Spectacular Daintree National Park – ancient 180 million old rainforest

Daintree National Park

Sleeping at Wonga Caravan Park was great as we were located meters from Wonga Beach and all night we could hear the ocean.

Next day the sunrise was spectacular. Clouds hung low over the orange sphere which illuminated them beautifully from below.

Wonga Beach Sunrise
Wonga Beach Sunrise

We planned for a big day today – visit world heritage Daintree National Park. The park is located on the other side of Daintree River and the only way to cross it is by ferry.

We were wondering why they have not built a bridge on Daintree River so far. After talking to the locals we found out that the bridge could cause some damage to the heritage listed Daintree National Park.

First of all, having a ferry only, it restricts car movement and thus preserves this beautiful place from too many visitors. Also it protects the park from spreading an unwanted flora and fauna. And finally the ferry cost a bit, it could be $40 fee for a car and a trailer.

Luckily we left our trailer at Wonga Beach so we had to pay only for the car.

After taking a ferry and crossing Daintree River we stopped at the stunning Alexandra Lookout to admire the rainforest from the top.

Alexandra Lookout
Alexandra Lookout

Daintree Discovery Centre

From Alexandra Lookout we drove directly to Daintree Discovery Centre. This interpretative centre is an award winning facility where you can learn about the Daintree rainforest ecosystem.

There are four main parts of Daintree Discovery Centre.

Interpretive Centre

The interpretative centre where you learn about Daintree National Park rainforest and its animals plus there is a nice cafe to order a meal or a coffee. You can read a lot of interesting things about the flora, animals, cyclones that haunt the area, and even watch a nature film. 

Everything is served in a very accessible way and I would definitely recommend this place before embarking on the trail yourself.

Daintree Discovery Centre Interpretative Centre
Daintree Discovery Centre Interpretative Centre

Forest floor walk

The loop walk that goes on the rainforest floor where you spot labels with descriptions about animals and trees.

900 meters suspended walk

The 900 meters suspended part of the walk that is placed in the middle of the canopy where you learn about plants and trees. If you are lucky you can spot cassowaries looking for food at the bottom.

Daintree Discovery Centre - tree suspended walk
Daintree Discovery Centre - tree suspended walk

Rainforest tower

In the middle of the walk there is a 23 meters tower high to the top of the rainforest canopy. This tower has five different levels that allow you to access various levels of the rainforest, from the forest floor to the uppermost reaches of the canopy. Each level is full of information about that particular canopy level.

Daintree National Park - Rainforest Animals
Daintree National Park - Rainforest Animals

Is Daintree Rainforest the oldest in the world?

But what is really amazing about Daintree rainforest? Interestingly, the Amazon forest is ‘only’ 7 million years and the Daintree rainforest estimated age is around 180 million? Hmm, there is something to it.

To complete the picture, let me add that Daintree rainforest is a world heritage listed national park.

Every square meter of Daintree rainforest is filled with dense vegetation fighting for every centimetre of light. It has not changed for hundreds of years and locals call it ‘green dinosaurs’.

Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park

When you are at the forest floor you feel overwhelmed by the forest dense vegetation, huge trees and wet dark atmosphere. Sometimes you have a feeling a dinosaur comes from around the corner. At least this is how we felt…

Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park

There are many levels of the rainforest – starting from tiny moss to huge trees, on which all kinds of lianas climb with extraordinary stiffness, entwining them so that they will eventually suffocate. That’s the law of the jungle. 

Yes, saying this makes sense at this point! The balance is maintained by the unchanging conditions.

Daintree National Park - dense vegetation
Daintree National Park - dense vegetation

Cassowaries are vital in regrowing Daintree Rainforest

For example cassowaries eat different rainforest fruit. In the digestion process the fruits are half digested and their seeds are spreaded across the jungle floor via cassowary excrement. Thus, cassowaries play a vital part in regrowing the rainforest.

Interestingly, most of the fruits cassowaries eat are toxic to humans. One of the most deceptive one is a cassowary plum that looks identical to black plum.

Daintree Rainforest fruits
Daintree Rainforest fruits

In terms of appearance cassowaries are large birds, looking like an ostrich or emu. The biggest difference is a hard casque they have on their head. 

The casque has three different purposes:

  • Protects the bird when running with head low through a dense rainforest
  • Protects the bird’s head from heavy fruits falling from the rainforest canopy
  • Also, there are speculations the casque help cassowaries with sound reception or acoustic communication

Cassowaries are dangerous

On the other hand cassowaries can be very aggressive when threatened. Normally, they are scared of people but when provoked can attack and even cause fatal injuries to humans.

Personally, I think they look brilliant as a complement to the rainforest and I can’t imagine Daintree National Park without them. In human sight, they appear rarely, but are sometimes seen along the trail or running across the road.

Cassowaries cross the road often
Cassowaries cross the road often

We did not have direct contact with them yet, although when we were on a walk in the forest, I heard their calls quite close. Unfortunately, they also heard us and ran away. It was impossible to go silently with a little girl who asks thousands of questions all the time. 

