Jurassic Park – The Daintree River   4 comments

For all you movie goers out there, no need to wait until the release of Jurassic Park IV. I can give you a taster right now. For, in Tropical North Queensland there are real living dinosaurs!!

Well almost. The Daintree river is is final barrier to northward coastal travel in Queensland and boat trips along its lazy course are a popular local excursion to see its varied wildlife. We chose Solar Whisper Tours and my review is here. We were fed with biscuits and local tea from the rainforest before we to jumped on board.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

It’s a stunning place. Mangroves and rainforest overhanging a broad and muddy river, backed by towering mountains. The guide was hugely knowledgeable and his solar-powered boat pretty much silent, allowing you to really get the feel of the place without it feeling like a brash and noisy tour. Almost immediately we were up close to a local Egret (Large or Intermediate, I’m not sure) fishing on the muddy banks.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

And then we saw our first dinosaur. Lazing on the mud bank, a few hundred yards and a few minutes walk from where I left the car was a 3.5m Saltwater Crocodile

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

Now clearly they are not dinosaurs in the true sense of the word but I’m not quibbling. Crocs have been around, and are little changed, since the age of the dinosaurs. It really is rather hard to explain what it’s like being this close to a top predator and carnivore in its natural habitat. We were no more than 10 feet away in the boat and it’s quite a sensation looking into the cold eyes of a killer.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

They are very territorial and easily recognisable to locals. This one is called Dusty, a female who lives in this lower stretch of the river. By local standards she’s just a mid-size one but all the same she’s magnificent

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

We moved on up the river, spotting the birdlife which while plentiful is extremely hard to capture in a photo

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

We also spotted a couple of young juvenile Crocs hiding in amongst the vegetation. This one is about a metre long, capable of giving you a nasty nip if you give him a chance.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

We took a side branch where the water shallowed and the banks closed in. Dense vegetation and orchids clinging to the branches. Everything you expect from a jungle river.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

Then ahead I caught sight of a mud bank with a jagged edge. The tail of another of the rivers Crocs. This one is Elizabeth. Much larger than Dusty she’d been engaged in a territorial battle with another female called Margaret and had won. This was now her patch of river

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

She looks rather smug and self-satisfied with that grin don’t you think.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

If you look at the mud you can see the claw marks where she hauled herself out. Must be something to see them in action rather than at rest. Everyone on the boat was silent, speechless and transfixed. Elizabeth just has that look that says “I know you are there, and this is my domain. Step out of that boat at your peril”. An extraordinary experience.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

One of the smaller and less deadly creatures of the forest is the Azure Kingfisher. We had one for company most of the trip but as it flits about the branches it’s hard to get a clear shot. These is my best effort.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

As we emerged from the far end of the creek the views opened and were truly spectacular. The silent river, the mountains, forest and its residents all there for us to enjoy.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

We drifted down the river heading for home again. Dusty had moved down to waters edge and had decided to give us a much more fearsome look. I can’t recall now whether she had opened her jaws to cool down or warm up but whatever she looked terrifying. Being able to see right into that gaping mouth was a jaw dropper – or jaw opener as it were. The light wasn’t great so the photos aren’t the best but I think they give you the impression. She wasn’t doing anything terribly ferocious, just laying there, motionless with her mouth open but it was enough to make me shudder

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

The big resident of the area is called Scarface. Apparently he was out and about earlier in the day but he was now somewhere under the water. Quite a sobering thought as he’s a 4.5 specimen. Crocs can sink to the river bottom and pretty much shut down their main body systems and lay dormant down there for hours. Hopefully

Our boat was 15m long and 3m wide so far too big for any Croc to take on. However our guide pointed out a couple of fishermen on the banks in a tiny, tinny boat and said that Scarface could have that one over in a flash. Most croc attacks and fatalities are a result of the victim doing something dim. Swimming in a river where Crocs are resident, fishing with feet dangling in the water, fishing from tiny little boats, that sort of thing (another Croc story coming in a later post).

Most Aussies are very dismissive of the stated dangers of their native wildlife, spiders, snakes, sharks and the like. The normal reaction is that dangers are way over-stated. We were lucky enough to go on several nature walks with well-informed guides who repeated this view. When it comes to Crocs however their mood changes. Even Australians are scared of Crocs and that’s saying something. They are intelligent, patient and perfectly engineered hunters within their own domain. The fact they are little changed over millions of years tells you that. Our guide told us that if you go fishing in a Crocs territory at the same day and time regularly he’ll work you out and one day he’ll be waiting for you. Now that’s scary. They deserve and get ultimate respect. I was and still am completely overwhelmed having seen these predators in their natural environment, a few hundred yards from the car

We finished off with another display by the local Egret and a last lingering view across the water to the Daintree Rainforest.

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

daintree, daintree river, solar whisper, saltwater crocodile, dusty, elizabeth, scarface, azure kingfisher, little pied cormorant, great egret, intermediate egret

We were only out for just over an hour but it was an hour I don’t think I’ll forget in a hurry. Much better than the film 🙂

Advertisements

4 responses to “Jurassic Park – The Daintree River

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Your daughter has definitely perfected the looking-cool-with-sunglasses look!

    Like

  2. I concur – you are both absolutely spot on! Heh heh!
    Wow. Again.
    I was just thinking how superb the animal/bird photos were when I scrolled down to the first view, which raised the bar even higher! Fantastic.
    We saw alligators in Florida (almost exactly 13 years ago – it was Christmas) which are much smaller I suppose, but awe inspiring too. One of them did get rather angry with our boat, which, although rationally I knew we were safe, was still quite intimidating. Great stuff.

    Like

    beatingthebounds
    • I was being ironic – we are all, like, soooo cool! 🙂

      Not sure Alligators are any smaller. It’s the fact that Saltwater Crocs are so intelligent, ruthless and ferocious that makes them scary

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: