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If you’re after a jungle experience in Australia, the World Heritage-listed rainforests of Tropical North Queensland, which include the Daintree, Cape Tribulation and Mossman Gorge, are where to head to. Not far from Cairns, they are a wildlife packed wonderland, perfect for horse-riding, snake-spotting and crocodile cruises.
Of all the kinds of terrain on this planet – mountains, desert, savannah etc – I would argue that by far the coolest of the lot is the rainforest. Maybe it’s Hollywood images of chugging down a Vietcong-infested river in Apocalypse Now, perhaps it’s glamorous visions of fighting off anacondas in the sweltering Amazon. Either way, rainforests are just undeniably cooler than an eskimo’s fridge-freezer.
And ever since I’ve been in Australia, there has been one place that I have been dying to go to – the Daintree rainforest in Tropical North Queensland. I wanted to be Indiana Jones, cutting a swathe through the jungle, wrestling a few crocodiles and bricking myself at the sight of a load of snakes.
Of course, it wasn’t quite like that. We were put on a very civilized truck (no riding on the back of a ute. Damn), and we made our way through the spectacular canopies to Mossman Gorge, and slapped on the sunscreen for a rainforest walk.
Now one thing I hadn’t considered about the rainforest was the “rain” part of its name. It’s logical really, but I’d concentrated quite firmly on the “forest” suffix. Lots of trees and animals and stuff: cool. Lots of rain, drenching me from head to foot: not quite as cool.
But seeing as it was toasty hot anyway, the tipping rain didn’t matter too much, and the trek was pretty damn special. Our guide led the way, pointing out the different types of trees, including a disturbing amount that can kill, maim, poison or seriously inconvenience you.
From then on, it was back to gaping in awe at the thick forest around us, up to one of the most incredible places in the world – Cape Tribulation. This is where the rainforest backs on to the beach, and is truly beautiful and serene. There’s plenty to do there too – options included wilderness cruises, sea kayaking, horse riding, guided rainforest walks and even exotic fruit tasting.
Horse-riding sounded good, and we were guided through the rainforest and down the beach, stopping off at a watering hole (one that mercifully wasn’t full of flesh-fancying crocodiles) for cake and cordial. On the way home we broke out into a canter, much to the horror of the more timid members of our group, and even though we were soaked (that bloody rain again), it was a trip to be remembered.
After an afternoon soaking up the sun, it was time to go back down to Cairns, with a cruise on the Daintree River on the way. Now the Daintree is one river you really don’t want to go swimming in. It is infested with saltwater crocodiles, and sure enough, within ten minutes of slowly chugging downriver, we saw a massive croc on a sandbank, either sunbathing or waiting for one of us to fall out of the boat.
As we go further on we see plenty of other wildlife – more big crocs, plenty of baby ones, kingfishers, big birds of prey, tree snakes and a giant coiled python – and it’s accompanied by a scare-the-kids commentary by our ship’s captain. “Ah, that’ll be the deadly jumping snake on our left…”
Don’t scare me, mate, I’m a hardened jungle king by now…