|A Fan Palm in the Daintree Rainforest|
I don't usually get excited about this kind of stuff, but the Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Queensland is 100 million years old - it dates back to when the world was one land mass! The Daintree is unique in that it is one of the few places that has undergone little ecological change during that time. I find this absolutely fascinating, so when I first read about the Daintree last year I added it to our list of must-see destinations in Australia.
Driving in on Friday night my enthusiasm had waned a bit for two reasons: 1) it was really late, really dark, and really rainy, and we were in the middle of nowhere, and 2) venturing into a rainforest was asking for a snake sighting, which I had avoided thus far. But after a good night sleep I woke up ready to discover.
We started the day with a walk on the beach. It was beautiful and empty, but I didn't want to walk for too long because I started to get nervous about the saltwater crocodiles that live in the area. There are signs everywhere that say "beware of crocs" and endless stories floating around of people who are attacked and eaten by a crocodile in seconds. That meant not seeing one was the safest thing we could do!
Next, we decided to take a walk through the rainforest. The front desk recommended that we walk to a nearby secluded swimming hole. She said that it is fantastic, but added that you have to be careful because there are a lot of crocs in the area. She said that you can swim in one spot, but have to be really careful to avoid several other bodies of water. Do you really expect us to positively identify the "safe" water rather than the croc-infested water and to trust that crocodiles haven't moved on over in the meantime? What I predict is that sooner or later a tourist will be eaten by a crocodile at said swimming hole. I wasn't going to chance it!
Instead, we took a boardwalk through the rainforest. The boardwalks here are wooden boards covered with chicken wire. My theory throughout Australia has been that snakes don't crawl onto the boardwalks because they would cut their bellies. I can happily report that my theory has served me well! The boardwalk was nice, but I was a bit nervous the whole time. We did have an almost snake sighting . . . The lizard pictured below looks so much like a snake that I shrieked when I saw it. It has tiny legs, but it actually slithers rather than using its legs to move around. I will NEVER put a picture of a snake on this blog, but the lizard made the cut - just know I am sorry if it makes anyone queasy like me. We also saw some awesome trees (our favorites were the fan palms), some cool figs, and several birds. Almost everything we saw is unique to this area of the world and is unchanged over 100 million years! That means this is what was around when the dinosaurs were roaming - wow!
We spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool, and I spent a good bit of time prepping myself for the guided night walk that we had scheduled. I was very torn between wanting to experience the Daintree and being terrified at every turn.
Our guide for the night walk, Fin, picked us up, gave us some flashlights, and took us out into the jungle. Not even a pep talk or a warning of "watch out for the hundreds of things that might really hurt you." David and I started the walk in the back of our nine-person group, but by 30 minutes into the tour I had worked my way to the best position - Fin and David in front of me for warning and protection and the rest of the group behind me in case something bit, stung, or otherwise attacked me. Fin mentioned several times that we should shine our lights at eye level for the best chance of seeing a snake. I never once shined my light at eye level. Luckily we didn't see a single one, which was a disappointment for most people in the group and a huge victory for me. We did see some cool spiders, an incredible strangling fig tree, mushrooms that glow in the dark, frogs and toads, and several cool birds. The Daintree was a success!!!
|One of 40 fig varieties in the Daintree, most of which are poisonous to humans.|
|A Golden Orb spider. Imagine our surprise when our guide Fin told us that she has a Golden Orb living over her kitchen table. She likes having it there to kill insects.|
|The snake-like lizard that we were told is called a gecko in the Daintree|
|Sara standing inside a strangling fig. Fin told us that the 'Tree of Life' in Avatar was modeled after this tree.|
|David standing in front of a Lawyer Vine. It was very prickly.|