Last Updated on June 26, 2021 by worldoftravelswithkids
Stretching across a vast region of Tropical North Queensland, the Daintree forest is one of the world’s most fascinating and diverse tropical rainforests. It is one that our whole family loved visiting! Here we’ve rounded up our favorite Daintree Rainforest facts. Daintree is so fascinating, you’ll be itching to visit this World Heritage-listed natural wonder once you’ve read them all!
Daintree Rainforest Location
The Daintree Rainforest is located just over 1,500km northwest of Brisbane and 100km northwest of Cairns. It encompasses the Daintree National Park itself, as well as some state-managed forests and private land.
Our Top 10 Fascinating Facts About The Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest Is Huge
Once you step foot inside this forest, you will be floored by its size. It is one of the biggest rainforests in the world, and the biggest in Australia, covering 0.1% of Australian territory. Just how big is the Daintree Rainforest? Stretching north from the Daintree River to Cooktown and west to the Great Divide, the Daintree Rainforest covers an area nearly 1200 km² (460 sq mi) in size.
That’s equivalent to 25,000 football fields if you were wondering!
It Is The Oldest Rainforest In The World
Take that, Amazon. But how old is the Daintree Rainforest? At least 135 million years – and possibly as much as 180 million years old. At this age, the Daintree Rainforest beats out every other rainforest in the world as the oldest one on the planet.
Think About This: The dinosaurs walked this earth between 245 and 66 million years ago. This means that the Daintree Rainforest is as old as the dinosaurs! In fact, it not only survived the Ice Age but at least 12 of the world’s primitive flowering plant species can still be found in the Daintree, including the so-called Idiot Fruit (more on this below!).
The Daintree Rainforest Is A Biodiversity Hotspot
The Daintree Rainforest ecosystem is one of the world’s most complex. Its diversity is unrivaled in Australia. Given its age, the flora and fauna found in the Daintree actually represent the origins of some of the plants and animals that are more typically “Australian”.
In the Daintree Rainforest you will find:
- over 3000 species of plants – including 395 plant species that are rare or threatened
- over 12,000 types of insects
- 54 species of frog
- 230 butterfly species
- 663 species of vertebrate animals
- well over 200 species of land snails
In fact, 65% of all of Australia’s bat and butterfly species, 34% of its mammal species, approximately 30% of its frog, marsupial, and reptile species, and more than 40% of its birds all call the Daintree / wet tropics and Great Barrier Reef areas home. And you will find more tree species in a single hectare of the forest than exist in the entire UK. That’s a lot!
It Is The Only Place To See Two World Heritage Sites Side By Side
“Where the reef meets the rainforest”! North of the Daintree River, the rainforest grows all the way down to the coastline where it almost touches the Great Barrier Reef. At Cape Tribulation, the reef is actually so close to shore that Captain Cook crashed his boat on it!
The Great Barrier Reef was named a World Heritage Site in 1981, and the Daintree followed suit in 1988. The World Heritage protected rainforest is much larger than Daintree National Park. It stretches across 12,000 square kilometers from Townsville to Cooktown.
This is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites meet. What an amazing fact!
The Daintree Rainforest Was Named After a 19th Century Geologist
The Daintree River was actually discovered in 1873 by Scottish geologist George Elphinstone Dalrymple who decided to name it after English-born Australian geologist and photographer, Richard Daintree. Daintree had done a lot of important exploration in the area during the 19th Century. Though, by this date, he had returned to England to promote Queensland as a settlement destination.
In fact, Richard Daintree, who died in 1878, was the first Government geologist to explore North Queensland. He was a photography pioneer, using the new technology to capture a glimpse of early settler life during his field trips. He is also credited with discovering coal seams and gold fields for later exploitation.
And Is Beloved By A 20th Century Naturalist!
The famed Sir David Attenborough has described the Daintree as “the most extraordinary place on Earth.” Listen to him talk about the Daintree Rainforest as one of his favorite places:
There Are Glow-In-The-Dark Plants!
