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Botanist, freelance writer and conservationist based in Cape Town at the heart of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region.
The crystal clear waters of the Mossman River descending the gorge in the southern section of the Daintree National Park. Photo ©Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

Exploring Queensland’s Wet Tropics World Heritage area

The spectacular Mossman Gorge sits at the heart of the southern section of the Daintree National Park in tropical north Queensland in Australia. I was lucky enough to visit this fascinating region after coming to Queensland for a conference on restoration ecology.

The Mossland Gorge section of the park comprises the largely steep and inaccessible slopes of the Main Coast Range and the Windsor and Carbine Tablelands.


Exploring tropical north Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula

View from the Mulligan Highway south of Cooktown over Black Mountain National Park, Queensland, Australia. Photo © Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

It is the sense of space that stays with me the most from my journey to tropical north Queensland. It was early summer of 2018 and I had made the long trip to Australia for the Society for Ecological Restoration conference in Brisbane.

After an extraordinary week in Brisbane, I flew to Cairns, spending two weeks exploring tropical north Queensland in a rather elderly orange campervan. After starting my journey in the Atherton Tablelands, I travelled north, heading for the beautiful and remote Cape York Peninsula.

Saltwater crocodile on the banks of the Daintree River, tropical North Queensland, Australia. Photo ©Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

Riverine wildlife of tropical north Queensland, Australia

Rising below Black Mountain in the Great Dividing Range, the mighty Daintree River meanders through the rainforest to the Coral Sea in tropical north Queensland.

The Daintree River forms part of the Queensland wet tropics World Heritage Area, placing it at similar conservation status to the Grand Canyon and the Galapagos Islands.

Travel. Cairns. Queensland. Eastern Australia.

A botanist’s journey above the world’s most ancient tropical rainforest.

The extraordinary tree diversity of Australia’s wet tropical rainforest, seen from the Cairns to Kuranda Skyrail, Barron National Park, Queensland, Australia. Photo © Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

It was the heat that I noticed first. As soon as I ventured from the coolness of Cairns airport terminal, the tropical heat and humidity stopped me in my tracks. I had just arrived in Cairns, the largest city in tropical north Queensland.

My airport transfer took me quickly into the city to my accommodation, speeding past mangrove swamps where large saltwater crocodiles were apparently lurking. Woe betide any shoestring travellers who decided to walk into the city from the airport instead…

In my room the fan was working overtime, making little impact on the tropical heat and humidity. I…

A garden that celebrates South Africa’s culinary heritage

View from the entrance of Babylonstoren Gardens over the 17th Century farm buildings. Photo © Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

Nestled in the Drakenstein valley at the heart of South Africa’s winelands region are the beautiful Babylonstoren gardens. Surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery, the gardens are a place that celebrates South Africa’s culinary riches, biodiversity, and natural heritage.

Still a relatively young garden, Babylonstoren was designed in 2007 by French architect Patrice Taravella. Its design was inspired by the historic Company’s Garden in Cape Town city centre.

Exploring South Africa’s oldest national botanical garden

Male Southern Double Collared Sunbird feeding on the blooms of the Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Photo by the author.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa, has just turned 108 years old. Founded in 1913, it has grown from humble beginnings to become one of Africa’s most famous botanical gardens.

Sited on the lower slopes of the iconic Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch showcases a vast and diverse collection of South Africa’s indigenous plants from all over the country.

The traffic light-like blooms of the Four Coloured Opal Flower (Lachenalia quadricolor) in bloom in rock cracks on a granite koppie, West Coast, South Africa. Photo by the author.

Exploring an endangered botanical wonderland

South Africa’s West Coast is famous for its picturesque coastal towns, excellent seafood and the spectacular wildflower displays to be seen in the Postberg section of West Coast National Park during spring.

Birdwatching in West Coast National Park, South Africa

Greater Flamingos in West Coast National Park, South Africa seen on Langebaan Lagoon from the Seeberg bird hide. Photo by the author.

Last week the cold fronts came. It rained and it rained cats, dogs and elephants. We are in mid-winter here in South Africa’s Western Cape, and the weather can be harsh.

We wrap up in blankets and drink our hot drinks, pacing around the house to stay warm as most houses here don’t have central heating.

Cape Town’s mountain streams are roaring after the rain

Clouds swirl around the peaks of the Table Mountain plateau, seen from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by the author.

Winter has arrived with a vengeance in Cape Town. This week several cold fronts have come in from the Atlantic, bringing with them intense rainfall, thunder and lightning, weather warnings and high seas.

We are grateful for the rain in this water scarce country. It does not seem so long ago that Cape Town almost became one of the first cities in the world to run out of water, with ‘Day Zero’ coming far too close for comfort.

The newly installed ‘Tubutubu’ sculpture at the strandveld circle, Zandvlei, Muizenberg, Cape Town. Photo by the author.

Raising awareness through sculpture of South Africa’s most endangered butterflies

A beautiful new sculpture has just been installed at one of our favourite local dog walking spots in Cape Town. It depicts the Barber’s Cape Flats Ranger butterfly, which is now critically endangered in the wild.

This inspiring artwork now sits on the shore of Zandvlei, an estuary that forms part of the Cape Flats Ramsar wetlands. Here the Cape Flats meet the sea at the suburb of Muizenberg, which sits on the lower slopes and flats below the Cape Peninsula mountain chain.

Zoë Poulsen

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