Get off the grid and spend two adventure packed days exploring the rainforest and reef at Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park. With no mains power, telephone reception and utilities, this is Australia’s most sustainable community. A place you can connect with nature in a real way, without comprise to comfort and experience. So, buckle up and get ready to take a drive, walk, cruise, swim and ride on the wild side, where you’ll fly through trees, peer into tidal pools and might even get to snorkel with turtles. This is an amazing way to spend two days in paradise.
Sure it’s an early start, but you want to make the most of your time. From Cairns it’s a leisurely drive, taking you along the coast past Port Douglas and through Mossman. There are views aplenty along the way, providing a snapshot of the reef and rainforest experiences that await.
The Daintree Ferry is your ride into the wilderness. It takes you from the rural cane fields, cattle farms and fish farms, into the amazing Cape Tribulation, Daintree National Park, in 10 short minutes. The landscape changes as soon as you’re over the river. The road becomes narrower and is surrounded by tree ferns, fan palms and towering trees. Make sure to stop at Alexandra Lookout for some amazing views over the Daintree River delta and Coral Sea beyond.
The Jindalba Circuit Track is just 16km past the Daintree Ferry and offers the first opportunity to explore the forest floor. We had only gone a few meters into the forest before we heard the deep grunting of a nearby Cassowary. Scattered around us on the forest floor was a selection of bright blue quandongs and cassowary plums, so clearly, we were interrupting the breakfast buffet. After pausing and making some noise, we continued upwards along a forest trail which took us deep into the dense lowland rainforest. It’s a 3km return circuit track that connects you with the environment. A landscape of towering trees, climbing palms, tree ferns, fan palms and lawyer vines. That pathway was criss-crossed by the giant roots of the trees surrounding us. It was as though we had entered a place forgotten by time. The walk took us 1 hour 20 minutes, which included photo stops. It found us scrambling up mountains and crossing rainforest streams. We saw orange footed scrub fowl, buff breasted king fishers and were dwarfed by the rainforest giants, who have stood as sentinels here for hundreds of years. It left a lasting feeling of peace and connection with country. With muddy feet, it was back into the car. Time to continue our Daintree and Cape Tribulation adventure.
Stopping at Thornton’s Beach, we grabbed a coffee to go and headed over to the meeting point for the Cape Tribulation Wilderness Cruise. Standing by the roadside, we had no idea our cruise would commence with a walk through the mangroves to the boat. Anyways, when in the Daintree, follow your guide and be prepared for the unexpected. This cruise is a one-man band, the owner Ernie Dillon has been operating it on Cooper Creek for over 30 years. His is the only boat permitted to run commercially in this section of the park. Clearly knowledgeable, Ernie provided a commentary throughout the 1 hour cruise. We saw 4 crocodiles, 2 boys and 2 girls. Our host tells us the boys are new to the area, having seen the girls on a dating app called ‘Snap Me Up’. Well, you’ve got to laugh. Anyway, they were impressive crocodiles and a timely reminder not to go swimming in the area unless you’re 100% certain it’s safe. He told us there’s 30 crocodiles in this river alone, with 1 female every 1.5km.
We grabbed lunch at CJ Bar & Grill, a great little café just two minutes from the crocodile cruise. You can eat on the beach if you want. From there we continued driving north to Mason’s Café and Swimming Hole. This is one of the safe places to swim (no crocodiles) in a refreshing rainforest river and after the earlier hike, we were keen to refresh. The swimming hole was well shaded and water depth varied from paddling to quite deep pools of crystal clear, cold water.
Let’s get this party started and see what the rainforest’s all about, with the crew at Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours. This 2 hour tour takes you from the forest floor right up into the canopy, where you explore 5 tree platforms on 6 ziplines through the forest. It’s fully guided by experienced climbing guides and the fly time is controlled, making it suitable for all ages. Check in is at the Jungle Adventure Centre at Cape Tribulation. From there, it’s a short bus ride over to the property, where you get kitted up with a harness and helmet. The crew are young, energetic and funny.
They’re also informative and safety conscious, putting everyone at ease. This is a fully interactive experience from start to end, suitable for everyone aged from 3 to 103! You begin things in a Human Hamster Wheel, helping to get the group up into the trees. From there, it’s zipping amongst the rainforest canopy surrounded by tree ferns and crows nest ferns. The views are amazing. The experience is epic. You even get the chance to hang upside down if you want too. It ends with two racing ziplines, where you can reach speeds of up to 45km/h!