Bioluminescence is a marvel everywhere! If you stroll the rainforest at night, you will be treated to the soft glow of bioluminescent moss, fungus, and glow worms!
Daintree Rainforest Trees Are Some Of The World’s Tallest!
The Daintree Rainforest has some of the world’s tallest tropical trees, including the Bull Kauri which can reach up to 50m tall and 2.7m across.
In the Daintree forest, these and other tall trees tower above the canopy. They are called “emergent trees” and their height gives them an evolutionary advantage. By growing taller than the surrounding trees, emergent trees gain maximum sunlight exposure and are a prime target for pollinators.
You Won’t Go Hungry Inside the Daintree: It Is Full of Bush Tucker!
Rainforest-dwelling bees and insects have been a source of food and medicine for thousands of years. A favorite is the witchetty grub (also spelled witchety grub or witjuti grub), a large, white wood-eating moth larva. Witchetty grubs are considered a delicacy by the local Kuku Yalanji people. They are highly nutritious and their insides also help to alleviate pain and heal wounds.
Another edible plant found in Daintree is the chocolate pudding fruit or black sapote. The black sapote is a species of persimmon whose ripe fruit, they say, tastes like chocolate! It is actually native to other regions as well, including Mexico and Central and South America. Not to be confused with other unrelated species of sapote, black sapote is also packed with nutrition: it contains 2-4x as much vitamin C as oranges!
Speaking of Central America, check out our post A Guide To The Best Family Vacation Central America –With Kids.
It Has A Very Long Human History, Too
Here are some fun facts about Daintree Rainforest history: long before European explorers came – for over 4000 years, to be precise – the Daintree was home to the Kuku Yalanji people (also known as Kokojelandji or Gugu-Yalanji). They are just one of 18 Aboriginal groups who live in the protected Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. For the Kuku Yalanji, the Daintree is more than just a forest, but a place filled with spiritual and cultural meaning. Their songs and legends continue to enrich the Daintree with special meaning.
European colonists began exploring the Daintree during the late 19th Century, but the Daintree River ferry didn’t start running until the 1950s and the first road to Cape Tribulation wasn’t built until 1961. Later, following Australia’s biggest botanical find in 1971 renewed scientific – and public – interest spurred greater development in the Daintree region.
Amazing Facts On Daintree Rainforest Animals
With so much wildlife teeming in the Daintree, it’s probably no surprise to find out that a lot of the species found here are rare or endangered. In fact, some animals living in the Daintree can only be found here and nowhere else on Earth! That’s a pretty fascinating fact, isn’t it?
A few of Daintree’s endemic species include:
- Green and Ringtail Possum
- Ulysses Butterfly
- Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher
- Boyd’s Forest Dragon
- Spotted-Tailed Quoll
Plenty of other animals call the Daintree home including several mammals like the platypus, echidna, bandicoots, and wallabies, and fish such as the freshwater bream, archerfish, and barramundi.
Some of the rarer species that call the Daintree Rainforest ecosystem home include the white-Lipped Tree Frog (the world’s largest tree frog!), Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo, the cassowary, the estuarine or saltwater crocodile, and the Musky Rat-Kangaroo.
The Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo
Of this list, the Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo is especially intriguing. Did you know? They are extremely agile and can actually leap 9m (30 ft) from one branch to another! There are also reports of a tree kangaroo jumping as much as 18m (59 ft) to the ground – without getting hurt. Check out more fascinating Facts About Kangaroos For Kids.
The Saltwater Crocodile
The saltwater or estuarine crocodile (colloquially termed the “saltie”) is the largest crocodile species and the biggest living reptile, period. It is the most popular animal in the Daintree but certainly the most dangerous! Places to spot estuarine crocodiles include the Daintree River, mangrove swamps, and even the beaches surrounding the rainforest.
Daintree Rainforest Birds
Australia is home to nearly a tenth of the entire world’s bird species – around 830 – and more than half of those can be found in the Daintree. At least 430 species of birds can be found in the rainforest and the surrounding “Daintree Important Bird Area,” an area covering 2656 km² (1025 sq mi).
