Coke Smith Photography & Travelogue

Australia's Cape York Peninsula

 A large female Southern Cassowary encountered during a trek in the Daintree Rainforest.


Australia's amazing Cape York is not what most people think of when they think of the Land Down Under.  Home to the world's most ancient rainforest, the Daintree, Cape York is a mosaic of plant habitats ranging from the rainforest to the desert scrublands of the western regions of the peninsula.  I had the privilege of traveling there to design and experience the below programs in 1997.  I have decided to simply paste my itinerary and highlight some of the nature through images that follow.  This was still the era when I rarely focused on capturing quality images of my experiences.  Consequently I have very few scanned slides of the various species I saw.  But,  as I have said before, this is a great reason to simply get back there again!


Be sure to visit our Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)



DAY 1 - ARRIVE CAIRNS: Evening welcome dinner at Cairns Pacific International Hotel.

DAY 2- KURANDA: Day touring from Cairns to visit Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Center and Kuranda Village. The group will participate in an evening wildlife tour of Currowong Sanctuary where we will experience the fascinating animals of the Australian rainforest at night. Accommodation: Kuranda Rainforest Resort.

DAY 3 - CAIRNS - DAINTREE: An early morning departure from Cairns sees us travel north to the picturesque township of Port Douglas for an interesting yet delightful tropical breakfast with the birds at the "Rainforest Habitat". We'll visit the town and its attractions and then head for the township of Mossman, where we'll spend time with the local Kuku Yulanji people who will give you an aboriginal perspective of local culture, foods and medicines. Tonight we stay at the Daintree Eco Lodge. (LD)

DAY 4 - DAINTREE - COOKTOWN: After a early morning cruise on the Daintree River (with the world renowned Chris Dahlberg) that takes in birdwatching with the possibility of sighting of a salt water crocodile, we set off by road and travel to the Daintree Environment Center for a scientific or European approach to the local environment, bush foods and medicines. We'll stop in and visit the Bat House - Cape Tribulation Research Station to learn more about the ecological issues facing the region as well as much natural history of the fascinating flying foxes. Our journey then continues north via the Bloomfield coast road to where the Wet Tropics Rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef. We will see the majestic World Heritage Daintree Rainforest and scenic Cape Tribulation and cross the Bloomfield River. We continue along this road as it becomes steep in places and undulating crossing the numerous rivers and streams to Cooktown. Along the way we'll visit Bloomfield falls, Lion's Den Hotel and Black Mountain. Our overnight stay in Cooktown. (BLD)

DAY 5 - COOKTOWN - VIOLET VALE STATION: Cooktown provides a visit of excitement and interest. We visit Grassy Hill Lookout where Captain Cook climbed everyday to charter a course through this treacherous reef which had already claimed his Bark Endeavor. Our departure from Cooktown sees us travel north on the rugged Battlecamp road toward the Old Laura Station and Lakefield National Park. This area once was three large cattle stations and is now a National Park It is renowned for its numerous lagoons/billabongs and wide-river lake systems making the area home to many birds, waterfowl and other endemic animals. Tonight we stay at the beautiful Lotus Bird Lodge at Violet Vale. (BLD)

DAY 6 - VIOLET VALE - FULL DAY WITH LOCAL NATURALIST GUIDE: Lotus Bird Lodge provides the ideal habitat for over 200 varieties of wading, migratory and resident forest and grassland birds. We take a self-guided nature walk along marked trails to the myriad of rare local plants and flowers. Additionally you may see dingos, wallabies, goannas, frilled lizards, crocodiles and wild pigs. This is the real Cape York wilderness. (BLD)

Australian White Ibis seen looking for invertebrates in one of the many wetlands of Cape York.

DAY 7 - VIOLET VALE - MORETON TELEGRAPH STATION: Departing Lotus Bird Lodge we travel the short distance to Coen and Archer River then through Aboriginal tribal lands, huge cattle runs, bush tracks, open plains and heathlands as we continue further north towards Batavia Downs Station located in the heart of the Peninsula cattle country. We also cross the broad Piccaninny plains to arrive at the swift flowing Wenlock River and set up our camp for some silver service dining and an evening under the beautiful starlit skies on the sandy white river's edge near the old historic Moreton Telegraph Station. (BLD)

DAY 8 - MORETON - FULL DAY WITH LOCAL NATURALIST GUIDE: Today we participate in more birdwatching and canoeing on the Wenlock river (5km) or just relaxing in the sunshine(BLD)

DAY 9 - MORETON TELEGRAPH STATION - TWIN FALLS: Civilization far behind, an exciting day traversing rushing streams and rocky creeks, through forests of ancient zamia palms and eucalypts across heathlands and vast isolated cattle stations. Camp tonight is at Twin Falls, a paradise of waterfalls, rapids and exotic flora. (BLD)

DAY 10 - TWIN FALLS - PUNSAND BAY: Today we travel across the amazing "wet" desert and sandy forests to the mighty Jardine River. Crossing this river on a vehicular barge, we continue on to the township of Bamaga and overnight accommodation at the private Punsand Bay resort. (BLD)

