Day tripping to the Daintree Rainforest
I touched on this day trip in my Backpacking the East Coast blog here but thought it was worthy of its own post as I had such a good time on this trip and saw such a lot.
Guided tours aren’t usually my thing, I prefer to research online and explore in my own time. But with limited time in Cairns and basically the whole of Queensland to explore, I decided to day-trip with Billy Tea Safari’s. I had a recommendation from the backpackers I was staying at, and although it was a while ago Billy Tea are still getting 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor.
I opted for the 1 day Daintree, Cape Tribulation and Bloomfield trip as I was desperate to see the Daintree (the oldest tropical rainforest in the world) and I also liked the sound of the activities provided – feeding kangaroos, crocodile spotting, swimming in natural creeks… (note: croc spotting doesn’t happen in the same creek you swim in!) The excursion set me back just under $200 AUS per person, but they had a lot crammed into their itinerary and small groups which made it personal. Our guide Bob was a very knowledgeable naturalist, who knew all about the flora and fauna but also the indigenous aboriginal communities which brought a lot to the day.
And to top it off, Billy Tea is Advanced Eco-Tourism certified, having provided eco-sustainable tourism practises for over 20 years so you can feel good you’re spending your money in the right way.
Our route was to take us from central Cairns, to Emmagen Creek via the famed Bloomfield track, which can only really be accessed by 4x4 because of the rough terrain. This is just shy of 100 miles away from Cairns, so we were certainly covering a lot of ground in one day.
We were collected in the morning by what I can only describe as a massive 4WD truck ‘thing’ (technical term) that I hilariously struggled to get into at 5’2. On the scenic drive north to the Mossman we were introduced to each other and given a history of the area we were about to explore. Our guide remembered every single person’s name and where they were from. It was these little touches throughout the day that made the experience feel so personal, and that I still remember years later.
Stop 1: Cruising on the Daintree River
Our first stop of the day was at the Daintree River where we jumped onboard a river cruise, spotting massive crocs and looking out for wildlife in the dense mangrove forests. For me, seeing a mangrove forest for the first time was pretty special, they act as mini eco-systems themselves so you can only imagine how much wildlife is hiding inside them.
Stop 2: Daintree boardwalk
We hopped off the boat, and then toured through the lush Daintree National Park rainforest with our guide who pointed out animals, bugs, creepies, and plants. Much to my horror (and amusement of our guide) there were the biggest tropical butterflies I’ve ever seen, just fluttering about. If you don’t have a butterfly phobia this would probably be a rather lovely experience…
The rainforest is so ancient, one of the most impressive parts for me was literally just standing amongst trees and ferns that had been there for 180 million years. We searched for the elusive cassowary which lives in the Daintree but sadly didn’t see it. Seeing the world’s most dangerous bird, which looks so dinosaur-like in this ancient setting would have been amazing, so keep your eye’s peeled!
Stop 3: Hand feeding kangaroos
Was this perhaps the best stop of the day?! Hard to say! But it involved a delicious Australian BBQ lunch, as well as meeting and hand feeding a number of cute kangaroos and wallabies. This was the first time I’d seen a kangaroo for real, up close and personal, and they’re one of the many weird and wonderful indigenous species in Australia. We spent time taking photos with the ‘roos and feeding them which was probably my highlight of the day.
Stop 4: Bloomfield track to Emmagen Creek
After lunch the 4WD took to the scenic Bloomfield track and drove us to Emmagen Creek, a freshwater swimming hole which is one of the few safe places to swim in the Daintree lowlands. We jumped off the rocks into the fresh water and had a swim about before stopping for tea and native exotic fruits (chocolate fruit, anyone?!). This was the furthest point north in the tour, so with one stop left we journeyed back south.
Stop 5: Cape Tribulation
The final stop of the day didn’t disappoint. So called ‘Cape Tribulation’ because Captain Cook proclaimed ‘here began all our troubles’ when his boat struck the Barrier Reef upon entering the area. I could certainly see how the terrain would be a nightmare to navigate, luckily we were in safe hands! We took a walk along the Kulki Boardwalk, named after the Aborigine tribes that lived here thousands of years before the Europeans settled here. From there you reach Cape Tribulation Lookout which gives amazing vistas between the rainforest straight out onto the beach, ahead of which lies the Great Barrier Reef.
All in all the day with Billy Tea was amazing, with so much packed in, yet it didn't feel rushed. It was a great way to see so much, and guided by experts so we knew what we were looking at! I'd highly recommend for anyone in Cairns looking to venture to the rainforest.
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