Australia’s region of natural wonder
The only place in the world where two UNESCO World Heritage sites meet, Tropical North Queensland sits at the union of the Wet Tropics Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef. Home to more than 30 national parks, wilderness areas that predate the Amazon by 80 million years and reef systems that can be seen from outer space, this is a part of the planet where environmental records are set on a daily basis. It’s of little surprise to learn that it was the first place in the country to achieve Ecotourism Australia’s ‘Eco Destination Certification’ – a newly-conceived badge to assure travellers that tourism providers across the region have a strong, well- managed ethos when it comes to sustainability. Not that I need convincing.
An early start at Daintree Ecolodge
Members of the nocturnal chorus that eventually lull me to sleep at Daintree Ecolodge also wake me at sunrise – do cicadas ever rest? But in truth, it’s the clarity of the morning light, dappled through enormous king ferns and fan palms, that has me stretching my limbs, curious to explore my surrounds.
My guide for the day is Kuku Yalanji man Juan Walker, his Walkabout Cultural Adventures offering insights into Indigenous traditions that date back tens of thousands of years. Juan shows me how to spear mud crabs and fish in the gin-clear waters of Cooya Beach, his ancestral home. He also points out mussels and pippis growing among the gnarly roots of mangroves.
As shells crack over fire coals, Juan douses our seafood bounty with lime and chilli oil. It’s like eating a ray of salty sunshine. Juan was born here, and his family still live up the road. He’s spent his life fossicking on the sand and amid the rainforest, our current backdrop.