David Attenborough's Favourite Place On Earth: Your Guide To The World’s Oldest Rainforest
If I asked you what comes to mind when I say “oldest living rainforest”, I’d forgive you for thinking of the Amazon. But it’s actually Australia’s Daintree Rainforest. Did you know this UNESCO World Heritage listed wonderland is actually tens of millions of years older than the Amazon? And, fun fact, it’s the only place on earth you can experience two World Heritage sites side by side—where the Daintree Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. Mind. Blown. As Sir David said himself, it really is one of the most incredible places on earth.
You’ll find the Daintree Rainforest a two-hour drive outside of Queensland’s Cairns and I’d recommend locking in a few days for exploring, 162 Sydney Harbours could fit within it’s borders, after all—and life operates at a much slower, chilled out pace here.
What made Sir David Attenborough describe it as “the most extraordinary place on earth” when he visited? I’d say it could be the fact that it’s the most biologically diverse rainforest on earth, or maybe it’s the plethora of fresh water swimming holes or its intriguing wildlife? It could be its sheer size—as well as being the oldest, the Daintree is also the longest rainforest on earth.
Tick these five things off to find out for yourself. I’ve got a feeling after you visit you’ll agree with Sir David that it’s an “incredible place” you’ll “never want to contemplate not visiting again”.
It makes sense that the world’s oldest rainforest would be home to some of the world’s oldest creatures. Like the southern cassowary, which can only be found here. They’re famous for their horned heads and striking, glossy black plumage accessorised with intensely vibrant colourful necks, think: vivid shades of blues and reds and you’re halfway there. These huge flightless birds—they clock in at around two metres—rely on a diet comprised of only fruit, and we’ve got them to thank for the germination of a whole heap of the Daintree’s flora.
My tip is to head to Etty Beach, a tiny beachside town with all of the tropical, beachy vibes. It’s also home to one of the country’s best kept secret beaches that you’ll likely have all to yourself. If you plan your visit around May to October, you may even be lucky enough to see the male cassowary and their young scrounging the beach for food.
You’ll also find the Ulysses butterfly, tree-kangaroos (yes, this is a real thing!), the spotted-tailed quoll, and even crocodiles within the Daintree’s borders.
Surprise! The Daintree is home such high calibre of tea any Brit will feel at home. Daintree Tea operates in the middle of the Daintree Rainforest where they grow their pesticide free, Australian blend of black tea. A visit to Far North Queensland isn’t compete without a drop of this local brew, and you’ll find it most of the cafes you visit while you’re in town. Stop by, drop some cash in the honesty box and head home with some of the best tea you’ll ever try. It’s a true bucket-list moment for any tea-loving Brit.
I know—this one’s a given, but let me explain. You really can’t visit the area without exploring every corner of the rainforest. From the easier trails like the Baral Marrjanga track at Mossman Gorge that spans an easily accomplished 270 metres, to the Mount Sorrow track which takes you up a 7km incline and will take a whole day to complete, you really owe it to yourself to walk through the rainforest and truly immerse yourself.
The freshwater swimming holes are incredible too, and the perfect antidotes to a sweaty walk through the tropics. Your trip won’t be complete without visiting one of my favourite places, Mossman Gorge, and taking a dip in the crystal clear, mountain-fresh waters that wrap around its smooth rock formations. There’s also another personal favourite, Cassowary Falls that is set to take your Insta-game next level.
When you think rainforest you instantly think Zen, calming vibes. For an experience akin to one of those relaxing tracks you put on to fall asleep, one simply must visit the Daintree EcoLodge and Spa. With the help of the Kuku Yalanji elders, their spa treatments call on the wisdom of the area’s ancient Aboriginal healing practices. There’s also a drool-worthy onsite restaurant that needs to be tasted to be believed. If you’re game to eat crocodile, it’s best done here paired with baby cos, green chilli and lemon grass dressing. Same goes for the kangaroo tataki that comes served with miso cream, Daintree tea soaked egg and wasabi granola. My tip is to sign up for a cooking class while you’re staying too, so you can (attempt!) to recreate this deliciousness at home.
To see where the two World Heritage areas meet, head to Cape Tribulation.
To get there, you’ll need to take the famous ferry across the Daintree River (keep an eye out for crocs!) and enter pure, unadulterated bliss mode. Phone reception is rare, so this is the modern day answer to a full-on digital detox. Think empty beaches that seem to never end, horseback rides through the crystal clear, 28-degree waters and days spent island hopping and exploring the reef. Pure. Bliss.