Unsurprisingly, many of these bird species also cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Some of the Daintree’s most famous birds include the impressive nest-building bowerbirds, honeyeaters, and, of course, the cassowary.
Facts About The Cassowary
Let’s take a step back from our Daintree Rainforest facts for a second to consider some amazing facts about the cassowary – a positively fascinating bird!
Here are ten incredible cassowary facts:
- The cassowary is in the same family of flightless birds as the ostrich and emu.
- It is the third tallest bird (after the ostrich and emu) and the second heaviest (first is the ostrich!).
- It is considered the most dangerous bird on earth, thanks to its dagger-like claws.
- Cassowaries are one of the dinosaurs’ closest living relatives.
- One of its hold-over features from the dinosaur era is its casque – a brown helmet-thingy on its head which it probably uses to regulate heat exchange.
- Cassowaries are also essential for ensuring seed dispersal in the Daintree – especially the dispersal of large seeds.
- Moreover, they have been recorded as eating some 238 species of plant seeds, which means they are important for maintaining the diversity of plant life in the Daintree and other tropical rainforests.
- Cassowary chicks are raised by their dads! The female cassowary checks out as soon as she lays her eggs, leaving the male to build a nest and incubate the eggs for 50 days. After they hatch, the male cassowary continues to care for his offspring for another 9 months.
- Speaking of eggs – the cassowary egg is large, like an ostrich’s. In fact, it is the third-largest bird egg in the world, measuring 9 by 14 cm (3.5” by 5.5”) and weighing in at over half a kilo (584g)!
- Not to mention – the cassowary egg is an astounding shade of green! This helps them stay camouflaged among the tropical vegetation and protects them from predators.
Did You Know? Unique Facts About Daintree Rainforest Plants
One of the things that make the Daintree so special is its biodiversity. This, on top of its long history, make the Daintree an important research site into the history of medicinal plants and a hotspot for botanists. If you visit, you will no doubt be astounded by the incredible variety of Daintree Rainforest flora!
Rare & Unique Plants Found Only in the Daintree
As we saw above, the Daintree is absolutely filled with flora. There are over 3000 species to be precise, including 920 types of trees! Including some that are found nowhere else in the world. Here are just a few:
Blue Quandongs (Elaeocarpus angustifolius)
Also called the Blue Marble Tree or Blue Fig, the Blue Quandong is a fast-growing tropical tree with wide buttress roots, creamy white flowers, and bright blue round fruit (hence the name!). They are another source of bush tucker and also play an important role in the Daintree, shading smaller plants from too much sun.
Wild Ginger in the Daintree Rainforest grows an astounding nearly 6m tall (19 ft). While other species of wild ginger are toxic, the Daintree Wild Ginger can be a lifesaver. When the stem is cut near the bottom it releases water, providing a refreshing – at times life-saving – drink for hikers.
Austrobaileya is a vine with spiraling, pale green flowers and is not found anywhere else in the world. Being a vine, it winds its way up the trees to climb as high as 50m to the top of the rainforest canopy. One of the most interesting things about this vine is its flowers: they don’t smell sweet, but rather like rotting fish!
Primitive Daintree Rainforest Plants – The Green Dinosaurs
Given its age, some plants in the Daintree Rainforest are actually as old as the forest itself – relics of our ancient past. In fact, more than half – 12 out of 19 – of all of the planet’s flowering plant families are found in the Daintree.
Idiot Fruit (Idiospermum australiense)
You read that right – there is a plant called the Idiot Fruit! One of the most primitive and rarest plants – found only in the Daintree! The Idiot Fruit is another dinosaur contemporary. Our research reveals that timber cutters in the 1880s knew the poisonous qualities of the fruit, and “only a fool or an idiot would eat the fruit because it would kill you!”
