Daintree Forest I
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Above the tropical state of Queensland, it's quite a view of the long winding coastline joins the thick and dark carpet of tropical rain forests and the turquoise coral sea. Here lies two equally rich, virile, diverse, and colorful ecosystems, so intimately closed yet so dramatically different. Who would doubt that life is a wonderful thing? Separated a thin line of sandy beaches, on one side is the 2600 km-long Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest and most colorful structure built by living organisms, home of over 1,500 species of fishes and over 5,000 species of mollusks, the ultimate playground for divers and snorkelers. That we shall explore in a different chapter. On the other side is the largest contiguous rainforest in Australia, the Daintree Forest, which covers some 1,200 square kilometers. This is merely some 0.2% of the Australia soil, however, 65% of Australia's bat and butterfly species, 30% of frogs and marsupial species, as well as 20% of bird species have been found here. This carnival of wildlife, we'll enter right now.
The 135 million-year-old Daintree Forest the oldest tropical rain forest in the world. It's been sitting on the tropic since the whole world's dry land was one single piece, before they drifted away and became separate continents. It was added as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1988. Here are some highlights of the colorful rain forest.
The Daintree Forest is separated from the rest of the world by the Daintree River. The only way to cross the river is by this small ferry, which stops to operate from time to time due to bad weather. Got to be very careful when crossing the river, you see, it's full of crocodiles. Well, anyway, we survived the trip across the river and looked forward to more stimulating events ahead.
A trip deep into the forest requires a proper 4x4 like our Toyota Landcruiser, and of course an experienced driver. Here's why. We're stuck in front of this river because a tree fell down in the rain storm last night and block the trail. Our driver first waded across the river, both to test the water depth and to examine the log. In the forest, road conditions and depth/flow rate of the river change from day to day. Finally he decided that we can remove the log and drive through.
He tied the log with a long rope and hauled it with the truck... It took us several tries and finally the log drift away.
So it goes on and on, from time to time there's another river and again our driver jumped into it to check and then said OK, we can cross it. Sometime the river is too wide and deep, there got to be someone stay in the water to guide the way. Sometime we see pedestrian cross the road, and we'll have to yield (last pic).
So we've entered the rainforest, all green, hot and humid...
And every single inch of it is thriving with life...
...But of course there's another side of the friendly forest. For instance, you may easily overlook this apparently innocent palm tree and got stung by thousands of needle when you walked by. I was told the sting could last for hours, which will make sure you remember the name "Hairy Mary" for a while (first 2 pix). Similar hospitable features include the "Wait-a-while" vine (1 pic), which works exceptionally well in detaining loose clothes. And there're other little creatures that can make your heart skip a beat...
A Night Walk. About 10pm, when the everyone quiet down and about to sleep, we walked into the forest. We were surprised how lively the place is. Frogs and crickets are diligently working on their love song. Stick insects apparently are far ahead of the game (3rd pix). Dragon and birds (last pic) are taking naps, so we can take a closer look.
The Edge of the forest is the sandy beaches decorated by mangrove trees.
Qing was having fun with this fearless little fella, who was threateningly waving its oversized claw. In the last pic, our guide was holding a sprouting coconut. You can actually pick up ripe coconuts everywhere on the beach.
Flowers in the tropical forest are just riveting.
Fungi flourish in such humid, dim, and hot environment.
Next, check out the wildlife in the forest.
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