Friday, March 16, 2007
Tony's Tropical Tours take us to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
Our hotel recommended that we go on an excursion with Tony's Tropical Tours. We left from our Hotel at 8am, an unusually early start for the Trader Pods and went on a 4WD wilderness experience.
We were lucky to get Hans van Veluwen as our tour guide. "Hans
from Cairns" (pronounced HANS from CANS) was a botanist and naturalist
who was full of knowledge about the plants and animals of this
region. He had spent much of his career leading survival trips,
raising native plants, and living in isolated areas of the region that
were without electricity. There were 4 other women in our group and we had a superb day of adventure and discovery.
Daintree Rainforest is one of the most diverse and beautiful examples
of Mother Nature in the world. It is the largest chunk of
tropical rainforest in Australia and the home of many diverse kinds of
plants and animals. Like the Great Barrier Reef, it too is a
World Heritage Site and contains the highest number of plant and animal
species that are rare, or threatened with extinction, anywhere in the
On our first foray into the forest we saw a sleeping
python snake. This was a rare treat, and Hans assured us held no
threat, unless we went after it.
Right away we also got another rare sighting - a very shy dragon
lizard. They aren't seen in captivity at all because the
ecosystem that supports them is so complex it can't be replicated, and
they never live for long once captured.
also saw fabulous trees with buttresses holding them to the
earth. Most of the rainforest trees have shallow root systems and
these buttresses give them the stability they need to withstand all but
the cyclones that come through every 30 years or so and level the other
trees and plants.
most dangerous rainforest plant was "the stinging bush". This
plant would grow in areas that had been hit by cyclones and was in an
open area flooded with sunshine. The leaves were heart shaped and
the edges looked like they had been cut with zig zag scissors.
The pain from coming into contact with any part of this plant would
make you want to cut off the body part affected. Pain could last
over a year and cause major nerve damage.
There was one other plant Hans pointed out that had small needles
covering every part of its long vines that he said was really dangerous
- even to the point of advising us not to have arms out of car windows
as we drove on the road, because sometimes the long vines drift over
the roads in a wind, and could cut right thru you. But other than
these two plants, he said the only major danger in the rainforests of
Australia were slippery rocks and logs, not the snakes or spiders,
etc. People often fall, and there are many areas of very rapid
waterfalls and rivers - like these. In fact, many are prone to
flash floods from further up the mountain. Remember - it gets
over 400 inches of rain in this area a year...
took a river trip and saw one of the most well known animals living
in this area - the Estuarine Crocodile. He was casually swimming
downstream - all 15 feet of him. You can see him against the bank
of the river here (and the streaking you see in this picture is
torrential rain. We were wearing ponchos, and under a roof, but
the sides of the boat were open and we were soaked!)...
The crocodile is a cold-blooded animal and
needs to regulate its own body temperature closely, so many times they
are seen basking on logs with their mouths gaping - a cooling process
that maintains their body temperature between 86-90 degrees
F. The female crocodiles lay her eggs in huge piles of
compost materials that she has heaped into giant piles. The
composted material creates heat which acts as an incubator for the
eggs - actually a compost pile. This week in mid March was the time for the babies to
hatch. They make a squeaking sound to let the mother know that
they're ready to come out of their eggs. She digs them up and
although there may be as many as 100 eggs only about 25 of them
mature. The mother inadvertently steps on many of them as they
hatch from their eggs. And often times the eggs are eaten by
predators. After they hatch the male takes over feeding and
watching them until they are old enough to leave the nesting
area. The young adults then find themselves a small area and live
there by themselves. They often spend much time basking on logs
to protect themselves from the sharks that also live in the river.
While we were on the river, we also pulled up right next to this tree
that had a river snake on it - we were able to get very close...
and we also saw this mangrove heron sitting on a log in the pouring rain...
We'll continue the rainforest story in another blog entry - so read on...