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curious mammals of far north queensland

Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland

The wet tropics of extreme northeast Australia extend 450 kilometres (280 miles) along the coast. Rain forests watered by seasonal monsoons  maintain a moist environment where curious mammals of Far North Queensland roam. UNESCO lists the region as ‘an area possessing outstanding scenic features, natural beauty, and magnificent sweeping landscapes’. It praises ‘an exceptionally high level of diversity of both flora and fauna’ too.  This diversity includes rare plants, unusual birds, strange reptiles, and 107 mammal species living in dense vegetation, some seen nowhere else.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Swimming Holes but Mind the Crocs: Jim Bendon: CC 2.0

Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland to See

These cute, and not so cute and cuddly creatures are among the oldest surviving species in the known universe. Scientists divide them into three main groups. These categories are:

  • Egg-laying monotremes (platypus and  spiny ant eaters)
  • Marsupials with ‘kindergarten pouches’ (kangaroo and wallabies)
  • Unusual mammals that bear fully-formed youngsters like us

Some of these curious mammals of Far North Queensland live in trees, from where they peer down upon inquisitive humans curiously. One lives in the water and lays eggs. The rest live on the forest floor, often near human settlements where we may disturb their prey. Please do drive carefully at night through Far North Queensland rain forests, because some may forage for freshly-killed food on roads. Night-adapted eyes are sensitive to light. Car headlamps and torches can distract attention for one critical moment, and then their life is gone.

curious mammals of far north queensland

The Agile Wallaby: Glen Fergus: CC 3.0

The Agile Wallaby Macropus Agilis, or Sandy Wallaby

Although Agile Wallabies are solitary creatures, they may feed together in ‘mobs’ in open pasture to guard each other. The males weigh between 16 and 27 kilograms (35 to 60 pounds), with a head-to-tail length as much as 1.7 meters (5.5 feet). The females are on average one third smaller. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland raise their babies in their pouches for eight months, and finally wean them after eleven.

These generally harmless creatures were once endemic to northern Australia, especially in grasslands, dunes, heaths and open woodland. They prefer to feed near rivers, and bilabongs being isolated ponds. They are close to becoming a threatened species owing to farmers hunting them legally to protect their crops, and cars colliding with them on roads. This short report suggests our Cairns Agile Wallabies are among the last surviving mobs in Queensland.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo: Sandra Lloyd: CC 3.0

Another Curious Australian Mammal – Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo

These elusive creatures have adapted to living semi-permanently in trees, although they can bound between them if they need to, across open ground.  They have been seen leaping as much as 9 meters (30 feet) down to a lower branch. And drop 18 meters (59 feet) from a treetop to the ground without harming themselves. This surely qualifies Bennett’s Tree-Kangaroo for the shortlist of the most curious mammals of Far North Queensland. The females weigh 8 to 10 kilograms (17 to 23 lbs), and the males some 25% more so they must have ‘springs in their legs’.

Bennetts Tree-Kangaroos are a ‘near threatened species’. Although their numbers are increasing, we only find them between Daintree some 125 kilometres (8o miles) north of us, and Cooktown a similar distance further on. Their habitat extends for some 50 kilometres (30 miles) inland through tropical rain forest leading to isolated mountains. The shy creatures are herbivores hunted by pythons and wild dingo dogs.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Daintree Ringtail Possum: Australian Wildlife Conservancy

More Curious Mammals of Far North Queensland – Ringtail Possums

This rare, elusive creature inhabits upland and highland forests far away from dingo territory. From head to tail is measures around 65 centimetres (25 inches), of which the latter makes up half. Its favourite habitat is high-rainfall, misty tropical rain forests, where it lives on tree leaves and a few choice fruits. The solitary creature rears its young in a pouch kangaroo style, and shelters in daytime in hollow trees.

It is vulnerable to attacks by pythons, owls and other raptors, especially when it carries its older young on its back before weaning. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is doing it’s best to preserve the three remaining colonies at Thornton Peak, Mount Windsor Tableland, and Mount Carbine Tableland. The best time to spot ringtail possums is at night, when driving slowly along Mount Lewis Road with flashlights some 150 kilometres (100 miles) north of our luxury holiday rental home on the fringe of Cairns.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Yellow Bellied Glider Receiving Tender Care: Doug Beckers: CC 2.0

Rare and Curious Australian Mammals that ‘Fly’

We have no idea what happened to this little fellow, but he seems happily content. Good photos are hard to come by, because Yellow Bellied Gliders AKA Fluffy Gliders live high up in tall eucalyptus trees, and glide between them. They manage this by leaping into the air and spreading out their arms and legs. This in turns stretches out a membrane between their 5th fingers and their ankles. After leaping forth from up on high, Yellow Bellied Gliders have been known to travel 100 meters (320 feet) through the air high above the forest floor.

