Diving in

Diving into Cassowary Falls

You know that old platitude about feeling the fear and doing it anyway? The picture above embodies that for me.

But alongside the fear, it was a moment in which I felt intensely, joyously, indescribably happy and alive. Pretty much as only diving into a hidden, waterfall-fed pool in the middle of the world’s oldest rainforest can make you feel.

So while fear and that incandescent spark that punches you in the lungs with joy every now and then are uncomfortable bedfellows, they are fellows nonetheless. For me, anyway.

I actually did this trip to Far North Queensland 12 months ago (and yep, have been meaning to write about it since then – I am not awesome at keeping up at the moment) but as we are about to embark on another couple of trips I feel the clammy hand of fear and worry mixing with the sweet anticipation. I kind of accept that this is how it will always be for me now. Post-Bali bombings I am a much more frightened, cautious person. But if I let that go to its natural conclusion I would also be a hermit. I’m tempted sometimes.

Creek fed by Cassowary Falls

Instead, I keep on diving in. Because I just cannot let the fear take up the whole bed. I deserve at least half the space. And all the doona.

The trip to this waterfall was extraordinary.

We usually go to Far North Queensland for our annual family holiday anyway but this time I had tagged along as a spouse on a conference handsome husband had been asked to speak at.

The conference organisers arranged for the attending partners to explore either the rainforest or the reef. I was the only one who chose the rainforest tour. Which meant I got a private 4 hour tour of a part of the world I am obsessed with. My idea of total heaven.

Coincidentally, the group booked to run the tour, Daintree Discovery Tours, was the company we have always gone out with the three other times we have explored the Daintree and my guide that day was the owner of the company, Grant, whom I had met before. So when he realised it was just me we changed all the plans (as I had already done a number of the things he had planned) and devised a custom trip instead.

The highlight of which was Cassowary Falls. The falls are on private property and access to them is very limited. We drove in through the rainforest, across a croc-infested tributary of the Daintree River and onto farm land.

I have always loved the farm land in this area. It’s such a beautiful contrast:  the manicured green pasture with the wild rainforest in the background.

Daintree River tributary and pasture

It’s not all green and pleasant though. The cows that graze along this river are sometimes taken by crocodiles if they stray too close to the edge. Yep, they’re bloody big crocs.

So we drove in and then swapped cars for the final kilometre into the falls.

This was the view behind us – and you can see it’s a serious truck with those roll bars…

Daintree pastoral land

and this was what lay ahead.

The track to Cassowary Falls

We forded creeks, and bumped our way over muddy tracks through fields and into the forest again.

Crossing the creek to Cassowary Falls

You have to walk the last 100 metres or so and then, suddenly, you find yourself in an oasis. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to stand on the rocky edge of a tranquil pool, the falls thundering down and the rainforest looming all around, lush and persistent.

And not another soul. It was pretty much a religious experience.

Turtle on a log - Cassowary Falls

Grant convinced me two swim over to the falls and then dive back in. I knew the minute I saw the place that I was going to do that.

I mean, I knew it was safe to dive where I did because Grant did it first and showed me where to aim for a shallow dive. And I knew it was too high and cold for crocodiles. But still.  There are cow-eating crocs just a couple of kilometres away and, well, what if genetic mutation has bred a cold-water tolerant, waterfall pool-loving man-eater of some kind?

It’s funny, the fear is there but something else takes over: the overwhelming desire to experience, to make the most of the moment regardless of the risk – real or perceived.

The next shot gives you a sense of the scale. You can see my little head floating below, looking back in wonder at the falls. Actually I’m watching a water dragon lizard scramble up the rocks but you can’t quite make him out.

Cassowary Falls in the Daintree

So if there was a croc lurking in the deep he did not grab me. The turtles sunning themselves on logs stayed well clear and my only wildlife encounter was with the tiny leeches that attached themselves between my toes. Again. What is it with me and leeches? Grant said he’d never come across one in all his time bringing people into the falls.  I, however, as this post attests, have now had more than my fair share of encounters with these suckers in this part of the world.

This photo makes me laugh.

Zebra truck

I mean, any day you get to go off-roading in a zebra truck is a good day.

The road to Port Douglas - sugar cane fields

After Cassowary Falls we had lunch at a private spot at Mossman Gorge. Once again, a beautiful experience. And once again I got to swim in the crystal clear waters of the gorge all on my own. I still can’t quite believe it.

Mossman Gorge through tree


Aboriginal artefacts

The year before when we were in Port Douglas for our annual family holiday we did a guided walk through this part of the rainforest (near Mossman Gorge) with one of the elders of the Kuku Yalanji tribe, the traditional owners of this land. It was one of the highlights of all our trips there.

Tall trees in Daintree

I know I’m swiftly running out of superlatives but this part of the world does that to you.

Daintree canopy

Our guide was Harold and he is a revered elder and a renowned medicine man who not only uses the rainforest as his pharmacy but is also used by the North Queensland police as a professional tracker in hard-to-crack cases. He uses his peoples’ traditional song lines to navigate and locate people who are lost in the rainforest.

