Aaron Port stands under a thick canopy of leaves. Its black eyes look for nests in branches where green ants have settled. As soon as he has found her, he is already crawling on her hands and arms.
Aaron grabs one of the plush ants and offers to try it: “Put it in your mouth and swallow it,” he says. “They taste of lemon.” But the expected effect is much more important than their taste: Green ants are said to relieve sore throat and cold symptoms.
On this tour, humans pass on the knowledge learned from the generations of their ancestors. He is the Kuku Yalanji, Aboriginal people who live in tropical North Queensland – where millennia-old rainforests meet the sea.
palm leaves for headache
Haroon, who is called Kalakadudu in the language of his people, knows many plants that help in the treatment of various diseases.
“Sea lettuce”, Sea lettuce, is the name of a meter-high shrub with large light green leaves that grow upright on Wonga Beach, north of Port Douglas. Its leaves cool the sun-scorched skin.
The narrow, elongated leaf of a screw palm, which is rough inside, is tied with a string around the head and goes about its normal business. “This rough texture acts like a massage, it helps relieve headaches.”
The rainforest is full of plants that can help with ailments and diseases, says Aaron. Indigenous-led walkabout tours around Port Douglas provide a good insight into the healing powers of the shrubs, trees and shrubs that grow so lush in tropical climates.
By gondola through the oldest rainforest in the world
Visitors can best view lush nature aboard the Cairns SkyRail, a gondola that soars above the rainforest canopy.
It is said to have formed 135 million years ago and is believed to be the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet. For this reason, UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in the 1980s.
At Red Peak, the first station of the gondola, a path leads through a dense forest. Everything seems to be moving in all directions. Plants are finding their way in the struggle for sunlight. “Everyone needs to see that they become growth winners,” says SkyRail’s Marnie Cade.
The second stop offers a spectacular view of Barron Falls. They are called “Din Din” by the local Jabugnidji and have been considered a sacred site for thousands of years. During the rainy season between December and March, Baron Falls turns into a lush green waterfall. Visitors have the best view from the boardwalk leading up to the gorge from the gondola.
At the last cable car station in Kuranda, it’s no longer the rainforest that plays the lead, but the eclectic space itself: a mix of hippie oasis and Instagram spot.
Under . in millennia old lava tube
Inland, 250 km south-west of Cairns, is opposite the rain forest.
Andarra Volcanic National Park awaits here, or the “Undara Experience”. At least that’s what landlords advertise. And it’s an experience, from the drive from Mareba several kilometers through the lava caves that formed here thousands of years ago.
The forest disappears, instead only a few eucalyptus trees, grasses, sparse shrubs and giant termite mounds can be seen. The earth is becoming sandy and red – just like on the hostile outskirts.
Sonya Fardell goes on exploration tours with visitors, as the sandy trails through the savanna are not open to the public. And you should also be familiar with caves. “They were created when the last volcanoes here erupted.”
That was 190,000 years ago. Lava flowed from the bottom of the river, forming caves under which hot rock continued to flow. A 160 km long cave system was created. Only in Andara is the access to some stretches so well developed that you can walk a few hundred meters to the various cave sections.
It’s really exciting when night has fallen on the savannah. “Thousands of bats live in caves, and they are active in the dark,” Sonya says. They feed on insects that roam here – and in turn they feed on pythons and brown snakes that live around the burrows.
Marsupials are on their way to breakfast
The day begins early in the morning with bush brekki, a rustic breakfast over an open fire, just like the first settlers in the mid-19th century with their cattle and covered wagons did every day. Coffee comes from tin cans, everyone is responsible for their toast. Slices brown in metal rack over fire. A real challenge at seven in the morning.
The path from the Holiday Village to the breakfast area offers a good chance to see some kind of kangaroo, wallaby or philander in the tall grass. Marsupials eagerly keep spreading their heads. And mothers have not only a young animal, but also often a “joy”, a baby in their pouch.
“Marsupial moms are really always pregnant,” says Margit Cianelli. He also owns Lumholtz Lodge in Upper Barone, which is located on the waterfront from Andara via the Atherton Tablelands.
where small marsupials are raised
Swabians migrated to Australia 50 years ago. At her lodge, she welcomes nature lovers who want to be close to animals. The rainforest begins right in front of their terrace.
It feels different than it does north around Port Douglas and Cairns. Big trees, branches growing all over the place, tendencies spreading to everything. Tree Kangaroo. And: lots of colorful birds that make themselves comfortable on the branches facing the roof and occasionally fly by the feeding station to nibble on some seeds.
There’s always something going on in Margit’s kitchen, too, as trained vets regularly have animal guests. There are two hot-lined bags with white dots in the corner next to the kitchen unit, which holds several philanderers and wallabies.
On the door is another holey cloth bag that looks like Grandma’s old Staples bag. Animals, some of which are only a few days old, also thrive in it. They are all either injured or orphans taken care of by Margit.
Margit feeds on orphans that are around the house and likes to explore the area from the roof. “When they are big and strong enough, they will be released into the wild.”
During their rainforest tours, the animals sometimes meet a distant relative that only exists here: the tree kangaroo, also known as the bungri. It was described by the Norwegian naturalist Karl Sofus Lumholtz about 100 years ago.
The Great Barrier Reef is going through a tough time
Aborigines on the coast know the Great Barrier Reef, which stretches 2,300 km from Papua New Guinea to Queensland, consists of about 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands and is considered one of its many habitats. Earth’s complex ecosystem.
But the reef is going through tough times. “Parts of corals are dying or bleaching,” says marine biologist Tess Concannon, who talks about life on the reef on a ship. But despite the grave danger situation, there’s a lot going on in the 27-degree warm waters near Green Island off the coast of Cairns, even if it’s raining cats and dogs and the wind is creating huge waves.
All kinds of fish swim calmly from coral to coral, but the water is so turbulent that one cannot see them in peace. “About ten percent of all the known fish in the world live here in the Great Barrier Reef,” Tess says.
native and sea
You can snorkel or dive into the reef at carefully selected locations. Tess works at Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel, the only Aboriginal-led reef tour operator.
The team is mixed, Aboriginal and White Australian. The entire crew has exciting stories to tell. About threats to the reef and the unique ecosystem. About the traditional techniques of the indigenous people, such as making fire or painting the body.
The reef is an integral part of the millennia-old history of the indigenous peoples who live here in the South Pacific. Brian Connolly, one of the crew’s aborigines, pulls a dark something out of the water while snorkeling. This is a sea cucumber. The natives dived here for them and traded them with other tribes – for the food the land gives them.
There are dozens of indigenous tribes in Queensland. They all live in the country and with the country according to their respective traditions.
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