Quietly tucked away in the far northern corner of Queensland lies the world’s oldest Rainforest. Home to the prehistoric Cassowary, it’s the only place in the world where two world heritage sites meet side by side - the rainforest lined beaches triumphantly looking out over the Great Barrier Reef. Its massive diversity of unusual flora and fauna are one of the most complex on Earth and the location remains highly undiscovered and inaccessible even to the most adventurous. There is no phone reception, the beaches are lined with ferocious saltwater crocodiles and sporadic wooden huts nestled into the greenery is the closest thing to civilisation to be found here.
Departing from Cairns and heading north, the surrounding landscape immediately becomes wilder and after a two hour winding single road, the daily bus reaches a large river which serves as the gateway into the netherland of the dark forest ahead.
The ferry quietly drifts over the murky water as it’s passengers cast their gaze out over a swamp in sheer chance of catching a glimpse of the forest’s resident saltwater crocodiles. It is here that the warning signs also begin to peer out from the bushes. If anything these signs that urge you not to swim in the water, not to touch the stinging trees and to be wary of the famous Cassowary are enough of a reminder that you are about to be plunged into survival mode here (and the nearest emergency services are 2 hours away across a crocodile infested swamp).
Silently reaching the bank of the forest the car engines will begin to chime with the overpowering noise of the trees surrounding you. It’s immediately darker. As the dense trees loom over and shield you from the Australian sun, the bus will roll onto the mud track that welcomes you into the rainforest. It will be immediately cooler, darker, wilder than expected and you push onward.
The forest itself is beautiful and diverse and when you aren’t catching glimpses of the sunshine between enormous trees, a stretch of undisturbed golden beach looms in the distance as the bus bumps along the meandering road.
One of the main locations along the stretch of ancient forest is named Cape Tribulation. Named so appropriately by Captain Cook because this was ‘where all of his troubles started’ the beauty of the Cape is accentuated by the absence of any people. It is here, at Mason’s Swimming Hole that you can swim in the freshwater lagoon alongside wild turtles, without the fear of crocodiles. Towering above the Cape, Mount Sorrow provides a six hour hike for seasoned climbers to its summit, and idly wandering the deserted Cape Tribulation Beach and collecting wild fruits and coconuts cement this place as the paradise that many people long for. For the adventurous, Ocean Safari is a daily boat that will take you to a number of Great Barrier Reef snorkelling locations where you will swim amongst ancient, giant clams, fish and the occasional reef shark amongst some of the only surviving coral undisturbed by tourists and bleaching. Without contact to the outside world, no electricity and formidable heat, the pace of life is slow in this remote Oceanic destination.
You will share the greenery here with Golden-Orb spiders the size of your head, moths, lizards, snakes, stick insects and everything in between. But the dire warning to not swim in the seawater, though difficult, is too not to be ignored and just a few months ago it was reported that a traveller had been bitten by a crocodile, surviving the attack.
The forest is also home to a sacred site for the Aboriginal Eastern Kuku Yalanji People named the Blue Hole Pool. Like it’s name suggests, the opening in the dense forest is site to bright blue waters that glitter in the afternoon sun. The pool has a deep spiritual meaning to the community and is the birthing pool for the group's women, and comes alongside warnings that swimming in the sacred water will have dire implications. It is not recommended to ignore such warnings yet the traditions of the indigenous people here add to the mystery and magic of the forest’s power and allure.
As a tourist the Daintree Rainforest is the perfect place to spend a few days off the beaten track. A location to switch off from everything and live on the power of a few generators with a small, local community. It’s the place to feel adventurous, lost and wild all at the same time yet not a place to reside if you can’t handle a little mud and creepy crawlies.
But it’s certainly a paradise, the type you picture when you book your flights and leave your rainy hometown. The type that Leonardo DiCaprio experiences in The Beach to the soundtrack of Moby. The magic of the forest is something impossible to understand unless you venture there yourself.
Writing and photography by Tamara Davison in: Tamaradavison_ Camera: Canon-AE1, film