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Tropical north Queensland – the Daintree wilderness rainforests, beaches and Cape Tribulation

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

This will be the last on my current series of posts of the wet tropics of north Queensland – previous posts were:

Daintree wilderness rainforest is in far north Queensland and as far as mobile phones, TV and internet goes, one is mostly off grid once you cross the ferry on the crocodile infested Daintree River.

It’s tropical climate, relative isolation and unique rainforest flora and fauna and lovely beaches make it a must see destination – see earlier posts on tips on time of year to go, etc.

The road is bitumen up to Cape Tribulation so you will not have issues with normal cars although an SUV is nice to give a bit more ground clearance, especially if you are renting a car. The new  2011 Q5 bridge across Coopers Creek allows all year access to Cape Tribulation (apart from major storm/cyclone/5 yr floods).

The road from Cape Tribulation north to Cooktown has been sealed since 2005 but travel past Cape Trib may NOT be covered by your rental car hire insurance! You can check current road status here.

When calculating drive times, assume an average speed of around 60kph – there are many speed humps to reduce risk of killing southern cassowary birds.

Alexandra Lookout – looking south east towards Snapper Island and the mouth of the Daintree River:

Noah Beach

Golden Orb spider the size of my hand on the Jindalba Boardwalk in the rainforest (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):

Golden Orb spider

There are 3 well maintained short boardwalks which you must do as each give access to different ecologies:

  • Jindalba boardwalk through the rainforest
  • Marrdja boardwalk  through mangrove swamps – very nice and perhaps the most likely place to see a southern cassowary
  • Dubuji boardwalk another coastal walk but this one takes you through tall fan palms

Bushwalks include the very steep walk from Cape Trib to Mount Sorrow for those who are fit – you are advised to start the walk no later than 10am and to allow 6-7 hours.

Swimming holes are available at Cape Trib Grocery Store and at Emmagen Creek north of Cape Trib (take the inland track from Emmagen Beach).

Sea kayaking is available just north of Cape Trib provided by Paddletrek, and also in Cow Bay / Snapper Island in the southern area, provided by Tropical Sea Kayaks.

If you want to snorkel with turtles then Ocean Safari‘s Great Barrier Reef tours take you 20km out to the to Mackay Reef or Undine Reef (25min fast boat ride) and depart from Turtle Rock Cafe at Myall Beach and also from Cape Trib.

There are quite a few nice accommodation options and a few restaurants and cafes and a pub or two, although grocery stores and fuel are not plentiful. Thankfully there are NO fast food chains such as Macdonalds. Make sure you stop for lunch at Lync Haven cafe – very nice lunches and they have some parrots to interact with and caged pythons as well as accommodation. Alternatively, the Whet Cafe Bar and Restaurant makes for a nice lunch or dinner spot near Cape Trib.

Camping in the beach-side camp grounds such as at Noah Beach is popular during the dry season (June-Oct) but be warned, in the wet season it rains hard and for much of the day although I am told it generally stops between 10am and 4pm unless there is a cyclone or tropical low really dumping rain. Also the local nocturnal giant white tailed rat (Uromys caudimaculatus) which can chew through the husk of a coconut, can also chew through tents, plastic, canvas, leather electrical wires and even into cans. They can damage car fan belts and radiator hoses!.

I stayed at the Heritage Lodge and Spa which is well situated in Diwan, half way to Cape Tribulation and near Thornton Beach and Cooper’s Creek. The cottages set within a rainforest environment are very nice indeed although en suites are tiny and there are no baths. The Cooper Creek runs within the site and allows walks and swimming in the crystal clear water. It has a very nice restaurant and a continental breakfast of cereal, toast, juices, fruit is provided.

The lower reaches of Coopers Creek is crocodile territory and boat tours are available from the bridge a couple of times each day – the walk along Thornton Beach to the inlet does make a newbie’s heart stir seeing the crocodile shaped shadows in the water (but these appear to have been sandbars although I didn’t wade in to find out!).

