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Botanist, freelance writer and conservationist based in Cape Town at the heart of South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region. https://www.capetownbotanist.com

Rainforest beaches, ice cream and cassowaries in Australia’s largest rainforest

Mangroves at Cow Bay beach in the early evening light, Daintree rainforest, tropical North Queensland, Australia. Photo: ©Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

“You missed them! The cassowaries always come at 7 am…”. I looked sleepily out of my campervan door as the couple in the van next to mine let me know I managed to miss one of the world’s largest birds walking past less than two metres away.

It was 2018 and I was on holiday in a campervan in the Daintree National Park, Australia’s largest rainforest and part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Our campsite was at the heart of the rainforest and the cassowaries are regular visitors here.


TRAVEL. AUSTRALIA

Rainforest parrots and cream tea in Australia’s tropical north Queensland

View from the Mount Alexander Lookout over the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area in Daintree National Park towards the mouth of the Daintree River, tropical north Queensland, Australia. Photo ©Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

It was time to leave the savanna and head toward the coast, before journeying north into the Daintree rainforest. It was 2018 and I was on a solo trip exploring tropical north Queensland by campervan after attending a conference in Brisbane.

After a couple of days staying at Bustard Downs organic farm, I took the road southwards and then westwards towards the tropical north Queensland coastline via the small town of Julatten on the eastern edge of the Atherton Tablelands. This area is a mecca for birders.


The wildflowers are starting to bloom

The Rain Daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis) is one of the more common spring flowers in lowland fynbos vegetation. Photo ©Zoë Chapman Poulsen.

The southern hemisphere spring is on its way to the Cape. Although Spring Day isn’t officially until 1 September, the plants in the fynbos, renosterveld and strandveld around Cape Town don’t know that and are starting to come into bloom for the spring flowering season.

After the cold of winter with snow on the mountains, the weather is starting to warm up during the day and the African sun feels warmer. There is still a chill in the air, but less so than on the bitterly cold winter nights.


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


TRAVEL. AUSTRALIA

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.

Zoë Poulsen

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