These marsupials about the size of rabbits are gregarious, preferring to spend their days together in family groups in tree hollows. They are possums and so from the same tribe as the Daintree Ringtails. These curious mammals of Far North Queensland enjoy a delicious diet of nectar, honeydew, insects, pollen, and sap from eucalyptus, corymbia, angophora, and lophostemon trees. The furry little fellows are classified vulnerable, owing to loggers and farmers chopping down their habitats without providing sustainable alternatives. The Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland is trying its best to mitigate by proving nesting boxes, but results are inconclusive.

The Arboreal Herbivorous Marsupial We Call a Koala Bear

We hate to a spoil a secret but a Koala is not a bear at all. It’s closest relatives are wombats.  Koalas are also somewhat irritable, preferring to sleep for 20 hours a day. That’s about the only other thing Koalas do besides snacking on their favourite take-away eucalyptus leaves. They are also fairly solitary, spending an average 15 minutes a day socialising, or 1% of their time.

If another Koala bothers them they snarl and grunt and bite. Sorry to have to dispel your illusion of cuddly Koala Bears. We think it best you know they have an attitude and are best viewed quietly from a distance in the forest. Koalas are commonest in South Queensland, although you could likely spot one in riverine rain forests north of Cairns.  Koala Gardens in Kuranda provides close-up views of Koalas looking cute, eating eucalyptus leaves, snapping at each other, and yes, sleeping.

curious mammals of far north queensland

“Duckbilled” Platypus: Peter Scheunis: CC 1.0

So Mammals Hunt on Dry Land and Give Birth to Babies?

The last of our curious mammals of Far North Queensland is the oddest of them all. National Geographic goes as far saying early scientists believed ‘nature’s most unlikely creatures‘ were a hoax. “The animal,” they explained,  “is best described as a hodgepodge of more familiar species: the duck (bill and webbed feet), beaver (tail), and otter (body and fur). Males are also venomous. They have sharp stingers on the heels of their rear feet and can use them to deliver a strong toxic blow to any foe.” Well, we Aussies always have been an independent lot!

Fortunately for us, platypuses are not particularly large. Males average 50 centimetres (12 inches) and weigh a maximum 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) with females slightly smaller. They are meat eaters that find their prey through electro reception, by detecting the electric fields muscles cause when they contract. They hunt under water  by covering eyes and ears with folds of skin, and closing nostrils tightly. At Wanggulay we do the opposite by being sensitive to guests’ every need.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Al Fresco Dining On the Deck at Sunset: Image Airbnb

At Wanggulay,  We Are Sensitive To Your Every Need

Guests come from around the world to our tropical paradise on the fringe of rain forest, where you may spot a few curious mammals of North Queensland yourself. We wish we could, but we can’t promise though. Cairns is a modern city of near 150,000 residents, and the animals are gradually retreating deeper into the shadows of moist tropical forests. Our government has nature conservation well in hand, and their numbers are stabilising and then increasing.

It would be wonderful to welcome you some day to Wanggulay. We built it for ourselves to use on holidays, and so you will find it quite different from other holiday rentals. Our family still comes here from time to time. We never fail to marvel at how close we are to nature, and how perfectly the timbers of the building merge into the forest almost within reach. A short stroll away are there are peaceful streams and waterfalls, and gorgeous coloured butterflies and birds. We would really like to welcome you some time to Wanggulay, your exclusive holiday home and springboard for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.

curious mammals of far north queensland

Blue Starfish on Great Barrier Reef: Copyright (c) 2004 Richard Ling: CC 3.0

cairns waterfalls

Cairns Waterfalls Tumbling from The Tableland

The eastern edge of Far North Queensland is a low-lying narrow coastal strip. The Great Barrier Reef is close by in the Coral Sea, while to the west there are lush green rain forests populated with flocks of colourful birds. Further inland, the terrain rises steeply westward to the fertile Atherton Tableland. Thanks to generous rainfall we have gorgeous Cairns waterfalls throughout the year.

