A visit to tropical Australia has been at the top of my bucket list since I was 13. As we headed north on the Cook Highway, I was sure I was about to encounter a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There’s a reason UNESCO has designated this area as a World Heritage site. (Actually, there are four reasons, including geology, “exceptional natural beauty,” “superlative natural phenomena,” and the presence of endangered species.)
That’s a pretty impressive reputation. Would the Daintree live up to my expectations?
When you love the ocean but live in land-locked Colorado, you have to take advantage of every opportunity to get visit the beach. We were on our way to the Daintree Rainforest (more on that next month) but to get there we had to drive north along the coast from Cairns. Darn.
Tropical rainforests. That was why we had come to northeastern Queensland. I had romantic visions of colorful birds, stunning flowers, perhaps a python or two. Now that we were finally there, it was time to see if my fantasies had any basis in fact.
Our first excursion was to Eubanangee Swamp National Park, south of Cairns. The terrain was rolling grasslands and scrub interspersed with tracts of forest, mostly in the valleys. Cloud-shrouded mountains loomed in the distance. I figured that the edge habitat would be an excellent place to find birds, but the trails were so dark and the foliage was so dense, I was quickly frustrated. Clearly, I need to work on my “birding by ear” skills!
Birding in northeastern Queensland was a bit like a Dickens novel—“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… .” The best parts are easy to list—friendly people, tropical beaches, verdant forests, balmy breezes, exotic species. We were there for a week—I could have spent years.