As a consolation, they left traces of a meal (eaten plum), so I know that I did not dream it. They actually are not far away.

Cape Tribulation

After visiting Daintree Discovery Centre we drove up north to Cape Tribulation. That was our furthest point on the north in our trip. Right in Cape Tribulation the bitumen road ends and Bloomfield Track starts. It further goes via Wujal Wujal to Cooktown.

It was too late in the year (December) for us to drive any futher. We had to postpone our visit to Cooktown and Cape York to the future.

Cape Tribulation - Kulki Beach
Cape Tribulation - Kulki Beach

In Cape Tribulation we went to a beautiful Kulki beach and later on we did two Daintree rainforest walks: Dubuji Boardwalk and Madja Botanical walk. 

Daintree National Park - Dubuji Boardwalk
Daintree National Park - Dubuji Boardwalk

Lync Haven Rainforest Caravan Park

As planned, the next day, we moved across the Daintree River to Lync Haven Rainforest Caravan Park that is located at the edge of Daintree Rainforest.

Daintree National Park - Lync Haven Rainforest Caravan Park
Daintree National Park - Lync Haven Rainforest Caravan Park

The place is called in google Lync Haven Rainforest Accommodation but it is a retreat that offers accommodation, cabins, camping and great rainforest wildlife experience. 

Right at Lync Haven you can see their animals like snakes, crocodiles, dingoes, parrots, lizards and wallabies.

Also they offer a great cafe called Doris’s Bar where you can order a tasty meal for a reasonable price.

Walking in Daintree Rainforest

After we set up our camp at Lync Haven, we went for a rainforest walk recommended by the owner. The path started right behind our trailer. Wow, it was wild there! 

Sometimes there was no path at all, the atmosphere was like a horror movie. Even though it was a day walk and there were just a few clouds in the sky, it was dark. The vegetation in Daintree National Park was very dense and trees were dropping different colour fruits on the ground.

Daintree Rainforest
Daintree Rainforest

We were walking and looking for cassowaries. In the reception they said that apparently a male with small chicks walks in the area. Obviously if we spotted one we had to be very careful. Males can be very aggressive when threatened, especially when they have some chicks under his protection.

Little Nell was the bravest as she wanted to go first all the time and did not accept she had to walk between us. As a family, we had a hiking rule: Nell always walks in the middle. This is just to protect her if there is a danger in the front or the back (mostly snakes, but here cassowaries too).

Daintree Rainforest
Daintree Rainforest

During the walk, Nell was also constantly mumbling what she would tell the cassowary when she finally met it. 

As a result, we did not meet the “big bird”. However, we managed to spot a small, brown animal with a funny snout in this thicket. I took a photo in a hurry and it was gone! 

After our rainforest walk, we went to the reception to find out who it was. It turned out to be a half-rat, half-kangaroo (belongs to rats, but jumps). Interesting…

Tea plantation

On the way back from the walk we discovered a tea plantation. It was an amazing sight – tiny identically trimmed bushes stood in rows strictly next to each other. Marius did not want to believe that this is what tea looks like.

End of the walk - Tea Plantation

In the afternoon we took out chairs, sat in front of the rainforest and listened to the sounds of the forest.

And there was something going on all the time although we couldn’t see anything. We heard birds making various noises, leaves and fruit falling with a noise from the trees or sometimes moving branches even though there was no wind. 

Our imagination suggested various scenarios taken from nature films. Nature movies are a cool thing – you sit with a hot cup of tea in front of the TV and watch wild animals in their natural conditions. It is a completely different story when those animals show up suddenly two meters in front of you.

Cassowary at our trailer

Next day, in the morning, before breakfast I went to the toilet. On the way back I spoke to our neighbouring German couple. When I was coming back Marius was crouching behind the hood of the car and giving me some desperate signals that I couldn’t understand from the distance. 

Finally I looked behind the car, and right there, at the door to our trailer, stood a solid size Cassowary!

Cassowary walking next to our trailer
Cassowary walking next to our trailer

The first thing that occurred to me was ‘Camera! Where’s the camera !? ‘ Of course, the camera was inside the trailer and I had to sneak in there somehow. 

I had to do it slowly to not annoy the big bird. It was evident that the bird was not concerned with our presence as it looked like it came to find something to eat. Finally, when the cassowary moved a bit, I was able to get inside.

Cassowary leaving our campsite
Cassowary leaving our campsite

I was strategically standing in the trailer door and I was able to take some photos and that was most important. 

After a while the cassowary disappeared into a densely overgrown forest, literally 3 meters from the trailer. Interestingly, it moved almost silently.

Jungle Surfing

Full of excitement we went to Mason’s Cafe just off Cape Tribulation. I was booked for Jungle Surfing and they were supposed to pick me up at Mason’s Care. Marius and Nell were planning to go for some swimming in the nearby waterhole.