There is a kiosk serving fish and chips and burgers at Thornton Beach and there are some convenient affordable beach cabins opposite (Thornton Beach Bungalows).

Thornton Beach (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):

Noah Beach


Noah Beach

I had been worried about annoying biting insects on the beach such as sandflies (aka midges/midgies which cause persistently itchy allergic reactions to their bites and which are important in the pollination of cocoa plants and thus chocolate!) but in October it seemed there were no nasty bities even without DEET insect repellents except for the occasional March fly in the mangrove beach area of Cape Tribulation (Oct-Nov is apparently the time of march flies in the Atherton Tablelands so I guess it applies on the beaches too).

North of Thornton Beach is the lovely remote Noah Beach with its nice camping ground.

Aerial view of Noah Beach courtesy of Tourism Queensland:

Noah Creek

Cape Tribulation:

Butterfly (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):


Lace monitor lizard goanna on the beach (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):


Cape Tribulation beach with fisheye lens:


Surreal mangrove beach (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):

surreal mangrove beach

Wild cannonball mango in the fantastic Marrdja Boardwalk through mangrove swamp (Olympus mZD 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera):

cannonball mango

Aerial basket fern (Drynaria rigidula) – home to birds, tree snakes and other animals (Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):

aerial fern


Tropical north Queensland – Palm Cove and why a fisheye lens comes in handy

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

Continuing on from my holiday tips for the wet tropics of north Queensland and the Atherton Tablelands, this post explores the Palm Cove region north of Cairns.

Palm Cove is one of the most picturesque beaches with its lovely palm trees and towering melaleucas which line the esplanade which separates the beach from the little village which is filled with accommodation options and restaurants.

In October, it was a relatively quiet, friendly and relaxing village and surprisingly, the accommodation apartments do not use insect screens and we had no issues from mosquito bites even though we left the windows open much of the time – I guess the council keeps a tight control on insect populations in the area.

I stayed at Paradise on the Beach apartments and had the pleasure of having a unit which overlooked the beach and had a large double spa bath and kitchenette, although the downside is that it was close to a children’s playground over the road, and at night it was noisy from the patrons of the bar below – if these are not an issue for you, then it was a lovely way to relax and enjoy the beach.

As with all the beaches in the wet tropics, there is a small risk of crocodile attacks if you swim or walk near the edge, although this is much more likely near estuaries and very few if any have occurred on the actual Palm Cove beach.

A bigger risk from Nov-May is the potentially lethal jellyfish stingers, and thus one is advised to only swim within the patrolled swimming area within the stinger nets.

The beaches face east and so sunrise walks are a must and a perfect way to start the day before the sun gets too hot.

Palm Cove with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens:

A fisheye lens is really the only way to capture the palms and melaleucas which give the beach its character. I used the inexpensive manual focus only Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens on Micro Four Thirds Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M5 cameras, although one could use any fisheye lens including the lovely new Olympus mZD 8mm f/1.8 lens.

Palm Cove sunrise

Palm Cove sunrise

Palm Cove sunrise

The towering ancient melaleucas:

Palm Cove melaleucas


Palm Cove as a base to explore

Palm Cove is perfectly situated to explore the region as it is within 20min or so drive from Cairns, the airport and most of the local attractions.

A must do, is visit the Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures which is about 20-30min drive to the north. You need to spend at least 2-3 hours here learning about crocodiles and other tropical wildlife including the southern cassowary bird and snakes. They run a commercial crocodile farm which you can attend a guided tour to learn more about crocodiles, or go on a short cruise in the river and watch them feed crocodiles with the crocodiles jumping 1-1.5m out of the water.

The snake handling and crocodile attack demonstration events are well worth attending, but perhaps the best is indulging in a very tasty crocodile salad lunch at the cafe which I would highly recommend!

