AUSTRALIA: Where the wild things are

“I knew I should have brought a torch,” mutters my dad as we wheel our luggage trolley down the unlit hill by the flickering light of our mobile phones. The four of us clutch tightly to one another as the damp Daintree rainforest, some of the oldest on the planet, pulsates noisily around us and imagined snakes slither across our path.

When we pulled into the deserted car park of Cape Trib Beach House at quarter past nine, the reception area had been locked up with not a person in sight. In the thick black air, we had started to panic.

But, like magic, a sign appeared pointing us down to the bistro at the foot of the hill, with a note saying we could pick up our keys there.

We reach the bistro with a sigh of relief and, although a much needed welcome beer seems out of the question, we manage to get our keys and clamber into our wooden huts. We nervously check beneath the beds, fasten the windows tight, crank up the a/c and pass out cold.

Sleep and sunlight work wonders. When bright chinks of light creep through the shutters, we unfasten the doors and windows and throw them open to reveal lush and leafy rainforest surrounding us. The ominous howls of the night before are now replaced with bird song and the shrieks with croaking frogs. Crayon coloured butterflies zigzag among the rich green leaves of Cape Tribulation.

While simple, the wooden cabins are a skip and a jump away from an unspoilt stretch of beach where the trees tower over bright white sands. This is the only place in the world where two World Heritage areas collide as the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef run beside each other along the coastline of far north Queensland.

Sweat sticky, the calm clear waters beg us to jump in. But we’re here in the wet season, when the volume of dangerous stingers in the water makes swimming a bad idea. Add the rumours of saltwater crocs that lurk in the shallows and we’re more than happy to stick to the swimming pool.

When the sky clouds over, we decide to head further into the forest. The world heritage area is best explored by 4WD giving you the freedom to take on the dirt tracks which lead to unspoilt waterfalls and sparkling swimming creeks. Go far enough along the Bloomfield Track and you’ll reach historic Cooktown, perhaps spotting one of the quirky local cassowarries along the way.

But with evening closing in, we decide to stay closer to home. The Daintree Discovery Centre features a network of aerial walkways through the rainforest canopy, with oodles of information about the surrounding flora and fauna.

Leaving just enough time for a quick dip in the pool before dinner.

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