The third-hardest part of a Daintree River dawn cruise is selecting one. The second-hardest part is rising well before dawn to get there. But the hardest part of all is getting off the boat when it ends over 2 hours later! Yes, it really is that good!
Although now you’re thinking the pictures look a bit dull, right? Well … this is what happens at dawn on a cloudy day. Deal with it.
We chose a dawn cruise randomly from the plethora of glossy brochures – each with unique claims like ‘original’, ‘local coffee’, ‘photography’, ‘binoculars available’, ‘comfortable seats’, ‘wildlife viewing’ etc etc etc, when in reality all of them are on (surprise!) the Daintree river and all of them spot wildlife.
After narrowing the choice by eliminating ‘photography’ cruises (click HERE
for my views on giant lenses) and cruises focusing on crocodile spotting (croc spotters and birdwatchers are pretty much mutually exclusive), we rang #1 on the order of merit and got an answering service! SO … #2 – Daintree River Wild Watch
– was the lucky winner! Besides, how could we go wrong with a guide called Ian ‘Sauce’ Worcester?!
Our tour’s exotic ethnic distribution – Dominican Republic, Ireland and Aussie – easily trumped that of the rival boatload of giant-lens-clutching-Americans – don’t ask me why they wanted to know, but they DID ask … And with only 4 on our tour, Sauce could devote the time and personal attention we deserved!!
The electric motor propelled us with barely a sound enhancing our bird-spotting, most notably Great Billed Heron
(a lifer!), Azure Kingfisher
, Double Eyed Fig Parrot
and a pair of roosting Papuan Frogmouth
– always a pleasure to actually spot their superb camouflage. While Eclectus Parrot
remained elusive – real birdwatchers will wonder why I’d even THINK of seeing them 5-600 km south of their normal home – Sauce is hopeful a local population may be established by some escapees from the nearby Pt Douglas ‘Habitat’! So there!! Incidentally, Eclectus Parrot is my favourite Australian bird – and I could tell you it’s a fine example of avian sexual dimorphism, but that would just be showing off …
Wild splashing of heavy creatures upriver reminded us of the smallness of the boat relative to, say, a 4 metre (12+ft) crocodile, but Sauce pronounced the splashing most likely to be fish – hippos being unknown in these parts! If so, several small Pacific nations could dine in style for a week on one of those babies. And yes, I shrieked like a girl while passing under a tree with a green tree snake cunningly camouflaged in the branches directly above, but hell … I AM a girl! It makes no difference whatsoever that the green tree snake isn’t venemous. Or that no one has died of green tree snake bite in living memory. As any reasonable person would know!! But I digress …
A post-cruise breakfast in Daintree village on a bird filled verandah (was that Sauce in the next room knocking back a hearty meal?!) prolonged the cruise euphoria. As we reluctantly left this divine spot behind, our departure route followed the stretch of the Daintree river we’d just cruised. As we rounded a bend with a clear view over the river, we experienced our first absolutely unassisted crocodile sighting! Yes, you can see it too if you click on the photo and take a look on the sandbank (one day I MUST get a camera with a bigger zoom …) – that speck on the sandbank is a croc about 3 metres (~10ft) long, and we’d cruised past that same sandbank about an hour before in a tiny boat!! Maybe there’s a closet croc-spotter lurking in this amateur birdwatcher’s heart after all …
Full of the utter fabulousness of our cruise experience, we set off for Julatten and our next appointment – to hunt down the rare Blue-Faced Parrot Finch
! But … that’s another story!!