It was re-discovered by accident in 1970 after several cows mysteriously died. The culprit was Idiot Fruit (also known as Ribbonwood), and its discovery is considered Australia’s most significant botanical find. Its presence in the Daintree – a clue to just how old the forest is – is largely responsible for the Daintree being designated a World Heritage area.
Unlike modern flowering plants which are all either monocots (one) or dicots (two), Idiot Fruit are poly-cots, with up to six embryonic leaves per seed. Very unique!
The Copper Laurel (Eupomatia Laurina)
The Copper Laurel, also known as bolwarra or native guava, is a primitive understory plant that evolved before bees and butterflies; as a result, it is pollinated by beetles!
The sweet but strong-flavored fruit can be used in combination with other ingredients in beverages, jams, and desserts.
Daintree Rainforest Plants To Avoid!
Not all plants are harmless! If you’ve ever accidentally touched poison ivy or stinging nettle, you’ll know what I mean!
In the Daintree, there are a couple of the plants you are best to keep away from including the Wait-A-While Vine and the Stinging Tree. The Wait-A-While Vine is a plant whose spikes are so sharp they can cut through clothing. The Stinging Tree is filled with tiny, invisible stingers which, if they prick you, will cause an itch.
Bonus! 5 More Daintree Rainforest Facts
- There are three major rivers that flow through the rainforest: the Daintree River, the Mossman River, and the Bloomfield River.
- The Daintree is one of the “Q150 Icons of Queensland”. This list of cultural icons was compiled in 2009 as part of Queensland’s 150th anniversary.
- Daintree National Park is actually split in two, with a piece of agricultural land separating them. The northern section (north of the Daintree River) is the oldest section and considered more spectacular than the southern section (known as the Mossman section).
- Only part of the Daintree Rainforest is protected parkland. The rest of the Daintree Rainforest faces threats from deforestation, climate change, residential development, and invasive plant and animal species. Forest fragmentation due to residential and agricultural development is the biggest threat facing the Daintree and its wildlife. Part of the Queensland government’s conservation plan involves buying back privately-owned land in order to protect it from further development. (Click here if you want to help protect the Daintree!)
- Over 400,000 people visit the Daintree every year! We think the Daintree is a fabulous place to visit – with kids or without!
How To Visit Daintree Rainforest: Things To Do
If this list of facts on the Daintree Rainforest has got you itching to go, here are our tips for how to plan your visit! There are lots of things to do in Daintree: from boardwalk trails, untouched beaches, and camping sites to guided tours and an old-fashioned cable ferry.
You can access the Daintree Rainforest from Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, or Cooktown. On our first visit to the Daintree Rainforest with kids, we went to the Mossman Gorge Center, a very family-friendly thing you can do while in Port Douglas. In fact, check out our 19 AMAZING Things To Do In Port Douglas and The BEST Cairns Holidays: Our Ultimate Guide To Family Holidays In Cairns if you are visiting the area.
We also recommend spending time “where the reef meets the rainforest” at Cape Tribulation. Here turquoise waters and pristine white sand contrasts with the lush rainforest. In fact, if you wanting to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef, check out our Great Barrier Reef Facts For Kids. And, if you plan on visiting the reef Amazing Great Barrier Reef Tours And Tips For Snorkeling In Cairnsis a must-read.
If you want help planning things to do in Daintree Rainforest, we recommend choosing a responsible tour operator with a sustainable ethos or visiting indigenous-managed projects like the Mossman Gorge Center.
The Verdict – The Daintree Rainforest: Facts About A Prehistoric Marvel!
It’s high on our family bucket list to return to far North Queensland and one of the main reasons is to spend time exploring the Daintree region. Who knows, if I get sufficiently experienced in 4WD driving, I could recreate my childhood: in 1982, when I was 7 years old, we headed up the CREB Track north of the Daintree, now considered one of Australia’s most spectacular and challenging 4WD trails.
Learning all these fascinating Daintree Rainforest facts has certainly whetted our appetite to return. We hope they will inspire you to visit, too!
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