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Queensland: Wildlife Wonderland

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From the air it's possible to take in both of Queensland's World Heritage sites. On one side stretches the Daintree rainforest. On the other, the Great Barrier Reef punctuates the otherwise impossibly blue sea.

Both of the sites are packed full of wildlife of all shapes and sizes. From creepy to adorable and big to small, north Queensland really does have it all. Australia is more diverse than any other developed country on earth and there's no better place than Queensland to take it in.

Both reef and rainforest are an integral part of Aboriginal culture. As well as a home to many indigenous people, the rainforest has also in the past been a hunting ground, as has the reef. Plants found in the rainforest have formed the backbone of traditional medicine.

Despite their protected status, the local indigenous people are also allowed to hunt turtles and dugong. This concession is an effort by the government to conserve indigenous culture. Our guide, Brandon Walker of The Bama Way, explained that the creatures are hunted only for special occasions – weddings and funerals – in order to protect the species.

The Jungle Book

Bumping along the Captain Cook highway with Adventure North, our guides for the day, we venture further north into the Daintree river area. Signs of civilisation dwindle and Cassowary warning signs become more common.

The Cassowary often crops up in backpacker mythology. As big as an ostrich, the male of the species cares for the babies – and woe betide anyone who interferes. Scare stories abound of foolish travellers disembowelled by the bird's huge, clawed toes. We were assured that it doesn't happen very often, but didn't try too hard to find one!

On a short stop at the indigenous culture centre at Mossman Gorge we're thrilled to find a Boyd's Forest Dragon. The knock-kneed chameleon lookalike is almost as well camouflaged and at over a foot long, it's one of the most impressive lizards we see.

Crocodile Tears

The far north of Queensland is prime croc-spotting territory and once you see them, they're everywhere. On the Bloomfield river with the Daintree River Cruise Company I spot six in one morning. The amphibians warm themselves in the sun early in the day before slipping back into the water before the midday heat sets in.

The biggest crocodile ever seen on the river was eight metres long – bigger than the boat we went out in. Not only could it fit me in more than four times over, but crocs have the most powerful bite in the world.

Needless to say that warnings about swimming in the sea around the mouth were heeded gladly.

Up and away

The next day after chasing an interloping cow off the runway we take off. The tiny Cessna we're flying in provides panoramic views of the whole Daintree area - a lush, green oasis.

From the air it's possible to see just how close the two World Heritage sites get. In some places the rainforest meets the beach, providing a beautiful contrast from the air.

It's also possible to see the beautiful rose gum eucalyptus trees sticking out of the rainforest canopy. These enormous trees can grow to more than 80 metres tall and they're home to some of Queensland's cutest creatures.

Colonies of sugar gliders often live in the rose gum trees. Alan Gillanders, our guide, tells us that these small marsupials have skin membranes which link their front and back legs. This means that they can glide between trees and rarely have to go down to ground level.

Wildlife Wonderland

Queensland is a place of outstanding natural beauty, attested to by its two World Heritage sites. But they aren't the only places to spot wildlife in tropical north Queensland. On my trip I also spotted a possum a few metres from a car-park and a tree-frog on the roof.

Everywhere you turn in Queensland there are cool critters to see. Whether they be cute and cuddly or scary and badass, there's something for everyone.

www.experiencequeensland.com




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