Ferocious Saltwater crocodile, a hidden peril in Daintree Rainforest. Photo by Karina Em

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Dive with me into an emerald green colour palette of the World’s Oldest Rainforest – a place where the air is filled with the symphony of bird calls, where ancient giant ferns reaching up to touch the sunlight-kissed tree canopies and where every path seems to lead to another hidden treasure. Land of formidable crocodiles, elusive cassowaries and pristine yet dangerous beaches. 

Visiting Daintree Rainforest in Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is also David Attenborough’s favourite rainforest, felt like a scene cut out of a movie. We loved everything about it from the moment we stepped in, yet we didn’t even know what was next to come. 

Saltwater crocodile, patiently waiting for its next victim on the riverbank in Daintree Rainforest. Photo by Karina Em
Saltwater crocodile, patiently waiting for its next victim on the riverbank in Daintree Rainforest. Photo by Karina Em

Daintree Rainforest – In the Centre of the World’s Oldest Rainforest

The World’s Oldest Rainforest is only a few kilometres away from Cairns, making it a perfect day trip for anyone up for a great and slightly dangerous adventure!

We truly immersed ourselves in this natural wonder, with sky-high trees, exotic flowers and plants, picturesque views, beaches, and wildlife descendants of prehistoric dinosaurs. Daintree Rainforest is for sure an adventure of a lifetime.

The rainforest has been formed for over 180 million years, and stepping into its wilderness took us to the heart of the Jurassic Era. 

I recommend booking guided tours as they offer an insightful way to explore the rainforest and learn about its unique ecosystem. We used a family-owned company Uncle Brian’s Tours, based in Cairns. Their tours often include encounters with the forest’s wildlife, from the colourful bird species fluttering in the treetops to the more elusive creatures that dwell in the undergrowth. 

A visit to the Daintree Rainforest is more than just an adventure; it’s an unforgettable experience that connects you with nature’s incredible history and biodiversity. It’s a place that reminds us of our planet’s ancient past and the importance of preserving these precious ecosystems for future generations to explore and admire.

Cassowary, A vibrant dash of danger in Daintree Rainforest's heart. Photo by Karina Em
Cassowary, A vibrant dash of danger in Daintree Rainforest’s heart. Photo by Karina Em

Meet the Crocs – Saltwater Crocodiles that Kill for Pleasure

Surrounded by murky waters, filled with adrenaline and excitement, we looked for the Saltwater crocodiles. These ancient creatures epitomize raw, primal power that hunts everything that crosses their territory. They are the largest living reptiles, with males often reaching lengths of up to seven metres. We saw a few crocs resting on the river’s edges that day.

Even though they seem sluggish on land, they move with surprising agility and speed, making them equally dangerous both in and out of the water. And whilst it was amazing to watch them from the safety of the riverboat whilst drinking local Australian beer, my heart skipped a beat a few times.

When you book your tour with Uncle Brian’s Tours, you are guaranteed a spot on a small private boat cruising on the Daintree River, searching for these ancient creatures. It was a thrilling experience; for us, it was a highlight of the entire day.

We learnt so much about the croc’s behaviour and biology, adding depth to the experience – from their incredible strength and speed to their unique ability to live in salt and freshwater environments. And that’s why they are dangerous around the waters in North Australia.

Every fact shared by our knowledgeable captain and every answer to our questions added to the sense of awe for these dangerous but somehow fascinating animals that can tear you apart within seconds.

Cape Tribulation, An untouched paradise, alive with nature's rugged beauty. Photo by Karina Em
Cape Tribulation, An untouched paradise, alive with nature’s rugged beauty. Photo by Karina Em

Back to Jurassic Era – In Search of ‘Living Dinosaurs’ 

Crocs aren’t the only dangerous animals living inside the World’s Oldest Rainforest. Until that day, I’d never heard of the Cassowaries, flightless birds with blue necks and razor-sharp claws, also known as the most dangerous birds in the World.

