Tours to The Daintree National Park
Small group guided day trips to the Daintree are available with several companies from Port Douglas. Most companies take small groups in spacious air-conditioned vehicles to visit popular sites as far north as Cape Tribulation. These tours include Mossman Gorge, a cruise on Daintree River, Thorntons Peak, Alexander Lookout, Cape Tribulation, the icecream factory. Daintree Wonders Tours visit Coopers Creek for lunch and a swim. Daintree Discovery Tours visit Cassoawary Falls for a swim. Tony's Tropical Tours have a similar tour to Cape Tribulation but also have a trip to Bloomfield Falls which is north of Cooktown and off the beaten track.
Birdlife in the Daintree
The Daintree nurtures many plant species providing habitat for birdlife. The Daintree rainforest and the Daintree River are popular destinations for birdwatchers –more than half of the continents bird species reside in the rainforest. 13 of Australia’s endemic birds species are found in the Daintree. These include Victoria’s riflebird, Macleary’s Honeyeater, Lesser Sooty Owl, Pied Monarch are common. Several species of kingfishers, herons, Lovely Fairy Wrens, Black bitterns, robins and parrots are all found in the Daintree as well. The largest, most endangered endemic bird, standing at up to 2 metres , the Southern Cassowary, is regularly seen in the lowland rainforest north of the Daintree. The Cassowary plays an important role in distributing seeds from over 150 species of large fruit trees.
Wildlife Habitat www.wildlifehabitat.com.au is a wonderful sanctuary for Australian fauna, particularly birds. It has several open range areas - the Rainforest , Grassland and Wetland where visitors can stroll on raised aerial boardwalks and paths giving a very close encounter with the birds and animals. It is situated on the outskirts of Port Douglas and offers breakfast and lunch as well as night tours.
The Mareeba Tropical Savanna and Wetlands www.mareebawetlands.com is set in 2000 ha of savannah woodlands, grasslands beside a lagoon offers the perfect viewing environment of over 200 species of birds. The area is a operated by a local not for profit conservation organisation and offers safari style tent and cabin accommodation and tours. Profits generated are re-invested into ongoing conservation projects. Viewing hides in the reserve allow bird-watching enthusiast to observe birds in the wild.
Del Richards www.finefeathertours.com.au offers personalised birdwatching tours of the Daintree and the Mareeba savannah and Wetlands.
FROGS AND REPTILES
The largest reptile existing in the area is the saltwater or Estuarine crocodile. These prehistoric creatures were almost hunted to extinction in Australia until 1972 when it is estimated that 95% of the population had been killed. The skin was a much sort after commodity for the fashion industry and today crocodile farms breed and selectively incubate the hatchlings. This is done by controlling the temperature of the eggs collected on the farm. As males grow larger and faster than the female of the species, some males grow up to 6 metres in length, the eggs are incubated to 34 degrees Celsius from 7 to 21 days to ensure a greater number of males. The Daintree river is home to an estimated population of 70 Estuarine Crocodiles. The largest male is 5 metres in length and females of up to 3.5 metres are common.
Hartley’s Crocodile Farm www.crocodileadventures.com is a park and crocodile farm offering reptile shows 20 minutes south of Port Douglas. Bruce Belcher www.daintreerivercruises.com.au is a local who has lived for 20 years on the Daintree River. He offers guided river cruises on the Daintree River and much local knowledge.
Boyd’s Forest Dragon is a small lizard growing to between 14 and 16 cm in length, often found resting on the trunk of trees in the rainforest. They sit and wait for their prey often venturing onto the forest floor to hunt down invertebrates and small vertebrate and will eat fruit in season. The lizard is one of the few reptiles that does not regulate it’s body temperature being temperature conforming.
There are several species of large lizards – the Eastern Water Dragon which grows up to 1 metre and four varieties of Monitors living in the Daintree area. Of these the Lace Monitor is the second largest goanna in Australia – other includes Gould’s Monitor, Tree Monitor and the Black-tailed Monitor.
There are about 50 species of frogs in the Daintree many of these inhabit the trees. The Green Tree frog and the White lipped green tree frog are similar species. The White Lipped or Giant Green tree frog is the largest tree frog in Australia growing up to 13 cm in length. These frogs are occasionally found living around humans.
