Nature, culture and history
Daintree National Park forms part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area (WTWHA). It boasts exceptional beauty and provides habitat for many rare and threatened plants and animals.
Proclaimed in 1988 the WTWHA extends for about 450 km between Cooktown and Townsville. Vegetation in the area's 900,000 ha is primarily tropical rainforest, but there are also open eucalypt forests, wetlands and mangrove forests. The WTWHA meets all four natural criteria for World Heritage listing. These criteria recognise the area's exceptional natural beauty and the importance of its biological diversity and evolutionary history, including habitats for numerous threatened species. The WTWHA also has cultural significance for Aboriginal people who have traditional links with the area and its surrounds.
For more information visit the Wet Tropics Management Authority.
An amazing array of bird life can be found along the Manjal Jimalji trail. In the lowland rainforests you may encounter the endangered southern cassowary (Casuarius casuarius johnsonii). Take care around cassowaries. These large birds are potentially dangerous. Never approach or feed cassowaries—it is illegal, dangerous and has caused cassowary deaths. Be Cass-O-Wary.
Also found in the lower altitude forests are metallic starlings (Aplornis metallica), yellow-spotted honeyeaters (Meliphaga notata) and wompoo fruit-doves (Ptilinopus magnificus).
As the trail reaches higher altitudes the bird life changes. Fernwrens (Oreoscopus gutturalis), grey-headed robins (Heteromyias cinereifrons) and chowchillas (Orthonyx spaldingii) live at around 600 m. Higher still, around 900m, you might find golden bowerbirds (Amblyornis newtonianus), tooth-billed bowerbirds (Scenopoeetes dentirostris) and white-cheeked honeyeaters (Phylidonyris niger).
Black-bellied swamp snakes (Hemiaspis signata) and venomous rough-scaled snakes (Tropidechis carinatus) often bask in the sun. Never provoke, harass or disturb these animals. Remember, this is a national park—all animals, including snakes, are protected.
The Manjal Jimalji trail allows you to see the transformation from lowland to upland rainforest. On the lower slopes the rainforest canopy has several layers and the plants have large leaves. Tall trees tower above the main canopy while the understorey is formed by young trees and smaller plant species. Bloodwoods (Corymbia sp.) and wattles (Acacia sp.) tower above the rainforest canopy and thickets of lawyer vine (Calamus sp.) can be seen along the edge of the trail.
As the trail climbs higher the air becomes cooler. The rainforest canopy gets lower and more even, and the forest contains smaller-leafed plants. In the upland rainforest you might see the red flowers of a Proteaceae (Hollandea sp.) or the blue kauri pine (Agathis atropurpurea).
At an elevation of 1000 m the rainforest stops abruptly at a clearing filled with wiry coral fern (Gleichenia sp.) and the wind-hardy mountain tea-tree (Leptospermum wooroonooran). Plants on the other side of the clearing are stunted and windswept, a result of the extreme environment in which they live.
The weather near the summit is cool, moist and often windy. The vegetation is stunted and wind-sheered. At Split Rock, the canopy of elongated leaves belongs to a small, vulnerable, reddish-trunked heath (Leucopogon malayanus subsp. novoguineensis).
In the damp conditions at the lookout, mist-nourished plants are shaped by the wind. Look for the red-flowering native rhododendron (Rhododendron lochiae), a small shrub that clings to rock faces by sending roots down into cracks and crevices. The bell-shaped flowers can be seen throughout much of the year.
Eastern Kuku Yalanji country
The Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people are the Traditional Owners of this area. Their traditional country extends from near Cooktown, south to Mossman. Many natural features of the landscape have spiritual significance for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji including Wundu (Thornton Peak), Manjal Dimbi (Mount Demi), Wurrmbu (The Bluff) and Kulki (Cape Tribulation). Manjal Jimalji is a significant cultural site that tells the story of fire creation.
A rich array of plants and animals provided reliable food sources for the Eastern Kuku Yalanji as they travelled seasonally throughout the area. The coastal lowlands were particularly productive and could sustain a relatively large population.
To find out more about Eastern Kuku Yalanji culture, contact Kuku Yalanji Dreamtime (Mossman) on (07) 4098 2595, Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tours (Cooya Beach) on (07) 4098 3437, or Walker Family Tours (Wujal Wujal) on (07) 4060 8069.