For the final few days of our visit to Cairns we decided to rent a campervan and visit the Daintree Rainforest which is located North of Cairns. From Cairns you can sign up for a day trip to the forest as part of a tour but since we are not really tour people as we wanted to rent a campervan and do our own tour, at our own pace. Daintree Rainforest is part of Australia’s Wet Tropics of Queensland, one of the oldest tropical rainforests in existence (it is thought to be over 135 million years old) and at 120,000 hectares it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We rented a campervan from Spaceships Campervan for $60 AUD (or $42 USD) a day including insurance. If you are very confident in your driving ability, you can choose to not get insurance, but we chose to get it just to be safe even if it doesn’t cover collisions with wildlife such as kangaroos who are most active at dusk and dawn. Our itinerary was to spend two days and one night in Daintree Rainforest and then head south towards the Atherton Tablelands to see waterfalls and hopefully get a glimpse of a platypus for three days and two nights, but ended up cutting it short due to bad weather to two days and one night instead.
After making a wrong turn and ending at Kuranda (with a GPS we rented) we got back on the highway towards Daintree with plans to stop at the various view points along the coast which our hosts at the Travellers Oasis Backpackers highlighted on a map for us. The major stopping points included Mossman Gorge, then crossing the river via cable ferry, and entering Daintree to find lodging. The view points along the way were nice and scenic, reminding us of the California coast, which made for a nice drive.
Our Spaceships Campervan rental was an Alpha 2 Berth model named “Ham the Chimp.” This was pretty much an automatic mini van that was modified to contain a platform bed where we stored our baggage, food in the fridge locker, and cookware underneath. It was May’s first time driving on the opposite side of the road and Josh’s second (his first being in Japan). We had to constantly remind ourselves to keep left as there were a few times we drove on the right (or wrong) side of the road. Bottom photo set courtesy Spaceships.
Our first stop in the Daintree Rainforest was Mossman Gorge where we hopped on the shuttle bus ($8.90 AUD) at the Visitor Center to the trailhead so we could hike the trail through the rainforest. The visitor center offers guided tours by aboriginal guides who explain how the local aboriginals use the forest for medicine and other aspects of their lives, but being short on time, we did a self guided tour. The loop trail has many informational signs and we were able to enjoy the experience without a guide, but we would have gotten more out of the experience with a guide during one of their Indigenous Tours or Dreamtime Walks.
The trail starts off as an elevated boardwalk which gave us a different vantage point of the forest. As we continued to walk through the rainforest, we came across a popular swimming hole that looked very tempting to take a dip in, but because we didn’t have our swimming suits and were warned that there could be strong currents, we decided to walk through the rainforest path instead. We first crossed the Rex Creek Suspension Bridge, which shook with every step that we took and ascended to the Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi) Lookout point. Roughly translated, Manjal Dimbi means “mountain holding back.” According to Aboriginal dreamtime stories, the large humanoid rock represents Kubirri, who came to the aid of the Kuku Yalanji when they were persecuted by the evil spirit, Wurrumbu. Kubirri holds back the evil spirit, who is now confined to The Bluff above Mossman River, Manjal Dimbi has been anglicised to “Mt Demi” and Kubirri is known as the “Good Shepherd.” After descending from the lookout point we arrived at the junction for the Rainforest circuit track and decided to complete it in a clockwise fashion. This trek was clearly marked through the forest which contained many informational signage to explain the flora and fauna and history of the rainforest. After the rainforest circuit, we proceeded to the various scenic lookout points of Mossman Gorge to admire the large boulders there. After Mossman Gorge, we continued our journey North towards to the main part of the rainforest, but had to cross a river by driving our car onto a cable ferry.
A cassowary and totem poles displayed at the Mossman Gorge Visitor’s Center created by a local aboriginal
Large boulders at the Mossman Gorge
Left: Josh crossing the Rex Creek Suspedned Bridge which shook with every step he took.
Right: Wild medicinal mushrooms growing on a log at Mossman Gorge loop trail 2.4 km long.
Manjal Dimbi, a view from Mossman Gorge
Left: Beautiful tree bark naturally tinged pink at Mossman Gorge.
Right: A giant spider we saw hanging along the Mossman Gorge.
As we continued our journey up north for our 2D 1N (2 day, 1 night) self-guided tour through the rainforest, we stayed overnight at Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat for the night to cook our spaghetti and marinara sauce dinner. We met another couple who have been traveling in a rental campervan for 4 weeks now. We shared our portable gas stove and propane with them so we could all dine together under the group camp shelter along with some unexpected guests, bats, while it rained. The first night we spent sleeping in the campervan was an uncomfortable experience as we are slightly above average in build and the campervan is not so above average in space. May was glad she did not have to use the toilet in the middle of the night because that would require some interesting maneuvers to get out from the side door on Josh’s side, the only exit at the time. If it weren’t for the heavy rain paired with lightning and thunder, we would have an alternate exit from the back, which would have popped open to provide extra space and ventilation as well. But, we managed to sleep decently and awoke to the roaring sounds of the rainforest where sounds from the bats flying overhead competed with the insects, birds, and other wildlife we may not have seen. That was a great morning and to top it off, we decided to hike the trails at the campervan park. The trails were a little hard to follow due to the overgrowth of the flora but it was a great experience seeing everything so up close and personal. We even spotted a musky rat-kangaroo running about in the forest. Afterwards, we took our campervan and stopped at boardwalks taking in the beautiful flora and fauna and managed to see and an endangered bird, the Southern Cassowary. We actually heard the movements before we saw the bird itself, and tried to take a photo of it, but it moved so quickly which made for an unbelievably magical experience.
We woke up from sleeping overnight in our campervan at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat to numerous bats flying overhead.
Left: An overgrown trail we took at the Lync-Haven Rainforest Retreat, where we stayed overnight.
Right: One of the many boardwalks at Daintree Rainforest.
Left: Vine climbing on a tree. The Daintree Rainforest hosts a lot of symbiotic relationships.
Right: Strangler Fig tree taking over its host tree.
Left: A part of the rainforest we hiked
Right: A wavy branch
Left: The roots of trees poking out of the marshlands of Daintree Rainforest.
Right: A curly tree branch spotted at Daintree Rainforest.
Funny speed bump sign we spotted at Daintree Rainforest to warn us of what happens since cassowaries often cross the road and are hit
Trees at Thornton Beach in Daintree Rainforest
Left: Giant fig tree Josh is standing by. Right: A “Columnar” fig tree is result of the host tree dying and leaving the Strangler Fig Tree with a hollow core.
A view of the “Columnar” fig tree from the center, inside where the host tree once stood
Buttress roots of a tree in Daintree Rainforest. The buttress is used to support the shallow roots of the trees.
Orange-footed scrubfowl we spotted along the coast
Orange plant we saw with the Daintree Rainforest where parts were neatly separated
Curtain Fig Tree
The Curtain Fig Tree is one of the largest trees in the Atherton Tablelands region. The Curtain Fig Tree is a Strangler Fig Tree whose seeds germinated at the top of the host tree while its roots grew towards the ground. These ariel roots drop 15 meters (49 feet) to the ground. After visiting the Curtain Fig Tree we stopped by the platypus viewing platform to try and get a glimpse of the elusive animal but to no avail. We stayed overnight at a local camervan park and were planning on seeing some of the many waterfalls located in the region but the weather did not cooperate, raining to entire day.
The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots
Creation of the curtain fig tree
The Curtain Fig Tree and its ariel roots
View More Photos of Daintree Rainforest and Atherton Tablelands Here