August 1st 2006:
A couple of months ago I went with a company called "Rob's Tours" for doing a tour around the World Heritage Site "The Lammington National Park". Today I went with "Tony's Tours" for a guided tour around several areas around Port Douglas. I found the company on the web before leaving Sydney and all the reviews were very positive, so I thought I'd give it a go.
Tony collected myself and two Melbourne-ians from the resort at 8AM and after collecting three others (two Canadians and an Italian) from another resort we were on our way up the coast.
Our transport for the day was a Toyota Land Cruiser 4-wheel drive, or SUV as it is known down here, and Tony came across as informative, humorous and very knowledgeable about the area.
Our first stop, after a quick look at the local cane and banana fields, was the Mossman Gorge. This clear flowing river set amidst a rain forest gave us a quick introduction to the rainforest flora and fauna. "Quick" is the main word here. It only took about 10 minutes to see the gorge and I can't help but think back to a gorge I viewed in France which took a couple of hours to get around: would I have seen more if I wasn't part of an organized tour? On the other hand, having a guide pointing out the history and the contemporary things to see was definitely a positive.
Anyways, we pressed on and our next stop was the Daintree River. We hopped into a small boat and were soon sailing down the river viewing... Crocodiles(!). There were LOTS to see. The first one was a mere 3-footer, followed by a baby 1-footer, then came a 5-footer, but these were all entrees to the main course. A croc called "Scar-face", which was about 8-foot long was sunning itself on the shore and then came "Fat-Albert"(!) who was a gigantic 15-feet long and weighed an estimated 500Kgs: thankfully he was happy to stay on the shore also(!). We got quite close to some of the crocs, being about 2 arms length from some of them. We also passed close to a Python which was curled up in a tree, but it was only a minor distraction to the croc-spotting. This part of the tour took about an hour and was well worth doing.
Next stop was Cape Tribulation. Now, it seems that many of the landmarks around the area were named by Captain Cook back in the day, and when he got to this area of the world, he hit a reef which put a hole in his ship. It seemed to put him in a bad mood as some of the landmarks are now called "Despair", "Sorrow", "Misery" and the one we visited today was "Tribulation" (as in Trials and Tribulations). Despite the name, the Cape is worth visiting, with a rainforest situated next to a long, gray, quiet beach. It is, however, rather similar to the rest of the coastline in the area so don't feel too disappointed if you don't make it up there.
After a quick tea break with cakes and chocolate-chip cookies we moved onto Alexander Lookout for a view from near the top of a mountain over the the valleys and mountains back to Port Douglas. This was also a quick stop and we moved quickly onto Noah Valley where we had lunch and tried to goad each other to taking a swim in the nearby river (we were assured by Tony that there were no crocs in this river, but nobody was in a hurry to find out for sure(!))
After lunch we took a tour around part of the World Heritage Daintree Rainforest which had a phenomenal range of plants which had stopped evolving over 100 million years old and some of the ferns last changed nearly a quarter of a billion years ago(!). All of the old favorites were there (similar to Lamington National Park near Brisbane), with Strangler Figs and Gimpy/Stinger Trees in evidence. The guide also had us licking green ants (for a sherbet taste) and had us smelling a flower which had the guys in the group thinking that it smelled nice and the ladies thinking that it smelled like sweaty socks!). The addition of a guide to how Aboriginals used the rainforest resources to live was the icing on the cake.
Wrapping up the day was a Daintree Tea made from tea grown locally, and Daintree Ice-cream made from locally grown exotic ingredients. Tony even cleared up what that giant spider I spotted on my first day in the area was: its a "Golden Orb", it seems, and while it is poisonous to insects, it is sadly non-poisonous to humans due to it not being able to break through our skin. It is technically still poisonous though, so I'll be sure to play up that aspect of it when describing it in the future :)