We spent October 1st-4th in the Daintree, the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest in Australia. On the way, we stopped at Mossman Gorge for lunch and to swim in the cold river. I had been to Mossman Gorge in 2009; on this visit, it was clear that this portion of the national park had become a much more popular destination and was not nearly as peaceful. Despite the crowd, it is an idyllic spot. The cold water flows over giant boulders that are distributed throughout the river, and rainforest trees grow thick and tall on either side of the reflected-green water.
After our swim, we continued on our journey, crossing the Daintree River on a ferry before checking in at our hostel. The Daintree River and the forest area itself are named for Richard Daintree, a pioneering geologist who discovered coal seams and gold fields in Queensland, and who, as we learned on a crocodile river cruise later that week, never actually visited the Daintree River or surrounding forest.
The hostel we stayed at was Crocodylus Village, where we slept in tent-like cabins with canvas walls. Similar to life at the Centre, bandicoots ran around beneath the tables at evening meal times, head lamps were required for walking the forested pathways to our lodging, and Orange-footed Scrub Fowl woke us up in the mornings with their cackling. We were unplugged for the week, not using the computer or internet. We spent the evenings reading, playing Bananagrams, or spotlighting for nocturnal mammals and tiny frogs at the Jindalba Boardwalk.
While students spent time during the week collecting data for their Socioeconomics and Environmental Policy Field Exercise—interviewing visitors to the Daintree about ecotourism—the interns and I got to practice driving stick as we explored the area. For the most part, we just traveled up and down one road (down-shifting frequently to pass over speed bumps installed to limit cassowary collisions), checking in on the different sites where students were collecting data. We sipped Flat Whites and Cappuccinos at the Discovery Centre Café, where we were sheltered by rainforest trees, walked along the Mardja Boardwalk past fig trees and mangrove forest, and ate lunch at Cape Tribulation Beach, where the rainforest meets the sea.
When not exploring the various forest types found in the area or wading in the water at Thornton and Cape Tribulation Beaches, we had the opportunity to partake in some tropical fruit tasting at a local fruit farm (goopy but sweet jackfruit, tart Davidson’s plum, breadfruit roasted with Cajun spices) and to take a boat down the Daintree River, where mangrove trees lined the shores, in search of crocodiles (we saw one basking in the sunlight at the surface of the water). As we left the Daintree, we stopped at a lookout point, where tree ferns stood against the blue sky and we could see the ocean begin on the horizon.