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From the Rainforest to the Reef at Cape Tribulation, Qld


If you go to Cape Tribulation and don't snorkel and zip line, have you really been to Cape Tribulation? With this philosophical question pressing, we grabbed our snorkels and clipped into our harnesses.

As the Ocean Safari boat sped further away from the shore at Cape Tribulation, my dread at having to be in open water mixed with a little excitement, creating a confusing emotion that I will call ‘excitedread’. We were on a Great Barrier Reef tour, headed to Mackay and Undine Reefs, to discover the wonder that lives under the sea and hopefully get some amazing photography of what we’d find. We’d jumped on board a tour that mainly consisted of a group of excitable secondary school students from a variety of European nations. As we zipped over the water, their chatter in German, French, and Italian mixed with a blaring soundtrack of mid 1990s pop hits, a high energy combination that did nothing to calm my anxiety.

As an experienced diver, Jack shared none of my misgivings, and was instead quietly amused at my apprehension at jumping in the great blue to casually float along its surface. After 25 minutes on the boat we’d reached the destination and it was time to go and find Nemo. With the future of the Reef so precarious, it was pleasing to note that our snorkelling guide Mary and skipper Sarah stressed the importance of not touching anything that we saw, and constantly gave friendly reminders not to stand up on the reef.  Already kitted up in wetsuits (most of us, anyway), we grabbed our snorkels and goggles and once given the requisite safety instructions, it was time to jump in.


Starfish in the ocean at Cape Tribulation

I’m a complete landlubber who is never fully relaxed unless her feet are flat on terra firma.  I’ve done stints on a boat at sea before and I loved it, but actually putting my body in the open water is another matter altogether. Determined though, I jumped – or cautiously and awkwardly tripped down the boat’s ladder – into the great unknown and put my face into the water. After my brain processed the fact that thanks to a snorkel I could now breathe underwater, I relaxed and proceeded to take in the glorious spectacle in front of me: colourful coral, tropical fish of every shade and size, giant clams, electric blue starfish, stingrays, and sea turtles that were so chilled out I questioned whether their daily diet had been given a liberal dose of ‘special’ sea algae. There was no end of marine life to follow around, and the whole experience was soundtracked in my head by ‘Under the Sea’ as sung by Sebastian from Disney’s The Little Mermaid (I now realise my Jamaican accent is terrible).

Person snorkling at Cape Tribulation

With our friendly guide pointing me in the direction of turtles, I was completely absorbed in the underwater world, and totally forgot about my fear of drowning and being eaten by sharks. My fish of an editor only sporadically swum by to check on me and tried (unsuccessfully) to get a cool pic of me underwater, but my aquatic modelling skills were severely lacking and off he swam, leaving me to flailing and pointing at all I found.


Woman flying upside down on a flying fox at Jungle Surfing

While heights are also a fear of mine, I was actually pretty excited about Jungle Surfing zip lining in the Daintree Rainforest. Having already experienced the landscape during the previous few days of our stay, I knew that flying through the heights of the treetops would be pretty incredible, and I vowed to keep my eyes open and limit my squealing to the bare minimum. I succeeded on the eyes front, but I did manage to swear at one of our guides as she flung me along one of the seven zip lines. To be fair, she did let out a cry of “oh no!” followed by an evil laugh as I swung away. She forgave me though, and I had to give her kudos for the joke. I would’ve done it to me too.

Woman on a flying fox at Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours in Cape Tribulation

We flew across seven zip lines from platforms that ranged from five to 19.5m above the ground, and along the way we were treated to a privileged close-up view of the rainforest ecosystem, as well as a view that stretched out to the Great Barrier Reef. There were plenty of informative facts delivered by our friendly and fearless guides, which enhanced the experience. There was even a little local gourmet food tasting, if you want to call pulling green ants off a tree and licking them, gourmet.

There’s no skill required to partake in Jungle Surfing. With the guides in total control of each of your flights from tree to tree, all you have to do is let them clip you in, wipe your sweaty palms on your shorts, and let fly! Oh, and you do have the option of zip lining upside down on one of the lines, which I highly recommend for a totally different view of the world around you. Just lift your feet in the air and flip yourself upside down as you hurtle through the rainforest. And trust me, if this garden variety scaredy cat can do it, anyone can. I was also encouraged by the eight year-old girl in the family who were on the tour with us. She was nervous, but she was also determined, and it was a frame of mind that I adopted. Right on, sister.


The Ocean Safari boat on water at Cape Tribulation

Cape Tribulation is a heavenly little piece of Queensland, and if you do make it there, seeing it from all angles is really going to enhance your enjoyment. From hardcore hikes to family fun, it’s a destination that can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you want to make it. This stunning scenery is here in our own backyard and its exploration options are endless.


- Check out the first part of Cape Tribulation adventures

- Want to explore more rainforests? Visit surreal rainforests in Crater Lakes NP, Qld

- Caving a beach to yourself? We've made a list of top 5 paddling spots in Tropical Queensland

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