An amazing rainforest jungle, fringed by white sandy beaches and a rugged mountain backdrop – Cape Tribulation is paradise!
WORDS BY BOB BOWERS, PHOTOGRAPHY BY BOB AND PHYLLIS BOWERS
Our journey of discovery through Cape Tribulation began at the Daintree River Ferry, a floating bridge that takes you to the world heritage listed wet tropics. The ferry is also the only 2WD access point. At Cape Tribulation, rainforest stretches in a rugged strip from the Daintree River to the Bloomfield River in the north, with McDowall Range to the west. Sloping steeply up from the coast it’s dominated by Thornton Peak, which stands at a whopping 1374m. Here you will discover a rich mosaic of tropical rainforest, mangroves, swamps, crystal creeks and beautiful beaches. The unique fauna of the forests includes the shy nocturnal Bennett’s tree kangaroo and the endangered cassowary. A living museum!
Our first destination was Lync- Haven Camp, found on Cape Tribulation Road. This place offers a truly unique rainforest setting, with all the creature comforts. We set up camp completely surrounded by dense tropical rainforest, before starting our exploration along the 45km Cape Tribulation Road. A journey that took us from the ferry in the south to Emmagen Creek in the north, then beyond, to Bloomfield Falls.
In the south, the Jindalba boardwalk and picnic area is a good introduction to the magnificent rainforest. Here you will find giant buttressed trees, exotic palms – including the aptly named fan palm, strangler figs slowly killing their hosts and numerous ferns including the giant King Fern. Nearby is the must see The Discovery Centre. There was so much to see and take in that we made sure our Interpretive Guide Book was signed so we could return free for the following seven days. An excellent audio-visual interpretive guide explains the flora and fauna of the jungle. The extensive system of elevated board walks and canopy tower provide different perspectives from ground level, mid story level and upper story of the lush unspoilt greenery. There is an excellent reptile display, many interactive displays and the Eco Shop has a cafe and souvenirs to purchase.
The first thing we noticed at the camp was the lack of caravans. This may be due to a number of reasons – the narrow and winding roads and the floating bridge are two that spring to mind. However, the only restriction we noticed may be for very large rigs, as they might find it difficult to negotiate the twists and turns. Especially if a big local truck is met coming the other way. However, most vanners won’t have an issue getting here.
During our stay at Lync-Haven we made the most of the free wildlife experience offered to campers with some delightful short rainforest walks through the jungle and along a small clear creek. On the walks we could not help but notice the large number of cassowary droppings – a tell-tale sign they were close by! Most visitors to the Trib want to see two things, cassowaries and crocodiles. As the days passed one of these elusive birds began to emerge from the forest, with juvenile chick in tow. We watched as they wandered through Lync-Haven, stopping every now and then to gulp down something they liked. One day they stuck around for a couple of hours. On our last day the adult emerged on its own. The teenager had, at last, left home.
In and around the restaurant at Lync-Haven is a collection of reptiles and exotic tropical birds. One of the Eclectus parrots accompanied our host Justin when he did the rounds while others were let out every morning to delight visitors. Every couple of days Justin let all the guests know that he was about to feed Doris, the three metre croc, followed by feeding of the very cute swamp wallabies. Justin has recently taken over the Lync-Haven Park and once it is set up properly, he intends on running low cost family friendly wildlife tours and feedings.
Leaving Lync-Haven, we headed north along Cape Tribulation Road and took a few little detours to check out the sites. One day we stopped in at the Daintree Tea Company, where tea connoisseurs can purchase tea from an honesty box. We found a little local secret whilst there – Daintree Tea can be purchased at most location on the Trib but it is a fraction of the price straight from the farm. On another day we ventured a few hundred metres off the Cape Trib Road to visit Jungle Bugs and Butterflies. They boast the largest collection of rare and exotic butterflies and beetles in Australia. Once inside we realised that this was not an idle boast. The number of creepy crawlies is enormous and the range extraordinary
The Cape Trib Road initially swings to the coast, following Thorton Beach. We were lucky to find the delightful Thorton Beach Kiosk, an ideal place to stop for a cuppa, or fish and chips. Situated right on the sand, you have the choice of indulging on the verandah that overlooks the water, or taking your treats down to sit on the long, wide beach.
Our next stop was at Oliver Creek, where the 1.2km Marrja walk meanders through rainforest before a boardwalk offers a mud free opportunity to admire sculptured mangrove plants and their tentacle like roots. Near the start of the track is a beautiful strangler fig that arches up looking like a piece of some giant’s lace work.
Not far away is Noah Beach and the National Park Campground – possibly the best beach anywhere up north. The turquoise waters at noah beach, with fringing rainforest and mountainous backdrop, are truly spectacular. As a bonus, it can only be accessed through the camping ground so there are less people here than at other beaches. The campground is the only low cost freedom style camping possibility on the Trib but it’s not for all caravans or motorhomes. Tight track access, no real provision for caravans and relatively small camping bays exclude rigs longer than about seven or eight metres. To make sure our small rig would be able to negotiate the tight track and fit the camping bays we drove there while staying at Lync-Haven to check it out. Of the fifteen sites less than half were large enough. Spaces go very quickly so we booked ahead choosing a suitable site from those listed as ‘not booked’ on the National Parks Website. Unfortunately, there is no mobile phone coverage in the campground but we could get limited coverage on the beach. Technology difficulties aside, Noah really is a beautiful and tranquil place to camp. Our stay there was far too short.
Getting back on the Cape Tribulation road, we found Masons Cafe and swimming. Masons specialises in Aussie wild game cuisine, like camel, wild boar, buffalo, kangaroo, emu and crocodile. After dining on the wild side we took a dip in the crystal clear swimming hole complete with rope swing! Not far from Masons Café is the Dubuji track. This 1.2km boardwalk winds through lowland rainforest, swamps and mangroves. A shorter walk goes to Myall Beach.
At last we reached Cape Tribulation. Named by Lt James Cook in 1770, but known as Kulki by the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people. Once we arrived, we took the short Kulki walk and were lead to a platform overlooking Myall Beach – a sheltered bay popular for sea kayaking. After this we headed north up the dirt road for about six kilometres to Emmagen Creek and Emmagen Beach. Emmagen Beach marks the end of the 2WD access. A walking track up stream leads to a popular croc free swimming hole and another goes east to a pebbly beach with a great view of Cape Tribulation to the south.
If you have a 4WD there is one further destination that is certainly worth the effort. From Emmagen Creek north is an easy 4WD track, the Bloomfield Track, to Bloomfield Falls. It’s about 30km to the falls, but we allowed a whole day to get there. The track is not difficult, but the going is slow. The 40m high Bloomfield Falls capped off our discovery and exploration of Cape Tribulation and, unlike Cook, no tribulation for us.
It’s all about camping, crocs, cassowaries and crystal clear creeks along cape tribulation road. So, vanners and motorhomers plan your own voyage of discovery across the Daintree for a tribulation free exploration of the Cape where Cook’s Endeavour was, in his words, “stuck and stuck fast.”