It’s one of the oldest continually growing rainforests in the world. It presents an unparalleled record of the evolutionary process according to UNESCO and contains the living relicts of the Gondwanan era.
It is North Queensland’s Wet Tropics running 450km down the great state coast covering almost 9000 km2 from just south of Cooktown to just north of Townsville.
It was our location for the second day of filming for a half hour special on the Queensland Coast – which has a great deal more to offer than just finding Nemo (that comes later in the show). Away from the coastline, the white sandy beaches and coral gardens, North Queensland has so much to entice and intrigue visitors, the region’s beauty is unparalleled and it is not to be missed.
We were shooting with Hidden Valley Tours in the Girringun National Park. Our aim was to film Australia’s tallest single drop waterfall, Wallaman Falls, but it was raining, as it often is in the rainforest. I was hopeful that by some power of divine intervention the clouds would part enough for us to get a shot of the falls when we finally got there, that was after driving for around an hour and a half… they didn’t.
When you’re on a tight shooting schedule as they say ‘the show must go on’, I had to come up with a contingency, what we were going to talk about in lieu of no waterfall? Our guide Ross had told us that a few Cassowaries call this area home, a few was exactly that. Maybe a couple of hundred across several hundreds of acres, but again I was still hopeful.
We looked and looked, scouring the bush, looking for droppings on the road but nothing.
Then just as we were coming out of the dense rainforest and the canopy was opening up, Ross was about to tell us all hope of seeing the biggest bird in the rainforest was lost when, who should stroll up the road but our feathered friend the Cassowary. Thank you mother nature!
To be on the safe side we stayed in the car and assessed the situation, we didn’t want to alarm her or put ourselves in any danger. Standing up to two metres tall it’s not the horn like structure on a cassowary’s head to be weary of but their huge feet and claws that will cause a lot of damage. They are fairly shy animals though so if you stay out of their way they’re really not up for confrontation.
We sank back a comfortable distance in the car and trailed big bird as she meandered up the road, I didn’t blame her for taking the cleared route opting for the bitumen, the rainforest is dense in these parts and the smooth carved track must be a nice change of pace. It’s also why there are so many caution signs in this area to drive slowly.
She wasn’t fussed by our stalking and kept about her business which was amazing to watch. It’s one thing to see an animal in a zoo but it’s an entirely different experience to be in their home, their natural habit and see them just going about their daily routine.
Ross told us how cassowaries are such an integral part of the rainforest, they eat fruit whole, seeds and all, so they are very important in spreading these seeds as they travel around thus ensuring the future of the rainforest.
Jenny Aitkins who was travelling with us on the trip told us about the work of Rainforest Rescue an organization she supports that is all about conservation of this precious ecosystem in North Queensland, an area important for the Cassowary. They buy up parts of the rainforest that would otherwise be developed and regenerate them for the wildlife – extremely significant work when you hear about these precious areas being cleared and animal populations struggling.
After the excitement of the cassowary spotting our wildlife encounters for the day weren’t over yet. Ross’s family run Hidden Valley Cabins which was where we were laying our heads for the night, we arrived late but his mum and dad, Ian and Bonnie had everything ready for a family dinner with them. This also included their resident possum poking it’s head out to see what we were up to! “She does this almost every night,” Bonnie said like he was just part of the furniture, as the possum scurried along the wall and off into the night.
The adventure continues – what we saw exploring Paluma Range National Park with Hidden Valley Tours (coming soon).