Other attractions in the region include:

Pics of the region using the Olympus OM-D and pro zoom lenses:

Walshs Pyramid Hill (the highest freestanding natural pyramid in the world) south of Cairns at sunset from a boat on a “sunset cruise”:

Pyramid Hill Cairns

Mangroves in Cairns at sunset from a boat on a “sunset cruise”:

mangroves Cairns

Mangrove beach near Port Douglas:

mangrove beach near Port Douglas

Mossman Gorge:

mangrove beach near Port Douglas

Rainforest stinging tree (Dendrocnide moroides) leaves – the leaves, stem and fruit are covered in tiny silica hairs which inject neurotoxins causing severe pain which may last for several days and then recur over months! Even the dead leaves can sting and worse can release hairs when disturbed which can then be inhaled! (I presume this is one of them! Olympus mZD 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens on Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera):

stinging tree

The unique Atherton Tableland – high rainforest plateau and ancient volcanic maars and waterfalls

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

The Atherton Tableland is an elevated rainforest plateau 700m to 1000m above sea level which is littered with ancient volcanic hills, valleys, waterfalls and crater lakes making it a photographer’s and naturalist’s delight and is some 4 degrees Celsius cooler than Cairns and unlike the coast, you will need a jumper or cardigan for evening wear.

There are essentially 4 access roads from the coast – each will involve 20-30minutes of slowish winding roads up the mountains to get there:

  • Rex Range Road from Mossman
  • Kennedy Highway via Kuranda from Cairns
  • Gillies Highway via Gordonvale from Cairns
  • Palmerston Highway from Innisfail

The main town is Atherton with Mareeba to the north which is drier and with clearer skies.

Attractions near Mareeba:

  • Mareeba Tropical Wetlands and Savannah Reserve with Jabiru Safari Lodge, which is a great for bird watchers. Further north are drier woodlands with a multitude of tall termite mounds.
  • Granite Gorge Nature Park – great for picnics and their local unique wallaby species
  • The Coffee Works – for coffee and chocolate
  • Golden Drop Winery – mango wines

Central tablelands region:

  • Atherton township
  • Hastie’s swamp bird watching
  • Wongabel State Forest rainforest walk track 2.6km
  • Mt Hypipamee National Park – unique steep walled crater lake and adjacent Dinner Falls cascades make for a pleasant short walk and nice photo opportunities
  • Bromfield’s Crater
  • historic mining town of Herberton with its reconstructed 19thC mining township as a tourist attraction
  • Yungaburra heritage township, Nick’s Swiss-Italian restaurant and the massive curtain fig tree
  • Lake Tinaroo and dam
  • Lake Barrine lake cruises and rainforest walk through 2 giant Kauri pine trees
  • Lake Eacham National Park
  • Malanda and Malanda Falls
  • Nerada tea farm and their resident wild Lumholtz tree kangaroos
  • Bartle Frere mountain hiking for the fit (Queensland’s tallest mountain at 1622m)

Southern tablelands region:

  • Tarzali Lakes tourist attraction (privately owned) for platypus sightings and farmed barramundi fishing
  • the famous Millaa Millaa falls and the waterfall circuit drive including Zillie Falls and Ellinjaa Falls
  • Ravenshoe, Queensland’s highest town and the Millstream Falls
  • Tully Gorge and Misty Mountain rainforest bushwalks – 36km one-way Koolmoom Creek Track (several short loops possible); 19km one way Cardwell Range Track; 15km one way difficult Cannabullen Creek Track; 26km one way Gorrell Track; BEWARE the stinging trees!!! Bring radio beacon or satellite phone!! Most pleasant May-Oct but heavy rains any time of year can make creeks impassable! Camping requires a permit. Tracks are wet and slippery and leeches abound;

Millaa Millaa lookout

Millaa Millaa lookout – Olympus OM-D

Ellinjaa Falls

Ellinjaa falls, and yes, there are annoying Canikon photographers who take centre stage with their tripods. I decided not to wait for the queue of them and shot this long exposure hand held standing on top of a rock in the middle of the stream using my Olympus OM-D with its amazing built in image stabiliser which allows these hand held longer exposure shots without a tripod.

