Just when the eastern coast of Australia had started to feel a bit repetitive, we got to Daintree, a real-life Ferngully of lush, vine-draped jungle. The Daintree Rainforest, the oldest in the world, is essentially floor-to-ceiling green with spots of brilliant blue and yellow fluttering by and the occasional fuzzy brown spot, either a wallaby foraging on the ground or speckled flying foxes circling above.
The entire place feels so alive. The bugs buzzing create a constant, gentle background noise. Birds chirp and chatter above. Vines and branches move rapidly back and forth in the wind, sails swiveling on their masts to find the best access to sunlight and precious drops of rain that escaped capture in the vast canopy above.
Daintree National Park is only an hour-ish north of Port Douglas, which is an hour north of Cairns. We opted to stay in Port Douglas both because it is smaller and less rowdy than Carins and because of its proximity to Daintree. Looking back, that was definitely the right call.
Within our first 15 minutes in the park, we saw two cassowaries walking across the road and into the woods. Cassowaries are equally beautiful and funny looking, with bright blue and red coloring on their heads as well as horn-like helmets made of bone, which can be deadly if they attack.
It's rare to see cassowaries, even though they're native to the region, because they're an endangered species, with as few as 2,000 estimated to remain today. Oh, and cassowaries are BIG. They're the third largest living bird behind the ostrich and emu, both of which we've seen in the wild this year.
Somehow we always seem to get lucky with rare wildlife! (Remember our leopard encounter, you guys??)
After our exciting cassowary sighting, we continued to explore Daintree, checking out the sandy beaches (minding the "beware of crocodiles" signs) and going on a few short hikes through mangrove forests. Along the way, we saw some huge spiders and tons of colorful tropical flowers.
After a day under the palms and ferns, we rode the ferry across the river and drove back to Port Douglas to hang out for the night. The next day, Mike would go scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef! (Still injured, Grace sat this one out but would be back in the water soon enough!)