Tropical North Queensland, nestled on the scalloped shores of the state of Queensland in eastern Australia, is somewhere we recommend to all our clients who are looking for a bush-and-beach experience. This spectacular region’s pristine islands, warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef and glorious rainforests lend themselves to a multitude of extraordinary experiences that we can arrange for you – from hiking and horse-riding outings to snorkelling and scuba-diving trips. Two or three nights is the perfect amount of time to spend here, after a few days exploring Sydney or Melbourne, as part of a longer Australian adventure. I was recently lucky enough to travel here to discover some of its treasures.
Silky Oaks Lodge, in the Daintree Rainforest, is the best base for exploring this spectacular region. We like this jungle retreat because it embraces its tropical location to the fullest – being well and truly immersed within its wild surroundings by the Mossman River. You will feel its striking sense of place throughout your stay; you will dine al fresco in the Treehouse Restaurant overhanging the emerald river, wake up to tropical views from your room, swing in the hammock on your private veranda under the palms and relax by the lagoon-style pool, encircled by verdant greenery. Its prime riverside location also means that plenty of the scenic walking trails here lead to natural waterholes in which you can have a refreshing dip.
On my trip, I met with one of our favourite specialist guides who explained how she had felt connected to nature from an early age, having grown up on a north Queensland cattle station in very close association with the area’s Aboriginal people. She has travelled to numerous countries, fuelling her interest in exploring her own homeland and her desire to share her inspiring enthusiasm and knowledge with others. Priding herself on taking clients through some of the country’s most diverse regions in order to foster an appreciation of its unique beauty, history and culture, she helps you to develop a true understanding and respect for Aboriginal Australians and their land.
On our first day in the Daintree Rainforest, she took us out in search of crocodiles in the Cooper Creek, part of the Daintree River ecosystem. Surrounded by breathtaking mangroves and lush jungle, we boarded a private boat and explored this habitat, home to an extensive array of wildlife, many endemic to this area, including snakes, frogs and, of course, saltwater crocodiles. We stopped in a stunning setting beside the river to enjoy some freshly baked scones with cream and jam, washed down with locally grown tea and coffee. Revitalised, we set off again, this time on foot, searching for Boyd’s forest dragons hiding in the trees, cassowaries stalking through the jungle and musky rat kangaroos scurrying timidly in the undergrowth. After this exhilarating expedition, we usually like to organise for our clients to have a very special jungle lunch, followed by the rare opportunity to hand-feed injured wallabies that have been nursed back to health in a private sanctuary that very few can access.
On the following day in this captivating region, we went to the Great Barrier Reef. It took our private boat less than an hour to cruise from the mainland to the best of the local reefs, and the views back to the jungle-backed, untouched beaches over the turquoise sea were spectacular. This is one of the few places in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites lie side by side, with the Wet Tropics of Queensland running down to meet the incredibly well-preserved coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef. Soon, we pulled on our masks, snorkels and flippers and slid into the serene, glistening ocean. The water here is incredibly clear and we could see everything beneath the surface, which made me feel a lot calmer about being so far from the shore in Australia!
There was a marine biologist onboard who explained to us, in depth, how the reef has changed radically over the years and revealed how destructive global warming is on the most diverse ecosystem in the world. He told us how the coral bleaching has had such a huge impact on the marine life and how, in the years to come, the reef will slowly be depleted. I felt deeply concerned for the future of this phenomenal place and very fortunate to have experienced it at a time where it was still so impressive. Despite this, only 7% of the original reef remains. Interestingly, we also learnt that the Great Barrier Reef can still be seen from outer space, as it is the size of 70 million football pitches, the equivalent of Japan or Italy.
As we were gliding along, two turtles came into sight. We paddled towards them and they playfully swam alongside us. One even bobbed its head up right next to mine, which was the most mind-boggling marine encounter I have ever had and certainly one I will always remember. I could have stayed underwater for hours examining the most colourful shoals of small and big fish darting in and out of the coral formulations. This place is a paradise for wildlife lovers and keen scuba-divers.
Back on the boat, we cruised to a picture-perfect sand cay, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Coral Sea. This small island of pure-white sand was a remarkable sight, and after all the excitement, we were given the chance to refresh ourselves with water, soft drinks and a fresh-fruit platter while we soaked in our surroundings, before heading back to the mainland.
Spending a few days in Tropical North Queensland was one of the most memorable experiences I had in Australia. Travelling here will open your eyes to the magical worlds of the rainforest and beneath the sea, and inspire you to explore further and understand more about climate change and what we can do to protect our planet for future generations.