For bird watchers and ornithologists:

Mt Lewis NP in Nov-April but check road conditions as gravel road: upland rainforest birds such as Golden Bowerbird, Chowchilla, Blue-faced Parrot Finch.

Abattoir Swamp: boardwalk and hide – when paperbarks are flowering: lorikeets, honeyeaters; crakes and rails; Northern Fantail at the car park;

Davies Creek Falls NP via gravel road: granite boulder falls; Pale-headed rosella, White-cheeked honeyeater, Lemon-bellied flycatcher;

Barron Falls NP: Pied Monarch, Yellow-breasted Boatbill.

Mt Molloy: Red-winged parrot, Great Bowerbird are found near the school;

Malanda Falls Conservation Park: Aust. Brush Turkey, Orange-footed scrubfowl, Atherton scrubwren, Macleay’s Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird.

Lake Mitchell man made wetland: Black-necked stork and dry country birds in the woodlands.

Crater lakes NP: Double-eyed Fig-parrot, Victoria’s Riflebird; Tooth-billed Bowerbird builds courts close to the track in breeding season (Sept-Jan).

Nardello’s Lagoon: waterbirds; White-breasted Sea Eagle and Swamp Harrier in Sept-Dec; Red-tailed Black Cockatoos; Sulphur-crested cockatoos;

Bromfield Swamp: unique volcanic crater is a nesting site for hundreds of Sarus Crane and Brolga in Apr-Nov best at dusk when they return home to roost, or early morning.

Hastie’s Swamp: home to 220 bird species; two-storey bird hide; Magpie Goose, Plumed Whistling Duck, Pink-eared duck, White-headed Stilt;

Millaa Millaa Falls: Yellow-throated scrubwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush

Wongabel State Forest: Emerald Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, White-throated Treecreeper, Ferenwren, Bower’s Shrike-thrush;

Mt Hypipamee NP: Fernwren, Bridled Honeyeater, Grey-headed Robin, Chowchilla (early morning), Golden Bowerbird, Southern Cassowary

Kaban: drier western edge; Painted Button-Quail, Little Lorikeet, Fuscous Honeyeater, Varied Sittella, Crested Shrike-tit, Eastern Yellow Robin;

Tully Falls Rd: Pale yellow Robin

Innisfail region:

  • several waterfalls along the Palmerston Highway
  • Mamu Tropical Skywalk tourist attraction – boardwalks in the tree tops
  • Paronella Park historic rainforest mansion
  • Eubanangee Swamp National park near the coast and Josephine Falls

Further west from the Tablelands:

  • historic outback mining town of Chillagoe with limestone caves to explore
  • unique Undara Lava Tubes

 Finally, a little history:

The tablelands were originally inhabited by approx. 16 Aboriginal indigenous tribes who created clearings or “pockets” by using fire to clear the rainforest undergrowth and make it easier to hunt wallabies.

They had to deal with the volcanic eruptions, the most recent eruptions were approximately 10,000 years ago.

Then along came the British and Chinese miners in the mid 19th century when gold and tin was discovered resulting in the mining towns of Herberton and Chillagoe. The whites ran into conflict with the indigenous peoples and hence the naming of Butcher Creek.

For more indigenous history of the region see here.

Once the Europeans and Chinese gained access via Cobb and Co coaches (initially from Port Douglas through to Atherton then to Herberton via the “Mulligan Highway”), the timber-getters moved in and dominated much of the central tablelands and clearing much of the rainforest for its valued timber, especially Red cedar (Toona ciliata), but also walnut, Queensland maple, Silky Oak, Silkwood, Black Bean, Silver Ash and Kauri Pine.

A shorter route was established from Cairns called Robson’s Track – near the current Gillies Highway.

The 1st permanent white settler in the Yungaburra region was John Stewart in 1890. By 1903, the railway from Cairns had reached Atherton, and then was extended to Yungaburra in 1910 and operated until it closed in 1964.

