Collaborations between Traditional Owners, scientists and tourism agencies are bringing new experiences to travel in the Daintree rainforest and Great Barrier Reef.
Visiting this wonderland of rainforest, reef and mountains can help make the planet a better place. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Here’s the good news story you’ve been looking for: travel, in Tropical North Queensland, is actually making the world better. Thanks to scientists, Traditional Owners and those who create tourism experiences, the very act of visiting this wonderland of rainforest, reef and mountains can help make the planet a better place.
The collaboration between scientists, travellers and First Nations People (like Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel pictured above) are regenerating the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest for future visitors. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
We’re talking visitor centres that contribute to climate research and fund community projects, nature tours that help conserve endangered animals, and trips to the reef that incorporate Indigenous knowledge and stories with snorkelling and ocean exploration.
This is travel the way it should be: enjoyable, interesting and sustainable. Here are the organisations leading the way.
Daintree Discovery Centre
The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, best known for the Daintree National Park, is the oldest rainforest in the world, estimated to be around 180 million years old. The Daintree Discovery Centre, the number one tourist attraction in the area, has been fully Indigenous-owned since 2016, and not only provides incredible tourism experiences, but also participates in key environmental research and conservation programs.
It’s an unforgettable experience, and a visit here also helps support and conserve this precious area. (Image credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
The centre runs a Carbon Offset Bio-Sequestration Project, which includes re-vegetation and ongoing carbon footprint auditing, as well as a research sponsorship with James Cook University, a long-term program to study the changing carbon and water balance in the Daintree.
Ancient knowledge of the rainforest and reef at the Daintree Discovery Centre is informing conservation strategies across the entire region. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
There’s so much to take in as you explore from the forest floor to the very top of the canopy with a self-guided tour of the Daintree Discovery Centre. These journeys take you along boardwalks, up the 23-metre-high Canopy Tower, and along the 125-metre Aerial Walkway. It’s an unforgettable experience, and a visit here also helps support and conserve this precious area.
Platforms like this give visitors the ability to explore the rainforest canopy eco system. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
FNQ Nature Tours
For nature-obsessed travellers, this is the ultimate: being able to participate in citizen science projects, joining passionate, talented researchers in the field to see what they do, while also lending a hand.
FNQ Nature Tours guests spotting wildlife on the only emission free boat on the Daintree River, Solar Whisper. (Image credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
That’s what’s on offer in FNQ Nature Tours’ 4-Day Nature, Wildlife and Conservation Safari, an extravaganza of a tour through the Daintree, Cape Tribulation, the Atherton Tablelands and more, which allows guests to work with multiple conservation groups in those areas.
At the Australian Quoll Conservancy in Tropical North Queensland guests of the FNQ Nature Tours participate in the important citizen science projects. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
The highlight is the visit to the Australian Quoll Conservancy, near Cairns. Here, guests can become citizen scientists for the morning, working alongside the conservancy’s expert researchers to check camera traps and motion-detection areas to catalogue sightings, document food sources, and search for evidence of rare spotted-tailed quolls.
Kul-Bul is an astonishing collaboration between the land’s Traditional Owners and contemporary scientists. Meaning ‘spirit of the sea’ in Yirrganydji language, the project combines the latest scientific data with thousands of years of traditional knowledge, with the aim of rehabilitating three pilot reefs that have been adversely affected by recent disturbances (including cyclones, bleaching and crown-of-thorns starfish).
Serious conservation is great fun and educational with Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel, Cairns. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
The collaboration brings together several tour operators and different experiences. On Dreamtime Dive you can witness scientists and Traditional Owners collecting data and sharing knowledge as they develop a ‘decision tree’, designed to select an appropriate intervention method based on the ancient and modern blended knowledge base.
Education and citizen science collide on the Dreamtime Dive & Snorkel Reef Magic pontoon. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
The new Reef Magic pontoon also adds to the standard reef tourism experience by doubling as a research station and Indigenous cultural centre. Visitors can take a break from snorkelling, diving and admiring the views from the sundeck to visit the GBR Biology research lab and learn first-hand from visiting researchers and Traditional Owners.
The snorkelling is so spectacular you will be more motivated to contribute to the ongoing regeneration of the reef system. (Image credit: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Quicksilver is a Barrier Reef classic, a company that’s been showing visitors the best of this wonder of the world since 1979 via cruises on its iconic vessels. The company is also actively engaged in the protection and rejuvenation of that wonder through its Reef Restoration Research Project.
Growing new coral on Agincourt Reef near the Quicksilver Cruises pontoon.. (Image: Quicksilver Cruises)
The project is taking place on Agincourt Reef 3, close to the Quicksilver pontoon. In 2018, cyclonic winds and waves damaged a patch of reef there, forming coral rubble and impeding the growth of new coral.
The Seawalker experience from the Quicksilver pontoon. (Image: Tourism Tropical North Queensland)
Teaming up with reef science specialists Reef Ecologic, Quicksilver began a unique restoration project, installing mesh structures underwater to help grow new coral. Visitors to Quicksilver’s Agincourt pontoon can view the impressive success of the project as they snorkel in the area.
The name says it all, really; this is a connection with culture, a chance to meet and learn from traditional owners in the Cooktown area while enjoying the sights of one of Australia’s most beautiful regions. Culture Connect runs a series of half-day, full-day and up to three-day itineraries from Cooktown, all of which involve deep connection with the land’s traditional owners.
A highlight of Culture Connect is a visit to Normanby Station on the traditional lands of the Balngarrawarra people. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
One of the highlights is a visit to Normanby Station, on the traditional lands of the Balngarrawarra people. It’s now in the care of the Harrigan brothers, who not only welcome guests onto country to share their stories and knowledge, but who also work on multiple conservation projects, including improving ground cover to fight erosion, pest management, wildlife monitoring, and cataloguing the rock art sites in the area to help protect them.
Ironically, by visiting the rock art sites with Culture Connect you are helping to fund there preservation. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
A visit here includes a viewing of a few of those art sites, and – if you’re lucky – a singalong with the musically talented Harrigans.
Wavelength Reef Cruise
If you’re in Port Douglas, be sure to get in touch with Wavelength Reef Cruises to see the Great Barrier Reef and contribute directly to its wellbeing.
Coral baking trays. Coral being grown on suspended trays ready to be replanted on the reef. (Image: Wavelength Reef Cruises)
This is the only reef tour owned and operated by marine biologists. The team is passionate about conservation and research; so passionate, in fact, that owner-operator John Edmondson helped found a unique partnership between researchers and tour operators to help care for the reef, known as the Coral Nurture Program.
Regular check ups keep an eye on the growing coral. (Image: Wavelength Reef Cruises)
John also invented a unique clip that allows baby corals to be planted 20 times faster than before, which is a game-changer for reef adaptation and restoration.
A Wavelength Reef Cruises crew member planting coral using the coralclips. (Image: Wavelength Reef Cruises)
A journey with Wavelength Reef Cruises is a deep-dive in so many ways – not just into the ocean itself, but into the ways in which people who care about the reef are working to preserve it.
The coralclip, used to anchor the planted coral to the rocky surface, is covered by the thriving coral. (Image: Wavelength Reef Cruises)