Cape Trib Beach House is the only accommodation provider which is right on the beach. As a bonus photo opportunity, it’s surrounded and immersed in rainforest with a stunning stand of towering fan palms. Wandering down to our room, we pass by several scrub turkeys who are obviously right at home. We stayed in Escape Cabin 4, a family cabin with a double bed and two single beds. The room had its own ensuite, ceiling fans and air conditioning. The property has an in-ground pool and spacious bar come dining area, which is right by the beach and lit with fairy lights. We headed down for a cool drink and splashed our feet in the pool, before getting ready for dinner. We ate early, because our day is not done yet.
The Jungle Surfing crew come and collect you from Cape Trib Beach House, for the Adventure Night Walk. Different faces this evening, but same sense of fun. We headed back to their private property in the coach and were all issued with torches. From there, our night guide took us into the forest along natural pathways in search of some cool critters. As the darkness deepens your senses expand and hearing becomes more acute. Frogs are calling, insects are waving their antenna and every other moment there’s a spider to be seen. Our walk this evening took us down through a little stream, which was full of jungle shrimp and water skaters. This 2 hour tour is an amazing and safe way to explore the rainforest at night. The perfect end to our rainforest day.
I’m not a morning person, but sometimes you’ve just got to get up to see the sun rise. This was one of those days. Being the first ones on the beach, which had been swept clean overnight by the tide, was something special. To see the golden rays sweep across the sea, over the sand and into the rainforest. Worth it. Cape Trib Beach House offer a continental breakfast or cooked options. We had bacon and eggs and then packed up and checked out. Time for day 2, the reef and beach day.
Ocean Safari are located at Cape Tribulation and offer half day tours to the Great Barrier Reef. Check in for us was at 8am and after completing some paperwork, we were issued with wetsuits and followed the leader down and along the beach, to the boat. Climbing aboard we found a seat and before long the engines and music fired up. With ‘Thunderstruck’ blaring in our ears this boat was off, blasting across the waves on a short 25-minute ride to the reef. I can tell you, this is like no other reef trip I’ve ever been on – and I’ve been on a few! It’s an adventure for sure. Stopping at Mackay Cay there was time for 2 hours of snorkelling at 2 different places. There’s lots of coral, colourful fish and beds of giant clams. Keep your eyes peeled for turtles, reef sharks, nemo and more. Heading back to the beach, the skipper Moxy let it rip, pulling some moves with the supercharged boat and pulling back into the beach to the sounds of ‘Welcome to the Jungle’.
Ocean Safari run the Turtle Rock Café and Bar, which was the perfect place to refuel our tanks. The meals are fresh and delicious and include burgers, wraps and toasted sandwiches. They also do an all-day breakfast, if that’s your thing. Anyway, with the tummy taken care of, it was time to explore the beach before we headed home.
At low tide the rock walls are exposed, and some cool tidal pools are created at Cape Tribulation Beach. This provides an amazing opportunity to witness the real meeting of the reef and rainforest. Standing in the ankle-deep pool, the Coral Sea is on one side. The Daintree Rainforest on the other. Breathe it in. This really is nature’s paradise and you’ve got time to peek about and explore a little bit more. We found starfish, reef fish and several sea cucumbers, as well living corals on the walls. Before we knew it, it was time to wipe the sand from our feet and get back to the car.
What does everyone want after a day at the beach? Ice-cream of course and there’s two great options for you to choose from. The Daintree Ice-Cream Company is the first one you’ll come across. They grow a range of tropical fruits on their property, which they turn into delicious ice-cream and serve in sample cups, with four generous scoops each. The flavours are decided on the day, dictated by what’s in season. We had a combination of coconut, black sapote, Davidson plum and wattleseed. Delicious! Please note they take cash only and it’s $7.50 per serve. NB: Keep your eyes peeled when driving around here, as Cassowarys are often seen crossing the road in this area.
If you’re after a wider flavour choice when it comes to your cone, head on to Floravilla Bio-Dynamic Ice-Cream Factory who are just up the road. They have 26 different flavours to choose from including vanilla, chocolate, passionfruit, strawberry, black sapote and more. They make their ice-cream onsite using Mungalli Dairy milk.
Too soon we are back on the Daintree Ferry, retracing our steps through the cane fields, along the sea and making our way back to Cairns. This has been a nature experience of epic proportions. Reef and Rainforest. Tick. Connecting with nature and taking the time to stop, breathe and explore. Tick. Getting off the grid is something we all need to do from time to time and this is the perfect place to do it. Stop reading and start planning.
© Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours and Jungle Adventures Night Walks 2020