Cyclone Larry in 2006 caused considerable damage to the Tablelands, snapping many trees off at 4m from the ground and damaging buildings.

Travel tips for north Queensland’s awesome wet tropics and the Daintree rainforests

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

I have just returned from a 2 week self-drive holiday in Queensland’s wet tropics so I thought I should share some tips.

Palm Cove

Palm Cove, Olympus OM-D E-M1 with Samyang Fisheye lens.

The Wet Tropics – something for everyone!

This is an amazing area in Australia so get there while the $AUST is so affordable, here is a taste of what one can do and see:

  • Cairns:
    • this is the main city and main point of access with its international airport
    • it is a hub for the multitude of overseas backpackers and thus is well suited to their needs
    • the main base for tours to all the regions below whether they be boat tours or bus tours
    • regular public bus travel to the northern beaches so you can get away with not having a car
    • the lovely free swimming pool and sunbathing area right in the heart of the CBD on the harbour – and with free outdoor gym machines and plenty of shade if you want it
    • Cairns Tropical Zoo
    • Cairns Night Zoo
    • Skyrail  Cableway or Scenic Railway to Kuranda tourist village at the top of the mountains behind Cairns gives access to the nearby rain forests and Barron Falls
    • sunset river cruises
  • The Great Barrier Reef
    • even if you are not into snorkelling or scuba diving, everyone should get to one of the reef islands such as Green Island and at least view  the coral and colourful fish from a glass bottom boat – although check the weather first as you don’t want rough seas
  • northern beaches such as Palm Cove and Port Douglas
    • Palm Cove is my favourite, lovely little village, very aesthetic palm lined beaches with a stinger net section for safe swimming monitored by surf life savers
    • Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure is a must do – well worth it and the food in the cafe is very nice indeed – you must try the crocodile dishes!
    • Mossman Gorge – north of Port Douglas, lovely circuit walk through rainforest although the highlight for many is the swimming in the cool clear waters of the stream amongst the many granite boulders
  • Daintree rainforests and remote beaches
    • if you enjoy the wilderness and can live without mobile phone access or the internet, or TV, then take the car ferry across the crocodile infested Daintree River and explore
    • some nice short easy walks on boardwalks gives everyone easy access to the rainforests and mangrove swamp environments – great for photos
    • several remote beaches with lovely sand, and when I went in October, no nasty bugs biting you (except the occasional march fly in Cape Tribulation) – but you need to be careful about swimming – crocodiles are a risk, especially near estuaries, while from Oct-April, swimming is not advised due to the potential dangers of lethal stinging jellyfish – nevertheless, these beaches are awesome to walk along and just relax
  • Atherton Tablelands
    • this elevated rainforest plateau 700m to 1000m above sea level is littered with ancient volcanic hills, valleys, waterfalls and crater lakes makes it a photographer’s and naturalist’s delight and is some 4 degrees Celsius cooler than Cairns and unlike the coast, you will need a jumper or cardigan for evening wear
    • great location for ornithologists who enjoy bird watching
    • backpackers find the swimming in the waterhole below the picturesque Millaa Millaa falls and the ability to get a selfie shot behind the waterfall an awesome way to spend a warm day
    • the elevation in the higher parts is said to be too high for mosquitoes, although mosquitoes seemed to be well controlled in Palm Cove – at least while I was there in October (Dengue fever outbreaks do occur in the Cairns region over the wet season in particular)
    • Mareeba to the north is drier with clearer skies and further north, the woodlands are filled with large termite mounds
    • the historic mining town of Herberton a little to the west is also drier and has a re-constructed 19th century mining town as a tourist attraction
    • 1-2hrs to the west is the much drier historic outback mining town of Chillagoe with its limestone caves to explore
    • 1-2hrs to the south-west is the unique Undara Lava Tubes
  • Innisfail region to the south of Cairns
    • recently hit by a major cyclone, a major tourist attraction here is Paronella – an old castle-like mansion estate amongst the rainforest representing one man’s dream
    • Mamu Skywalk is a tourist attraction amongst the rainforest tree tops
    • Mission Beach and Dunk Island are south of Innisfail


What will you see in the rainforests?

