The Rainy Rainforest

Skyrail Nature Diary: January 2005

Did you know that Australia’s Tropical Rainforests are the oldest continually surviving rainforests on earth?

Dating back more than 100 million years, these rainforests used to cover the entire Australian landscape (even the big red centre!) and were home to dinosaurs and several of the world’s first flowering plant species.

As Australia’s climate changed, the rainforests receded to the warmer, humid regions and today they are only found in a small coastal strip between Cooktown and Paluma (just north of Townsville), occupying approximately 900,000 square hectares of land.

Attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, Australia’s Tropical Rainforests are internationally recognised as one of the most ecologically fascinating natural areas in the world and were World Heritage listed in 1988.

Each year Tropical North Queensland experiences a ‘green season’. This is the time of year when temperatures soar, humidity rises and we receive most of our annual rainfall. Generally, the ‘green season’ runs from December through to March / April and environmentally it is one of the most important times of the year, especially for the ongoing survival of our tropical rainforests.

To be classified as a Tropical Rainforest an area must satisfy three basic criteria, not surprisingly, given their name, the primary factor is rain. Tropical Rainforests exist in areas where at least 1.3 metres of rain falls annually, which is no problem for Tropical North Queensland which receives up to 4 metres of rain per year.

The other two criteria are sunlight and the presence of a closed canopy. Tropical Rainforests need a warm, humid climate which is created by the dual presence of sunlight and rainfall. The rainforests themselves are home to an amazing diversity of plant and animal life, in fact, Australia’s Tropical Rainforests contain more than 3,000 plant species from 210 families.

Many of these are tall trees, which grow towards the sunlight, with their leaves joining together high above the forest floor to create a closed canopy. The closed canopy also contributes to the humid environment you’ll experience on the forest floor, and the beautiful dappled and muted lighting.

The 'green season' is a great time to visit the rainforests, and there is no better way to do it than on Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Skyrail is one of the region’s most visited attractions and provides you with the unique opportunity to glide just metres over the canopy, before alighting to explore the forest floor at the two mid-stations. Visit Skyrail’s Rainforest Interpretive Centre or take a Ranger guided boardwalk tour, they are included in the ticket price and provide excellent interpretation of the rainforest, its plants, animals and evolution.

Skyrail operates 364 days a year, closed Christmas Day, and is the perfect rainy day activity – umbrellas are provided for free!