They are truly remarkable creatures as they seem to have stepped straight out of prehistoric times with their tall, bony crest atop their head, almost like a descendant of a raptor. Their claws, flexibility and speed make the Cassowaries formidable creatures when they feel threatened.

These native birds of Australia are only to be found in North-East Queensland and Papua New Guinea. An interesting fact about these birds is that the males are the ones who look after the chicks. The female only meets a male to get impregnated.

After giving birth, she leaves to look for another male – to repeat the same. So, in search of ‘living dinosaurs’, how Cassowaries are often called – look out for the males with the chicks!

Despite their fearsome reputation, Cassowaries play a crucial role in maintaining the health of the rainforest ecosystem. They are also known as ‘rainforest gardeners’, as our guide mentioned throughout our tour.

Cassowaries eat a wide variety of fruits and effectively disperse the seeds through their droppings, aiding in the growth of new plants. Unfortunately, Cassowaries are classified as endangered due to habitat loss and other threats. Conservation efforts are ongoing to protect these remarkable birds and their rainforest home. 

Daintree Rainforest, An enchanting realm of biodiversity and untamed beauty. Photo by Karina Em
Daintree Rainforest, An enchanting realm of biodiversity and untamed beauty. Photo by Karina Em

Where the Rainforest Meets Reef – Unveiling the Mysteries of Cape Tribulation

Daintree Rainforest may be full of prehistoric creatures, but it is also a place of breathtaking beauty and untouched wilderness. The emerald green rainforest and pristine white sand beaches work in absolute harmony to create a stunning contrast known as Cape Tribulation.  

Cape Tribulation, nestled in the heart of Australia’s Daintree Rainforest, is a remarkable place where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites meet – the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. The area is renowned for its immaculate beaches that stretch along the coastline, offering breathtaking views of the Coral Sea.

Each coast, from Myall Beach to Noah Beach and Thornton Beach, has its unique charm: white sand, lush greenery, and a serene ambience. Even though we visited on a rainy day and the sky was painted in grey clouds and shadows, the mist swirling above the treetops in the distance added an air of dramatic mystique to our adventure.

While these beaches are incredibly beautiful in any weather, they are not typical touristy beaches where you can freely swim and sunbathe. Swimming at Cape Tribulation’s beaches is strongly discouraged and often forbidden for several reasons.

First, the waters around Cape Tribulation are known for being home to dangerous marine creatures, including box jellyfish, also known as “stingers” in Australia. These jellyfish, typically present in the warmer months from October to May, carry a venomous sting that can be fatal to humans. 

In addition to the jellyfish threat, the area is known for its saltwater crocodile population, and there are many warnings around the area. They are typically found in estuaries, mangroves, and sometimes even in the ocean. Yet, despite these restrictions, visiting Cape Tribulation’s beaches is still a mesmerizing experience. The coastline’s natural beauty against the rainforest backdrop is remarkably beautiful. 

Daintree Rainforest, Your gateway to an adventure in the wild. Photo by Karina Em
Daintree Rainforest, Your gateway to an adventure in the wild. Photo by Karina Em

Visiting Daintree Rainforest was like embarking on a thrilling and wild adventure that took me back to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The rainforest is irresistible. Every step on the verdant forest floor was a leap into the unknown. Exploring every inch of this vibrant ecosystem is impossible in one visit. I know I will be back exploring more! 

Visiting Daintree Rainforest is a chance to embrace the wilderness and step beyond the ordinary for all the brave and bold. It is not a journey through a rainforest but a journey through time. 

So, will you dare?

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Author Bio: Karina Em is a creative freelance travel writer and photographer currently on a six-month-long trip around the World. She is an avid adventurer who loves wildlife, off-beaten paths, and waterfalls. She has visited over 40 countries, slept in a jungle in North Sumatra, walked through the Swedish winter wilderness at 3am, swam in a cold lagoon in the World’s oldest rainforest, and rode a limo in Las Vegas. Karina also volunteers with dog shelters and helps strays in Asia. She occasionally appears as a travel blogger on BBC Radio Derby and had a photo published in Wanderlust Magazine.

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