This depends upon the season and which part of the rainforest you are in.

Rainforests generally consist of 4 layers of life:

  • emergent layer at the top of the tallest trees  at around 50-60m above ground – exposed to the most sun and wind and occupied by birds, bats, butterflies, python snakes, etc.
  • canopy layer at tops of other trees to around 50m above ground forms an umbrella thick with leaves and flowers, birds, air plants
  • understory layer is immediately above the forest floor and with limited light, is generally filled with dense vines and vegetation along with green tree ants, birds, snakes, frogs, butterflies, etc.
  • forest floor receives perhaps 2% of the sunlight and is dark, damp and filled with ants, beetles, termites, fungi as well as snakes (including venomous snakes), birds including scrub turkey and southern cassowary, frogs, and butterflies.

In the “dry season”, wildlife is much more scarce and the flowers and fruit generally not in season.

Getting there and getting around

Thanks to the international airport, getting there is very easy and the airport is only a few kms from Cairns CBD.

If like me, you want the freedom of self-drive, hire a car – I hired a Toyota RAV 4 AWD SUV from Avis at the airport – this gives me more car elevation to minimise risk of damage to the undercarriage from unexpected pot holes, dips, speed humps, etc, as this damage is not covered by insurance. Avis do allow you to cross the ferry on Daintree River and drive as far north as Cape Tribulation (further north to Cooktown is via a 4WD only gravel road and is not covered in your insurance!).

If you are a backpacker, don’t despair as the public transport buses provide regular access to the northern beaches, etc and of course there are a multitude of tour buses and boat trips accessible from Cairns CBD.

When to go?

The coastal areas are classified tropical climate as they generally have no month with a mean temperature below 18 °C (64.4 °F) or with less than 60 millimetres (2.4 in) of rainfall.

The peak season is the drier “winter” months of July-Sept as this gives the best access to the rainforest and Great Barrier Reef with no risk of sea stingers and less annoying bugs, while the temperatures are more pleasant (relatively dry, clear skies and very pleasantly warm  with 15-24degC average daily range),  and thus you are generally guaranteed of mild to warm, humid weather with minimal rain apart from generally brief showers – so sun hat, sunscreen, shorts and sandals and plenty of water is all you need to take. In the cooler Tablelands, rainforest insects have gone into hibernation, but early morning fog can be great for photos.

October is a quieter month as it follows the Australian school holidays in busy September and this makes for cheaper accommodation and better access to tourist destinations but the weather is warming up with peak sunshine hours, but the rain and clouds is starting to increase. March flies are more common in Oct-Nov in the Atherton Tablelands (in southern Australia, they are mainly in the late summer months Jan-March). Most of the tropical fruits unfortunately are NOT in season.

Dec-April is the best time for best time for waterfalls, insects, fungi (especially bioluminescent fungi) and macro photography.

Feb-Mar is the wettest season with highest risk of cyclones (risk is from Nov-May), almost half of the 2,500mm annual rainfall in the rainforests falls during these 2 months, but if you want to see the rainforest wildlife at its most active, then bring your highest level of DEET insecticide and get ready to explore during the breaks in the heavy rain – usually between 10am and 4pm. Many tropical fruit such as mangoes are in season.

May is towards the end of the wet season and is a good month to indulge in the seasonal tropical fruits such as custard apples.

