Life on the beach at Cape Tribulation

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May 9th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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The first stop on my whirlwind east coast road trip was Cairns... and as I stepped of the plane to blue sky and sunshine I found life already felt a world away from work and Sydney. I had an afternoon to pass in the 'city' before hitting the road and spent most of it just wondering around. With a population of just 140,000 or so I'd hesitate to call Cairns a 'city', indeed walking round the city centre seemed to take all of about 20mins.... assuming of course you didn't get lured into one of the 3 zillion travel agents that occupy the centre... each offering the same tours as the next but with an occasional added twist to what freebies they might throw in. Having done the loop a couple of times I headed off to the artificial lagoon (makes for a safe place to swim during stinger season... ) down by the esplanade and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to make sense of all the brochures I'd picked up!

One thing I definitely wanted to do whilst I was here was get out to the Great Barrier Reef... so in the hope that I might be able to identify more than just generic 'fish' and 'coral' when I was there I headed off to the nightly Reef Tech talk... $13 and a few hours later hours later I knew my Butterflyfish from my Wrasse and Stag coral from Boulder coral.... OK so it was a start anyway! The talk was excellent though - pictures of fish, tips on how to identify them, where to go, what to look for and exhibits to touch.

The following morning saw me up early and heading north. My first real stop was Port Douglas where I'd planned to base myself for my reef trip... except I didn't much like the look of the rain that started when I arrived or the idea of the high winds that were predicted over the next few days (wind = rough seas = bad for person who gets sea sick in a bath tub). In the end I stayed just long enough for a late breakfast and then continued my journey north, across the Daintree river on the wee ferry and up to Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest really does come straight down to the beach.... long, beautiful, empty beaches - perfect for a few days of relaxation!

The next morning I went off crocodile spotting on Coopers Creek. A few people had suggested doing it here rather on the Daintree - I don't know if the chances of seeing a croc were any better (apparently the cloudy, cool morning that we went didn't make for great croc spotting weather...) but we were the only boat out on the creek and had the place to ourselves - a contrast to the Daintree where the boats seem to line up. We were looking for saltwater croc's, which at up to 6m long are the largest type of croc. As the name suggests they have a high tolerance for salinity so can survive in the brackish water around coastal areas and in rivers. The creek that we were navigating is home to a number of females - the males are more nomadic, roaming along the coast from creek to creek. During the breeding season females lay 40-60 eggs in mounds that they make from vegetation and mud - the mound helps insulate the eggs from temperature extremes as well as hiding them from predators, stopping dehydration and minimising the risk of loss through flooding. We did see a couple of croc's (@2m in length according to our guide) lurking at the edge of the mangroves, but with the day being relatively cool there was no incentive for them to get out of the water and bask in the sun... and give us a better view :0(

Croc spotting done I headed off to Thornton beach for a few hours before the afternoons activity - exotic fruit tasting! Well, being a vegetarian it seemed rude not to go, and tasting all sorts of fruit I'd never heard of turned out to be a great way of passing a few hours! One of my favourites was Black Sapote - aka Chocolate Pudding cake because of the dark chocolatey colour flesh of the ripe fruit... except it tastes nothing like chocolate pudding and has the texture of tofu.

In a moment of apparent madness I decided to get up for sunrise on my second morning. I had grand romantic images of sitting on the beach and watching the sun rise up over the sea.... reality was a wet, grey morning with barely a glimpse of the sun as it passed between clouds :0( Ah well. I'd booked myself onto a guided wilderness walk at 9am so headed off to that praying that the weather would impove. Well, rain doesn't really make much difference when you're in the rainforest and our guide, Piggy was excellent - an encyclopedia of knowledge about the different plants we saw and the wildlife that we didn't... we saw Cassowary food (the aptly named Cassowary Plum), Cassowary poo.... but alas no Cassowary :0(

My last stop in Cape Tribulation was the Jindalba Environment Centre - an information centre and 27m high tower with views across the top of the canopy, linked together by a series of elevated boardwalks. There was lots of information to absorb but the place was quite busy and whilst the views over the canopy were great I think I preferred the peace an stillness of the other boardwalks I'd been to here.

Next up - lakes, waterfalls and more beach life...

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24th October 2007

Great Pictures of a Magical Place
Great Pictures. You obviously had as good a time as we did - only a month ago (late September 07) at Cape Tribulation. We didn't see the crocodiles either. A wonderfully magical place. This was part of a memorable holiday in Queensland - from cool Derby in England Bill Grange

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