Most snakes found in the rainforest are non-venomous however many grow to an intimidating size . Amethystine or Scrub Pythons can grow up to 6 metres in length. Being cold blooded animals, they spend much of their time basking in trees to regulate their temperature.
Occasionally found living around human habitation in ceilings or in pool sheds where there is a source of food and warmth from electrical equipment these gentle giants can still become aggressive if cornered. They have numerous teeth design for gripping prey and holding it securely so best leave it to an experienced snake handler to remove them or if in the open give them a wide berth and they will move on. Spotted pythons, Carpet pythons, Slatey Grey, Tree Snakes and Freshwater snakes have all been found in the Daintree.
There are several venomous reptiles found in far north Queensland - Taipans, Red-Bellied Black snakes, Eastern Brown snakes and Death Adders all inhabit the Daintree area.
Wildlife Habitat www.wildlifehabitat.com.au has a small reptile exhibits and the Venom Zoo in Kuranda for all the creepy crawly enthusiasts is a fairly basic operation but they do have some amazing specimens of tarantulas, scorpions and snakes.
BUTTERFLIES AND INSECTS
There are many species of butterflies and moths in the Daintree region – the largest species, the spectacular metallic green Birdwing has a wingspan of 20 centrimetres. The other iconic butterfly in the region is the Ulysses butterfly with its iridescent blue colouring which is often seen in lowland rainforest areas. The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary www.australianbutterflies.com has over 1500 tropical butterflies and is the largest flight aviary in Australia. They have a breeding program and guided tours include entry into the breeding nursery.
With over 12,000 species of insects – many growing much larger than their southern Australian cousins. Giant cockroaches, Stick insects, Leaf insects, beetles and ants are just a few species that can be observed at the Entomological Museum www.daintreemuseum.com.au in the Daintree. This centre has live specimens and a butterfly breeding house as well as insect specimens collected from all over Australia.
The Spectacled Flying Fox is the smallest population of flying foxes in Australia and is considered vulnerable to extinction due to habitat destruction, tick bite, death on power lines and fences and predation by cats and dogs. Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas has a population of Spectacled Flying Foxes and the Bat House www.austrop.org.au at Cape Tribulation also has a rescue program and educational centre for this species.
Facts About The Daintree National Park
The Daintree Rainforests are the oldest surviving tropical rainforests on earth. Covering 2600 square kilometres in area and roughly extending from Mossman Gorge to the Bloomfield River, this is the largest area of rainforest in Australia. The Daintree was world heritage listed in 1988 by UNESCO due to the natural beauty, the current ecological and biological ecosystems in the area and the historical and evolutionary value of the plant, animal and geographical features present.
The biodiversity of the rainforest and the living specimens of ancient plants represent the longest living history of plants, associated with Gondwana – the great southern land mass which consisted of all the southern continents, the Arabian peninsula and India, Pakistan and Bangladesh around 500 million years ago. Plants such as the King ferns, mosses, pines and palms display stages of the evolution of plant species on earth . The rainforest has preserved the Kaui pine - the living counterpart of Jurassic aged fossils and primitive species of flowering plants found fossilised in the Cretaceous period, the last age of the dinosaurs –including banksias, eucalypts, mistletoes, holly and lilly pilly.
The area boasts exceptional coastal scenery flanked by the Coral Sea with white sandy beaches and fringing coral reefs to the east and mountain ranges, gorges and waterfalls amid undisturbed rainforest.
The habitat provided by the rainforest has preserved many species of wildlife including 430 species of birds – the most endangered of these is the Southern Cassowary. There are 12,000 species of insects, 65 % of the bat and butterfly species and 30% of the frog, reptile and marsupial species native to Australia found in the Daintree National Park.
The area has an average annual rainfall of 2013 mm. It is drained by the Daintree River, which is one of the longest rivers in Australia travelling 140 kilometres to the Coral Sea . The drainage basin is over 2,000 sq kilometres, collecting rainwater from the mountain ranges – some peaks reach up to 1000 metre high around the catchment. The river is prone to flooding in the wet season, when up to 600 mm of rain can fall in 24 hours. Historically the road through the Daintree was flood prone due to high tides and heavy rain however in 2011 the Cooper Creek crossing was raised 3 metres which has made flooding less common. The heavy rainfall leaches the soil however nutrients are replenished by plant debris. The average temperature range of 24 to 30 degrees Celsius and abundant rain in the Daintree creates perfect conditions for Australia’s largest plant nursery.