Safety issues

Rainforests are not really a place for urbanised humans so here are a few safety issues you need to be aware of:

  • many very deadly venomous snakes which can be quite small and hard to see – so be vigilant hiking, wear covered shoes not thongs – the ones in tops of the trees are usually non-venomous pythons and not problematic, it is the venomous ones on the ground you accidentally step on which are the dangers – in reality, it is quite uncommon to see one as they usually feel you coming and get out of your way, but they do like to sleep on warm tracks!
  • the coastal estuaries and beaches are saltwater (estuarine) crocodile territory – you need to be croc safe and aware of how sneaky they can be
  • marine stingers are potentially lethal jelly fish – do not swim Nov-May (October may also be problematic further north in Daintree) unless within the confines of stinger nets
  • dengue fever is a mosquito borne nasty viral infection – mainly a problem around Cairns in the wet season so avoid mosquito bites where possible
  • cassowaries are big flightless birds but are potentially dangerous stay away from them – they have dagger-like middle toes which can easily disembowel you
  • venomous bullrouts (freshwater stonefish) live in some rivers – wear shoes when wading or swimming
  • stinging trees are common – they grow to 4m and have large heart shaped leaves with serrated edges – don’t touch them as they have a painful sting
  • flash flooding (rapidly rising water) is common during wetter months
  • take water and use hiking cautions such as telling people where you are going in case you get lost or incapacitated – there is NO mobile phone signal in most rainforests up there
  • avoid sitting too long along creeks – very tiny ticks cause annoying scrub itch

 more information on my wiki.

Cairns advised to evacuate as massive Cyclone Yasi builds strength and likely to cause severe local damage, and widespread flooding down to flood-stricken Victoria

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Areas of Victoria’s north west are still on major flood alerts as flood waters slowly pass down the Murray River region near Swan Hill at 2km per day.

Queensland is recovering from their recent once in a hundred year floods and it is still raining courtesy of the recent small cyclone which has now become a monsoonal depression over inland Queensland.

Now northern Queensland is bracing itself for a 700km diameter monster cyclone – Cyclone Yasi – almost as big as Queensland itself, and expected to be twice as large as the last devasting cyclone, Cyclone Larry, which hit in March 2006 as a category 4 cyclone, the most powerful to cross the Qld coastline in a century. The areas most likely to be hit hardest by rain, wind and storm surges is the area between Cairns and Innisfail, with possible direct path including Townsville.

The Queensland Premier has just announced evacuation of all patients from Cairns private and public hospitals – the first ever evacuation of a regional hospital in the State’s history.

See Youtube video of the potential path and likely effects on rainfall throughout eastern Australia:

Queensland flood catastrophe worsens

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Australia is a land of extremes, we have had 12 years of drought over much of Australia with the hottest decade on record which culminated in the devastating Black Saturday bush fires in summer 2009 when temperatures in Melbourne hit an unprecedented 47degC – my posts regarding this can be seen here.

La Nina has brought a wet, cool, humid 6 months to Victoria and our unseasonally wet summer continues, but this is nothing to what has happened in Queensland over the past few weeks where they have often been receiving Victoria’s annual rainfall in a day and repeated episodes of this. The last major La Nina was in in 1974 which resulted in Australia’s wettest year on record and major flooding as well as cyclone Tracy which devastated Darwin.

Much of Queensland has been covered with flood waters for weeks and all the dams are not surprisingly full with limited capability for further flood mitigation.

Heavy rain and storms continue over Queensland.

Yesterday, the Queensland town of Toowomba was hit by a devastating, surprise “inland tsunami” – an unexpected 8m wall of water rushing through the main streets washing away all before it and resulting in 8 dead and 72 missing as of this morning with that figure expected to “rise dramatically” according to Premier Bligh. This wall of water came from torrential rain (80-200mm in 30 minutes – a ” 1 in 100 year localised event”  for that region) in the nearby Lockyer Valley and disappeared almost as fast as it came, to continue on to cause major flooding downstream, washing away houses.

Here is a sample of how fast the creek rose:

To try to understand this type of event, imagine that if you had a 1km wide and long flat paddock with no inflows or outflows other than the direct rain, at 100mm in 30 minutes, the whole paddock will be filled with water 100mm deep (ie. 4 inches). This equates to a volume of 100,000 cubic metres = 100 megalitres.

