Wild Tails of Far North Queensland

I’m writing this blog piece in a rain forest cottage in Far North Queensland (FNQ), in an inland region known as the Atherton Tablelands. We arrived here after a couple of weeks of exploring the FNQ coast: Magnetic Island, Port Douglas, Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

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After a month travelling in the Kimberley, this part of Australia initially felt rather tame to us. We arrived in Townsville after four days of almost continuous driving, and immediately felt a sense of anti-climax. It was as if we’d left the real wilderness and our most exciting adventures behind us in Western Australia, and had landed right back in civilization.

Nearly three weeks later, some of that sense remains. There’s no doubt that even the most beautiful and remote parts of Queensland are more commercialised than the land out west. But the longer we stay here, the more we’re appreciating this region’s unique qualities, top of which are its incredibly diverse topography and wildlife. Where the Kimberley’s appeal comes from its raw, untouched vastness, FNQ’s comes from its little pockets of paradise, and especially from its abundant and accessible animal and birdlife.

Right now, as I write this post, I’m looking out over a rainforest canopy that is home to the rare Lumholtz tree kangaroo, and down to a river where Australia’s smallest breed of platypus is busy fattening itself up, ready for the new breeding season.

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We’ve spent a lot of time trying to spot these tree kangaroos and platypuses- people have to work very hard to catch a glimpse, which makes spotting them even more exciting. The tree kangaroos hide in the top of the canopy, 30 feet up, and the platypuses duck and dive in and out of the river banks and among the reeds. Both animals are very shy and difficult to photograph, even with a telephoto lens.

The birdlife is easier to see here in the Atherton Tablelands, and it’s out of this world. It’s all around us in the rainforest where we’re staying (outside the small town of Malanda), but it’s even more spectacular in the areas of dry forest and savanna, just a few miles from here. One morning, we headed out at 5am to a place known as the Mareeba Wetlands, which is birder heaven. There, as the sun rose over the lagoons, we saw the Tawny Frogface (see if you can spot him in the slideshow below – he’s almost camouflaged against the bark of the tree he’s sleeping in), Gouldian Finch, Pygmy-Goose, White Throated Honeyeater, Collared Kingfisher, Red-Winged Parrot, and other exquisite birds. We also saw flocks of Black and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and Magpie Geese, and a single, angry-looking Emu, who looked as if he’d like to give me another black eye.

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Before we escaped the heat and humidity of the coast, we spent some time in Daintree and Cape Tribulation. We were keen to see some Salt Water Crocodiles for ourselves, having heard the tales of their ferociousness and cunning. We knew we’d have to be careful, and in fact stories of recent fatal crocodile attacks in Daintree were still fresh in our minds, making us very cautious on the beaches and around the estuaries. We were also hoping we might see the famous Cassowary – a giant and very strange-looking flightless bird, which is the second heaviest in the world (after the ostrich), and although rare and shy, is apparently also potentially dangerous to humans and dogs (like so much of Australia’s wildlife). We were lucky enough to see both, as well as some beautiful snakes. Thankfully, all were far enough away that they weren’t able to enjoy us (or Bailey and Saffy) for lunch. Oh man though – don’t those salties look mean? Believe it or not, the ones we photographed are relatively small at four to five meters apiece. They grow a lot bigger, and the larger they get, the more likely they are to consider humans as prey. They really are the stuff of nightmares.

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And now for something cuddly: Rock Wallabies and their babies – possibly the cutest animals I’ve ever seen! Their only possible equal is the adorable Koala. Luckily for us, both are still seen in the wild on Magnetic Island, where we rented a little bush hut for a few days. We loved it there so much that we’re heading back again in just over a week. During our first visit, we were still recovering from our amazing (but tiring) experiences in the Kimberley, so we didn’t venture very far off the beaten track. This time, we’ll head into the wilder parts of the island, and hopefully see even more of these gorgeous creatures.

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4 thoughts on “Wild Tails of Far North Queensland

  1. I am vicariously living through these pictures. Makes the Hackney wild life (!) seem very tame. Gorgeous photos and a life time of memories for you and Al, you will make fantastic octengenarian dinner party guests as we all sit gin soaked in a retirement home somewhere 😻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Tanya, great blog!! Loved all your photos. Hope your travels are going well. We are currently at Ningaloo Reef. I have started blogging again, though still a bit behind. Hoping to catch up in the next few days. Cheers xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Beatrice – so great to hear from you! Will check your blog for updates on your adventures. We’re heading to Stanage Bay tomorrow s long as the rain storms don’t close the road in. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
      By the way, we’re still missing the Kimberley – are you? X


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