The Atherton Tablelands is an area just outside of Cairns that holds a unique makeup of Australian native wildlife. This includes a variety of kangaroos, wallabies, platypus, snakes, lizards, frogs, bugs, spiders, bats and birds. We were on the prowl to add some new animals to the list and discover some of the rare species that like to hang out in the oldest rainforest in the world.
Yes, the rainforest that makes up the Atherton Tablelands and the Daintree Rainforest is the oldest rainforest in the world. During our time touring with Wait-A-While Rainforest Tours, we were educated about the history of the rainforest and how its changes through time have affected the local wildlife.
It was pointed out to us that some of the vegetation in this rainforest can actually be dated back to the dinosaur ages. This has been proven by finding these very plants in the fossilized remains of some dinosaur species. Those plants still exist within this rainforest and thrive on the dense, lush environment. Being able to see those plants was a real treat.
Our tour started at 2 PM and headed straight for the suburbs of Cairns. The wallabies in this area are smart and take advantage of the freshly manicured lawns to graze during the daytime. While walking back to the van we spotted a colony of tree ants that build nests out of leaves high up in the trees.
We had been seeing these ants in various places around Australia so it was interesting to learn more about them. The aboriginal people used to seek out their nests when they became ill. They would boil water and soak the nests with ants in the water, creating a nice medicinal drink. To prove to us, he had us lick the butt of one of the green ants.
Yes, lick the butt. I was the first to try it and although I was skeptical, I held out my tongue and wiped the ant across it. Hmm, lemon-lime. Absolutely no joke, the butt of that ant tasted like a lemon. So if we ever get lost in a rainforest, we at least know that they are safe to eat.
Post ant butt licking, we made our way towards the Atherton Tablelands. It was a long drive around many twists and turns to the top of the hills. As we got higher up, the rainforest became thick against the road until we arrived in a place where it was just fields.
During the colonization of the area, they would cut the large trees out and ship them down to build houses and furniture. in the process, they deforested the area and the farmers took claim of the land. It now is home to many cattle farmers and produces some of the richest grasses for them to feed on.
We spent the rest of the evening stopping off at various hiking trails where we were able to spot local wildlife and stare in amazement at the flora and trees that exist in this beautiful rainforest. Our evening focus turned to the elusive platypus and despite our best efforts to scout one out, we turned up empty.
After partaking in a beautiful Italian style dinner at a local restaurant we headed back into the rainforest for some night hiking. As creepy as it sounds, and it is creepy, this can be the best time to spot some of the rare animals. Many of the treasures are nocturnal, thus only showing themselves by the light of the moon.
Our first sighting was a possum. These little guys seem to be everywhere in Australia and although we’ve seen them all over while camping, it was cool to see them in their natural environment instead of begging off people in campsites. The highlight of the night was being able to observe the huge fruit bats in the trees above us. I have never seen a bat that large and we witnessed one feeding and then taking flight into the moonlit sky.
Our time spent in the Atherton Tablelands was memorable and would highly recommend for other visitors to Cairns that they get out of the city and check out the wildlife.
Disclosure: Thank you for Wait-A-While Rainforest tours for sponsoring our tour. All opinions are 100% mine. All photography by Divergent Travelers.