For the next two hours I turned into James Bond (this was the nickname they gave me). It was an amazing experience!

Jungle Surfing
Jungle Surfing

We zipped down from tree to tree. From the top I could see a wonderful rainforest, birds, butterflies and an impressive view of the ocean all around us. I felt as free as a bird. The longest of the descents was 72 meters long and we were riding 23 meters above. What a view! 

The last part was the most interesting one – zipping with a head down. I can tell you – everything took on a different dimension. It was a fantastic experience and if you are here, it is something that you must experience.

Mason’s Cafe

After all this excitement I was so hungry that we went for fish and chips lunch immediately after my return, which by the way tasted delicious. 

After the meal we went for a walk in the rainforest into the mangrove forest. It was something different this time and we had two feelings of wonder and fear at the same time.

Enjoying Fish & Chips at Mason's Cafe
Enjoying Fish & Chips at Mason's Cafe

We returned in the late afternoon. I did the laundry quickly, hung it and of course it started to rain. It had been raining all night and later on the storm passed close to our place. It flashed and thundered. The ground trembled beneath us all night long. We were entering the rainy season and it is impossible to hide.

You must know that Daintree rainforest is a super wet place. Even during the so-called dry season it still rains here.

In the morning everything was dripping with water and my eyes just wouldn’t open. Sleep, sleep, sleep…

Unfortunately, Nell had a different opinion and in 15 minutes she got us on our feet. There was no chance to sleep longer.

Cow Bay - Fig Tree
Cow Bay - Fig Tree

Cow Bay

After breakfast, we went to Cow Bay, a beautiful place where I experienced an interesting feeling. 

Instead of cold, refreshing winds we had a warm and humid air blowing from the sea. The water was warmer than the air.

Cow Bay
Cow Bay

We spent two hours in Cow Bay, and we don’t know when time has passed. What a place and what a nice climate! 

Nell climbed trees and we walked on the beach and cheered anglers. Unfortunately we did not take the fishing rods with us and somehow we did not want to go swimming (crocs and jelly fish in December are almost guaranteed).

Exotic Fruit Tasting

At two o’clock we went to an exotic fruit tasting. The people who run this place came to Daintree over 20 years ago and fell in love with this amazing place. 

There was an opportunity to buy 20 acres and without thinking much about it, they immediately bought it. They planted various exotic trees and now they have a little rainforest orchard and we came here to taste their fruits.

Exotic Fruit Tasting
Exotic Fruit Tasting

Exoting fruit tasting lasted 90 minutes and it passed with a blink of an eye. 

It started with an informative talk about each exotice fruit we were going to taste. Later we tasted 10 of them: breadfruit, custard apple, davidson plum, dragonfruit, durian, jackfruit, papaya, star apple, carambola and soursop. 

Finally we went for a walk around the orchard where the fruits were grown.

Exotic Fruit Tasting - visiting exotic fruit orchard
Exotic Fruit Tasting - visiting exotic fruit orchard

Opening Jackfruit

Now we know that the fruit hanging above our trailer at Lync Haven Caravan Park is a jackfruit. It is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world as it reaches up to 60 cm long and up to 18 kg of weight. 

We liked jackfruit very much so after returning to our trailer, the first thing we did was cut one from the tree above it. It was quite high so Marius drove the car and stood on it to reach the jackfruit.

This is how jackfruit looks after opening
This is how jackfruit looks after opening

Opening a Jackfruit is not an easy task. It has a hard stress ball like skin. After you cut the skin with a sharp knife the insides are white and very sticky like a glue so this operation must be performed in gloves. 

But, the effort is rewarded with small, yellow pockets that taste like mango mixed with pineapple. Best served chilled.

Read about 11 best Darwin attractions where we tasted jackfruit first time.

Final night in Daintree National Park

In the evening it started to rain again. What a surprise! No, it is not. Here it rains every day. The clothes I washed yesterday did not dry as it was so wet and humid that we needed a strong sun to dry them. 

Daintree National Park
Daintree National Park

I forgot to mention that the day before, right here at the Daintree ferry a crocodile caught a fisherman dog. Obviously the poor dog was never found again. Daintree National Park is beautiful, but could be deadly.

Daintree National Park Summary

Daintree National Park is a place where you find plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere in the world. The rainforest is so old and the atmosphere is wet, humid and sometimes scary. I can’t imagine getting lost inside it!

We found so many different fruits (or even tasted some of them) that we would have found anywhere in Australia.

But, our biggest Daintree rainforest highlight was seeing cassowaries.

Especially the moment one cassowary walked into our campsite. That was an amazing experience!

Travel Spiced Life

There are actually three types of cassowaries:

  • Southern cassowaries – New Guinea, Australia, Aru Islands
  • Dwarf cassowaries – New Guinea, New Britain, Yapen
  • Northern cassowaries – New Guinea, Yapen

I think we will be returning to Daintree National Park as this is a magical place as it reminds as of a time when dinosaurs walked on earth.

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