Daintree

Most of what we did today could have been done independently. Having it all packaged up with no need to drive and access to local knowledge persuaded us to take our day tour with Daintree Discovery Tours. They were not the only option but seemed to offer the best coverage of what we might want to see and do.

We slept well enough in the campervan. Unlike on our trip in July we did not struggle to keep warm but were comfortable with just a sheet. We woke around 6:00 am and had plenty of time to eat breakfast and prepare for our day. Instructions for the tour were simple – swimming gear and towel, sensible shoes, hat and sunscreen, and camera. Food, water and other necessities, including insect repellent, would be provided.

By 7:45 am we were waiting at the entrance to the van park. Our guide, Richard, arrived in his 12 seater van on schedule at 7:50 am. The other passengers – mother, father, and three daughters from the Gold Coast – were already on board.

First stop was Mossman Gorge section of Daintree National Park. It had changed substantially since our previous visit when we were living in Innisfail in the late 1980s. There is now a well established visitor centre some distance from the gorge and access is by shuttle bus from the centre allowing for much more and easier parking. We were the first group to arrive this morning and had the shuttle to ourselves as we rode up to the park entrance. By the time we returned 40 minutes later the crowd was beginning to build.

The park walkways have also have a very substantial upgrade. There was no bare earth but a mix of concrete, rubbery material made from old tires, and elevated walkways with planks of recycled plastic on steel frames. We encountered some steps on the way in but the elevated walkway out from the lookout to the car park was level. The new infrastructure does an excellent job of limiting damage to the environment and making the experience accessible. We were able to get down to the edge of the river at one point where Majella reprised her recollection of a 1980s photograph of her sitting on a rock in the river.

From there we returned to Mossman and drove north toward the major section of the Daintree National Park. We crossed the Daintree River by ferry and followed the road north. A short way on we paused at Jindalba day use area where Richard produced lamingtons with a choice of tea, plunger coffee, or milo for morning tea.

Our next stop was at Cape Tribulation. Along the way we passed a variety of farms, tourist enterprises, and residences that had mostly resulted from Joh Bjelke-Petersen opening up the road and selling freehold blocks before world heritage status was declared. There are now tight restrictions on further development but it is an interesting mix along the road. Despite many signs warning of cassowaries crossing we saw none of them but there were many and varied tourists, occasionally in groups.

We were at Cape Tribulation for a bit more than 30 minutes. That allowed time to walk to the lookout and stroll along the wide sandy beach. The fringe vegetation included a variety of unfamiliar plants with blooms and seeds in different colours and configurations.

On the way south we stopped at Floravilla icecreamery which makes icecream on site from tropical fruits. Majella had dragon fruit icecream while I had coffee and ginger. Both were flavoursome and we ate them in the bus as we drove on to Alexandra Lookout where we paused for a view across the mouth of the Daintree River. On our way from Floravilla, Richard had described the lunch options available so, at the lookout, he took orders and phoned them through to our lunch destination.

Back across the ferry, we headed for Daintree village and lunch. Majella and I had both ordered grilled barramundi with chips and a small salad. The meals were ready soon after we arrived. During lunch Richard advised that we should take the opportunity to change into swimming gear since the facilities at the rainforest pool would be limited.

Once we had changed we walked the hundred metres or so to the river where our cruise was due to depart at 2:00 pm. Our cruise skipper had spotted a large male crocodile that had climbed onto the bank opposite and was keen to get across the river before it had a chance to disappear. The final three passengers were running a couple of minutes late but we were away soon after 2:00 pm and had good close views of the crocodile.

The cruise went a little way up river where we saw another smaller female crocodile on the bank among some trees. Going down river we saw a couple more crocodiles near the bank with just eyes and snout above the water. The large male was still there when we returned for another look at the end of our cruise but it was not until we were docking across the river that he opened his mouth wide. We missed seeing that up close.

Richard had the van down to the jetty to collect us and drove us a few kilometres up river and then onto a farm. There we climbed onto benches in the open back of a 4WD and headed up a farm track into the Dagmar Range section of the Daintree National Park. Crossing private property is the only vehicular access to Cassowary Falls where we were going to swim. The tour company has an arrangement for access which is otherwise restricted. 

The road in was steep in places and twisted about but was in fair condition so our ride was not too bad. At the falls we had a very short walk to the pool below the falls. It is deep, up to 10 metres, and supports a number of fish, turtles, and an occasional eel. All were visible near where we were to enter the water but posed no threat. Majella checked the temperature and immediately opted out of swimming but I got in and managed to survive for about 10 minutes before getting out.

We were back at our campervan in Mossman a little before 5:00 pm. That allowed time for showers and relaxation with some cheese and crackers before we ate a repeat of dinner from last night. Tomorrow we leave for Cooktown.