The Rainforest and the Reef
03.26.2017 - 03.30.2017
We had to wait a couple of days in Cairns before we could go out to the Great Barrier Reef, secondary to Cyclone Debbie. On one of those days, we headed further north to the Daintree NP. It is advertised as "the only place in the world where two World Heritage-listed sites exist side by side: Daintree NP and The Great Barrier Reef."
As part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, the Daintree National Park was created in 1981; in1988 it became a World Heritage Site. The park is divided into two sections: Mossman Gorge and Cape Tribulation. We were mainly in the Cape Tribulation section, which can only be reached by taking a ferry across the Daintree River.
The Cape Tribulation section of the Daintree Rainforest is one of the few places where the "rainforest meets the reef," but more importantly, it's age is what sets it apart. It is famous for being' "the oldest intact lowland tropical rainforest in the world". There are estimates of it being from 110 to 200 million years old. While plants and animals in other places had to adapt to the earth's changing conditions, or die, here they were able to live without reason to change. Sometimes called "green dinosaurs," the rainforest hosts 13 of the world's 19 primitive flowering plant species.
For me, the most coveted sighting was to be that of the Southern Cassowary. This ancient bird began to evolve some 60 million years ago; today it is estimated that more than 150 rainforest plants depend on it to spread their seeds. So happy that our "wait" to see the Great Barrier Reef, resulted in the opportunity to see this amazing bird and place!
Cape Tribulation was named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. After his ship ran into a part of the Great Barrier Reef near here, he wrote: "I name this point Cape Tribulation, because here began all my troubles". The section of the reef that his ship hit is now called the Endeavor Reef; it was named for Cook's boat, the HMS Endeavour.
Port Douglas was originally an important port for the nearby gold and tin fields. Most of the buildings were destroyed in a cyclone in 1911. It remained a sleepy little fishing village until tourism started here in the 1970's. It gradually ecame a base for trips to the Daintree NP and Great Barrier Reef, and by the late 1980's, resorts were being built here. It is now a popular resort town. In 1996, the Clintons stayed here on their only presidential visit to AU, and Bill Clinton was staying here in 2001, when he learned about the 9/11 attacks.
The Great Barrier Reef
We had to wait for 3 days to go out to the Great Barrier Reef because of Cyclone Debbie. It was still fairly choppy, and I suspect that the visibility wasn't quite as good, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Our catamaran took us to the part of the reef that surrounds the Michaelmus Cay. This is a vegetated sand cay with a seabird sanctuary. Normally, going to the sand cay is also a part of the reef experience, but on this day the waters were too rough.