If you are looking to visit world´s oldest continuously surviving Rainforest, then Cairns in Tropical North Queensland is a great starting place for a Rainforest Wildlife Tour. And if you’d like to experience those ancient forests as part of a small, personalised group with a great guide, while supporting a local company that respects natural environment and residents, then Wait a While is your tour.
Our five weeks in Queensland, Australia, have been absolutely amazing, and Wait a While Rainforest Wildlife Tour in Cairns remains one of our favorite experiences, especially since it gave us a chance to learn about and explore lots of different wildlife during day and night time, among which the shy platypus, the colony of flying foxes and the tree kangaroo – were our favourites.
On a Wait a While Rainforest Wildlife Tour around Cairns
Paul, our guide and owner of Wait a While Tours, picks us up at Cairns Central YHA just after lunch, on a dry and sunny day in August. The modern van comfortably seats our group of 11. Small group size is a big part of the tour’s appeal for us, whose personalised character makes it so much more enjoyable and memorable. In our group we have a nice French family (parents with two teenage boys), a retired couple from New Zealand, an academic from the USA taking a one-day break from a conference, and a young German lady on holidays.
Wallaby mobs, green tree ants and flying foxes
The tour starts with a visit of a wallaby mob (group) in a Cairns suburb, where we also get the chance to taste a green tree ant, or weaver ant, by licking its citrus-flavored tail (optional). Paul explains that, according to the Indigenous Australians, being bitten by a reasonable number of green tree ants is great for curing hangovers.
Our next stop is a colony of flying foxes – large bats dotted all over a group of trees.
A long and windy road gets us up to the Cairns Tablelands (also known as the Atherton Tablelands), where Paul takes us to a massive fig tree – known as Cathedral fig. You can tell he’s been doing this tour for many years, which has made him an expert in spotting tree kangaroos, possums (including green tail possums!), gliders, flying foxes, bandicoots, echidnas, snakes, frogs and platypus.
Giant Fig Trees up in the Tablelands
It’s difficult to describe how we feel next to the spectacular Cathedral Giant Fig Tree. Pictures don’t really express the size and energy surrounding those lords of the forest. Walking around the gigantic 500 years old strangler tree in the Danbulla State Forest, we marvel at the giant roots and massive crown.
Paul tells us that a strangler tree germinates on top of another tree and tries to grow roots into the ground. Once this is accomplished, the fig grows vigorously, finally killing the host tree and then grows on independently. Not a pretty story, but with spectacular results.
Find the Platypus, if you can!
Our next stop is to spot platypus, a semi-aquatic egg-laying mammal endemic to eastern Australia. Their dives last normally around 30-40 seconds, so we can see how one of them dives and comes back to the surface after a while. A very special moment to see one of the most distinct animals on this planet.
Paul – who runs the Rainforest Wildlife Tour every day except Monday – knows exactly where each animal lives, which makes spotting them much easier.
Tree kangaroos, dinner – let the night show begin!
Just before sunset, Paul takes us close to a tea plantation, where we spot a tree kangaroo high up. Nobody knows why those rare creatures started to climb trees and live on them, but watch them for a while and you’ll notice their climbing skills have room for improvement.
Dinner (included) is served at Yungaburra’s Swiss-Italian Restaurant: we opt for fish, salad and chips, and finish with a cup of hot chocolate – delicious!
First stop on our night route near Yungaburra township is the Curtain Fig Tree, one of the largest trees in Tropical North Queensland. Like the Cathedral Fig Tree visited earlier during our tour, the Curtain Fig Tree is also a strangler fig.
The curtain effect results from one tree leaning against another tree on a 45-degree angle. The strangler vine then grew along the oblique angle of the leaning tree, dangling 15 metres to the ground to create the curtain affect. Spectacular!
With 80 percent of Australia’s wildlife being night active, after dusk is when you want to be out and about, preferably with a tour guide who knows where to go and what (not) to touch. In complete darkness, we look up and see what seems like thousands of stars dotted together as one almighty Milky Way – the other end of our very own galaxy.
Noises on both sides as we walk along the deserted road, always making sure to stay close to Paul and his skilled eyes. In the tree tops we spot plenty of green tailed possums and other nightly creatures. Magic!
Around 9pm we start our way back to Cairns, listening to a mix of Australian music. Exhausted but full of joy about our encounters with Tropical North Queensland’s wildlife and landscape, we hit the pillows as soon as we are dropped off at our accommodation.
Want more? Visit the Wait a While Facebook page or check their Wait a While Rainforest Wildlife Tour website for availability and rates. Tell Paul we’ve sent you and he might let you taste one of those green tree ants!
Visit our Cairns Green City Destination page for more tips and reviews (coming soon)
Heading South? Make sure to check out our list of recommended things to do and places to stay in Brisbane.
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