Harold the healer

A thick book Harold showed us at the end of the walk attests to the fact he has healed hundreds of people from all over the world. As an interesting aside, he is also Cathy Freeman’s uncle and officiated at her wedding!

Aboriginal body paint

Here’s a hot n’ sweaty baby Betty!

Hot baby Betty in Daintree

She appreciated the swim at the end in this magical place.

Mossman Gorge

Harold was a superb  guide and pointed out the eleventy billion things that can kill you but also talked about all the natural remedies and tools he uses ranging from plants and berries through to the pincers of the ubiquitous green ants that can be used in place of stitches  or surgical staples to keep wounds closed.

Daintree flora on a tree

There are berries that look so similar that pretty much only a Kuku Yalanji member could tell apart; one heals, the other send you blind. There are cancer-inhibiting plants. These are just starting to be explored by western medical interests. Happily, any profits that flow from future medical discoveries  from this area – and the potential is HUGE –  will be fed back into this community. That gives me comfort.

As we walked through dense forest the rhythmic echo of wood on wood became louder and louder. Suddenly a clearing emerged; a natural amphitheatre and there we listened to stories of the aboriginal dreamtime from this area.


I can’t recommend both of these tours enough. Daintree Discovery Tours  for a general tour of the area and a Dreamtime tour with the Mossman Gorge Centre.

I don’t know why I feel such a strong pull to this part of Australia.But I just can’t get enough of it.

Cane fields with burning off FNQ

Here are some of my other posts about Port Douglas and surrounds:

Our Holiday

I survived 

Far North Queensland

Summer Snapshots

Summer Snapshots 2

River Drifting 

Listen to Sir David Attenborough’s endorsement of the Daintree Rainforest over and above even the Amazon!

So tomorrow morning we head to the airport for our next adventure. One familiar place and one entirely new for us.

Deep breath. Dive in.

Our holiday

I wasn’t sure whether to blog about the fact we are on holiday in case the burglars are reading this. If you are, you naughty burglars, you should know that our alarm is on and our neighbours are irritatingly nosy…until we go away and then we love them for it.

We’re in Far North Queensland. This is a SPECTACULAR part of the world. The tourist patter bills Port Douglas as the spot where the rainforest meets the reef. I’m generally skeptical when it comes to big claims like that but I’m here to tell you not only is it the truth it’s more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

Pristine beaches fringed by coconut palms (which would be utterly perfect if not for the rogue crocs and excruciating jellyfish) framed by mountains thick with millenia-old rainforest. And an hour or so off-shore, one of the world’s great marvels: the Great Barrier Reef.

As my regular readers know, this year has been a bit of a bear. So this  fortnight away has been the holy grail Andrew and I have been striving towards all year. And, once again,  FNQ has not let us down. It’s as amazing and relaxing as ever.

Here are a few shots that I think really capture our holiday so far.

A torch ginger flower after a tropical downpour.

I’m happy to now be able to report from experience that twirling betty visors handle long days in the pool perfectly. I don’t recommend them during the middle part of the day when a full hat is what you need to protect you, but in the early mornings and late afternoons they’re perfect.

Despite weekly swimming lessons before we left Melbourne, Sophia had been too scared to put her head under water. One week later, this is what she was up to.

It’s been a fortnight of long, sunny days spent in the pool, copious ice blocks, fish and chips and deep relaxation. Almost total relaxation. But not quite.

On Monday we are heading out for a day trip to the Great Barrier Reef to go diving. Again.

I have an interesting story to tell you about my first attempt to dive on the reef last week. It’s a long, but (hopefully) ultimately redemptive story. Let’s just say it involves a dive “instructor” who was having a bad day and for whom there are not enough expletives in the English language to describe (although let me assure you I’ve given it a red hot go over the course of the last week), an under-water anxiety attack  (thanks to aforesaid dive “instructor”) and some pretty spectacular marine fish. What a cast, what a plot. Stay tuned for the full story and (I’m praying) the feel-good sequel!

So if you don’t hear from me again, I’ve been eaten by a giant Moari Wrasse like the one we saw last week. And who seems to be saying, as he looks at the underwater camera man, as soon as you swim away I’m eating this man. Lucky for my handsome husband, he must have spotted a better looking piece of bait.

And if you look closely, you can see my torso and legs behind Andrew looking, ahem, not very much like the mermaid I had anticipated I would be under water. But there’s always tomorrow my friends. And tomorrow I intend to summon my inner mermaid with as much power as I can muster. Just hope I don’t summon any other large sea creatures by accident. I actually can’t sleep with my hand hanging over the edge of the bed for fear of a shark biting it. So it should be an interesting sequel.

Stay tuned!

PS: I haven’t forgotten the giveaway. After writing down everyone who commented on both posts (people who commented on both posts only received one entry) I used the good ‘ole random number generator again and  it threw forth this magical number:

Number 7, according to my list, was Renee. Congratulations Renee and thanks SO MUCH to everyone who commented. The support I received both in the lead up to and aftermath of what I like to refer to as “The Great Cake Bunting Scandal of 2010” was really, truly amazing. I felt extremely loved and supported and can’t tell you what that meant. You guys rock. Like, almost more than Bon Jovi. True dinks.