DAY 11 - CAPE YORK - PUNSAND BAY: A day of interest and excitement as we take a scenic drive through monsoon rainforest to Frangipani Beach with just a short walk to the northernmost tip of mainland Australia - Cape York itself. After a photo stop and celebration of the momentous occasion, we tour historic Somerset, once called the "Singapore of the Pacific". We're then back to Punsand Bay this afternoon for our overnight stay. (BLD)

DAY 12 - PUNSAND BAY - THURSDAY ISLAND: We venture across to Thursday Island today via inter island launch through the azure waters of the Torres Straits to visit and explore this legendary island outpost. Visit a colonial fortress, a pearl driver's cemetery, an islander community or shop for pearls or if you like just sit back and take in the unique atmosphere of this timeless land. Your overnight accommodation is at the Jardine Hotel. (BLD)

DAY 13 - RETURN TO CAIRNS-END OF TOUR: Today we return to Cairns by either 2.5-3.0 hr scenic flight in air-conditioned, twin engine turbo prop aircraft or cruise back on the M.V Kangaroo Explorer (see section titled "Cape York Cruise".) (B)

Cape Tribulation



7 DAY Cruise with MV Kangaroo Explorer

DAY 1 (SAT) - THURSDAY ISLAND/CAPE YORK: Board the MV Kangaroo Explorer at 1.30pm for a 2.30pm departure for the northernmost tip of Australia. We go ashore and toast this special occasion.

DAY 2 (SUN) - TROPICAL ISLAND: A beautiful deserted tropical-island for relaxing under the coconut trees, swimming and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters or soaking up the sun on the beach.

DAY 3 (MON) - OUTER BARRIER REEF: We visit a sand cay on the outer reef for coral viewing and fishing to catch the 'big one'. In summer months, giant turtles are often present on and around the cay. Relax and enjoy the beauty of the reefs surrounding us.

DAY 4 (TUE) - LIZARD ISLAND: View the magnificent outer reefs from the vantagepoint of Cook's Lookout. Enjoy a beach barbecue for dinner followed by night coral viewing.

DAY 5 (WED) - COD HOLE/PIXIE PINNACLE: At the world renowned Cod Hole say g'day to giant potato cod and moray eels as they compete for a free feed. Snorkel with them or watch the action from our glass bottom boat. Pixie Pinnacle has magnificent coral outcrops in vertical displays for viewing by diving, snorkeling or from the glass bottom boat.

DAY 6 (THUR) - COOKTOWN: Cooktown provides a morning of absorbing interest. Explore the century old buildings, gardens and the James Cook Museum. Tonight is our farewell party on board where we enjoy a special seafood feast.

DAY 7 (FRI) - CAIRNS: Arrive back in Cairns at approximately 9:00am

Here are some images from my exploratory trip to Cape York in 1997!



This little Eastern Queensland Rock Wallaby (Petrogale species) visited our Kuranda lodge no doubt searching for handouts. 





Agile Wallabies were definitely the most common species encountered during all of my trips to Australia.  This muscular male came to graize the grasses of our lodge in Cape York's Daintree Rainforest.



One of the smallest of all the Kangaroos, this wild Rat Kangaroo came to sample some avacado provided by a guest at the Daintree Ecolodge.  This little rodent-like kangaroo was one of many mammals seen during my trip to the Peninsula.  The sad part was that I did not keep any detailed lists of the trip and I took very few slides!  Guess that means I gotta get back there!



I spent a few days along the Daintree River and came across at least three species of Fruit Bats or Flying Foxes.  This Spectacled Flying Fox was a resident bat near our lodge along the river.





One of the other species seen was this Black Flying Fox.



The spectacular Daintree River, cuts through the heart of the verdent Daintree Rainforest, one of the most ancient rainforests on the planet.



The beach at Cape Tribulation heading north on the Cape York Peninsula. 



A couple Royal Spoonbills seen in one of the many wetlands along the Peninsula.  Our drive took us to many amazing habitats, and the wetlands were filled with bird life.  The many river crossings were as spectacular as they were terrifying!  Thank goodness our vehicles had snorkels!



In the rainforest near Kuranda, I tracked a Southern Cassowary for a couple kms.  I was actually not expecting to find it as I had no idea how fresh the tracks were.  But when I actually came right up on it, I was terrified to see how large this bird was!  And look at her feet!  This bugger could do some serious damage.  No wonder I was warned to take great care if I actually found one.




This Southern Cassowary was as surprised as I when I came up on her in the middle of the dense Daintree rainforest!



I had seen Cockatiels often as pets in the states.  I never thought I would see one in the wild in its native habitat!



This Gallah (Eolophus roseicapilla) was seen daily coming to the feeders at our lodge on the Peninsula.  I would love to one day see the massive flocks of these birds that frequent the interior Outback.  One day...





The birding that could be done right from the porch of our Daintree Rainforest lodge was outstanding!  This Eclectus Parrot was another daily visitor looking for handouts.



And so were these Helmeted Friarbirds!



White-bellied Sea Eagles were a common sight both on the Daintree River and the Cape York coastline.  This one was fishing along the Daintree River.



This Australian Brush Turkey was seen in the jungles near the coast of Cape Tribulation.



This huge White-lipped Tree Frog was caught near our lodge.  He was very cooperative for photos!

Be sure to visit our Photo Galleries for more spectacular images of our travels! (Pbase Galleries)