Now imagine a potential 10m wide creek within a valley which is 1km wide, if there was no run off from the mountain sides, and no inflows or outflows, that creek would become 100mm deep after this amount of rain.

BUT, as a crude calculation, if all the run off from the mountains 0.5km on either side of the creek ran into the creek immediately, then 1 kilometre of catchment draining into 10m wide creek results in a 100x multiplier effect (1000m valley width / 10m creek width) – ie. the creek would rapidly rise to 10m and this wall of water would rush downstream. For every 1km length of valley, 100 megalitres will be added to the flood plains below.

This is why bushwalkers and campers do not camp in dry creek beds in areas at risk of heavy rain in the catchment of the creek bed – which could be a 100km away!

Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane lies on the banks of the Brisbane River which is now at risk of major flooding in the next 36 hours.

Major flood level of the Brisbane River is regarded as being at a level of ~3.6m, with the Wivenhoe Flood Mitigation Dam still managing to delay water flows into the Brisbane River.

At 9am today, the forecast was that the river is expected to peak at 3m tomorrow which will inundate perhaps 500 houses but if levels are more than this perhaps 7000 homes are at risk. Authorities have indicated 30-70 suburbs are at risk.

The Wivenhoe Dam reached full flood mitigation capacity today and further inflows will by necessity be allowed to flood Brisbane.

At 3pm today, this forecast has been revised to give a peak height of the Brisbane river at major flood levels of 4.5m at the high tide tomorrow afternoon, not too far off the 5.45m of the 1974 flood, but levels on Thursday are expected to EXCEED the 1974 flood and “devastating”!

The nearby city of Caboolture on the Sunshine Coast has been advised to evacuate today.

The Wivenhoe Dam was built above Brisbane to prevent a recurrence of the devastating 1974 flood when the Brisbane River hit just over 5m, and it was calculated that it would reduce flood levels in the Brisbane River by ~2m. See history of Brisbane floods here which show the highest flood on record was the Feb 1893 flood when the Brisbane River hit over 8m resulting in boats floating onto their Botanic Gardens.

The Wivenhoe Dam supply capacity is 1.15 million megalitres (“100% capacity)”, and can hold a further 1.45 million megalitres in a flood before it runs risk of failure. On the 6th Jan it was at 100% capacity, and by 9am yesterday it had reached “148%” capacity – filled to half its flood additional capacity in only 4 days!

Remember, assuming 100% run off, as in saturated soils, each 1mm rainfall results in 1 megalitre per square kilometre of catchment.

The dam has a 7000 square kilometer catchment and the recent inflows have equated to water twice the volume of Sydney Harbour EVERY DAY!

This has forced water authorities to release water from the dam which is contributing by necessity to minor flooding of Brisbane River at this stage and moderate flooding later today and tomorrow as levels reach 2-3m.

The ongoing heavy rain and fog  is not only hampering rescue efforts by limiting helicopter rescues but it runs the risk of further unprecedented flash flooding throughout Queensland and it was hoped the dam will prevent major flooding of Brisbane itself.

Some areas between Maroochydore and Warwick are expecting further rain today well in excess of 50mm per hour (2 inches per hour)!

Many spent a cold, wet night on their roof tops last night and are still to be rescued this morning.

Ipswich levels will hit 16-18m today (in 1974 they hit 21m) – this has now been revised to be forecast at more than 22m and up to a third of the city is expected to be inundated.

One third of Queensland has been declared a disaster area – that is ~600,000 square kilometres – an area larger than the whole of France.

Best case scenario for many Queenslanders is that they are likely to be isolated in their homes for perhaps a week or more as roads continue to be closed, many others will have severe damage and losses to their homes and businesses from which it will take many months if not years to recover.

Bureau of Meteorology warnings here.

11th Jan 2011, 9pm update:

Premier Bligh has announced a revised figure, with up to 40,000 homes now at risk of being affected by the Brisbane floods while 100,000 will lose power for the next few days.