The best time to visit Cairns waterfalls is from January to March, when the monsoon season dumps vast quantities of rain throughout the region. Streams become rivers, and cascades mighty torrents raising spray into the sky. After the bounteous bonanza clears, the waterfalls become more gentle playthings. At the height of summer, some of Cairns best waterfalls like Milla Milla provide delightful natural swimming pools, with large smooth rocks the delight of families.

cairns waterfalls

Tinaroo Falls: Owen Allen: CC 2.0

The Mighty Barron River Waterfall

Tinarro Falls is just below Tinaroo Dam high up on the Atherton Tableland. During monsoon season, this tributary of the Barron River sends huge volumes of tumbling water through the Barron Gorge. Barron Waterfall marks the point where the river begins a series of four cascading drops totaling 107 meters / 351 feet on its way to the Coral Sea.

At the height of the monsoon rain season these drops become thundering cascades across a width of 259 meters (850 feet). After this is over, they reduce to trickles, owing to the remaining water diverting to a hydroelectric power station. There are three great ways to view the largest of Cairns Waterfalls. First, the Kennedy Highways passes just upstream. And then we also have a skyrail cable car popular for informal weddings, and a retro passenger train providing dramatic year round views.

cairns waterfalls

Barron Falls near Kuranda, Australia One January: Ashlsimm: Use for Any Purpose If Attributed

Onward to Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, Far North Queensland

The Barron Waterfall undoubtedly takes the cake for brute power among Cairns waterfalls in season. However Mungalli is more beautifully delicate as it drops 90 meters in several cascades over  sheets of rock. There are great photo opportunities from the viewing platform. Delightfully, there is a great swimming hole at the bottom of the falls just an hour’s or so drive from our luxury accommodation rental with genuine natural rain forest at the bottom of the garden.

There’s a nice view from the top at the Mungalli Student Village, Wilderness Retreat, and Outdoor Education Centre. Thereafter, walk along the track past a wide rocky cascade to the bottom of the falls. The trail continues onward for a short distance before terminating at the viewing platform in the photo. Swimming is permitted. By all means be our guest on a summer’s day.

cairns waterfalls

Mungalli Falls Near Cairns, and Wanggulay: Jim Bendon: CC 2.0

Millstream, the Widest Drop of All Cairns Waterfalls

There are two waterfalls to see here. This makes the 147-kilometre trip from Wanggulay even more worthwhile. Once you reach reach the old pioneering town of Ravenshoe – well worth a visit – follow the signs to Big Millstream Falls. Inquire locally for the route to Little Millstream Falls which is delicately pretty on a more minor scale.

Big Millstream Falls plunges over the edge of a columnar basalt lava flow in spectacular style. There are several walking trails in the shadow of the Great Dividing Range. There are also World War II remains to visit at this, the highest point of North Queensland. Much of them are ‘as left’ when 1,000 troops departed in 1945. Tread gently here for some of the boys who swam here never returned. A lovely, but sometimes bittersweet place …

Big Millstream Falls: Mike Lehmann, Mike Switzerland: CC 3.0

Cascading Water at Another of Our Lovely Cairns Waterfalls

Not all waterfalls have to be that dramatic. A gentler flow often creates a larger, more generous swimming hole as is the case with Malanda Falls. It doubles as a swimming pool for the locals, so a great opportunity for the kids to meet new friends. The water from the North Johnstone River is prone to spilling over in the rainy season. This creates a great conservation area with two 20-minute trails to follow.

Malanda is an old mining town dating from the tin and copper rush, and from where Malanda Milk comes you’ll find in supermarkets in Cairns. There’s a great historic resource center in the town itself, and interesting hotels and pubs from pioneering days. Malanda Falls have another claim to fame you won’t often see. You can swim with platypus at the bottom of it if you can find one, because the water is crocodile free.

cairns waterfalls

Malanda Falls: Joel Annesley: CC 2.0

Mount Hypipamee National Park and Dinner Falls

This gorgeous national park is some 120kilometres (75 miles) from Wanggulay along the Gillies Highway but definitely worth a visit. The attraction centers around a volcanic pipe that once blasted gas, but is now a deep, tranquil lake.  While the 400-metre (1,300 foot) path is longer than the other waterfalls we write about here, you will be rewarded by a viewing platform providing uninterrupted views into the crater.

The walk to the bottom of the waterfall through rain forest will take you forty-five minutes in total, but it is well worth it because of opportunities to see tree kangaroos and possums. There is also great bird life including  victoria’s riflebird, bridled honeyeaters and golden and tooth-billed bowerbirds. Entrance is free but organised and commercial groups do require permits. After all this writing we are ready for a swim in another of Cairns waterfalls you should visit. See you there.

cairns waterfalls

Dinner Falls: Spalti: CC 2.0