we had to stop and get a picture of this one:
The bottom sign had previously been a speed hump sign, until someone with a sharpie and a sense of humor had a better idea. We all had a good laugh at this. But seriously- cassowary roadkill is serious business! It happens!
After 2 and a half hours driving up through the foliage we finally arrived at the base office for the jungle surfing company. There we were met by a different shuttle that took us another ten minutes to their base camp of operation where we were each fitted with helmets with nicknames and harnesses.
Once the basic rules of the day had been explained, our family, along with about ten others headed up the mountain through the rainforest to the first platform where our jungle surfing would begin. On our walk the tour guide started talking to us about the Daintree. The Daintree Rainforest is the second biggest rainforest in the world after the Amazon, and at 1200 square miles it is the largest area of continuous forestation in Australia. It is also the second most diverse environment on the earth after the great barrier reef. Our guide told us: “On this ten minute walk you will pass by more species of plants than you would if you were to walk across the entire continent of North America.” It has been estimated that upwards of 430 species of birds live in the canopy of the forest and the region is also home to many animals that are endangered elsewhere like the cassowary and the tree kangaroo.
Once we arrived to the first platform we were hooked onto the zip line and one by one sent to the next platform. It took about an hour and a half to get through all seven platforms of the course, and the views along the way were stunning. At times you could see beyond the trees to the pristine blue waters of the reef.
Towards the end of the course as we became more comfortable we started to get daring, and when someone suggested that we try going upside down we all had to try. Well, everyone except mom who was having enough adventure already just being up in the air that high.
After we had completed the course we went back down the mountain to meet up with our German driver who took us back into Port Douglas. On the drive back Mom asked if he had any restaurants he would recommend in Port Douglas, and he said we should check out this local place on the water called the Tin Shed. The woman who had driven us from the airport had also recommended this, so we figured we would check it out. Instead of going back to our hotel we had him drop us off at the restaurant instead. We arrived around 4:30pm so the sun was getting low in the sky and all the boats that had been out fishing and doing reef tours were beginning to come in. The views were wonderful.
We were all pretty hungry since we hadn’t eaten lunch, and this restaurant, a bastion for locals in the area, turned out to be one of the cheapest places we had eaten in Australia. Julie and mom both got seafood while I got a pasta dish and dad picked at everyone elses food. Once the sun went down it got a bit chilly, so after we ate we headed back to the hotel so we could shower, pack and sleep since we had another flight to catch the following day.