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Field Herping

Queensland, Australia May/June, 2009

"You were doing what in Australia?", asked a bewildered US customs agent at LAX, who was looking at my snake stick with much confusion.  "I was catching reptiles", I exclaimed.  Little did I know I had walked right into a trap.  The customs agent quickly responded "So you were in contact with wildlife…" , quickly circling a big "A" on my customs card, and sent me over to another agent who thoroughly searched, and swabbed my luggage before giving me the 'all clear'.

Once back in the main terminal, I couldn't help but feel a overwhelming sense of nostalgia.  It seemed just yesterday I was trying to sleep on the airport floor while waiting for my 11pm flight to Brisbane. Going to a foreign country is always exciting, while also a bit daunting. I had prepared myself for months beforehand, trying to plan an itinerary, estimating costs, travel arrangements, and how to meet up with various contacts.  Despite doing so much research and preparation, nothing can prepare you for the real thing. After a twelve hour flight across the Pacific, I get my first look at the Sunshine Coast of Australia, although there was no sunshine; it was raining.

Once on the ground, I see that this "rain" is not your typical rain. This was a steady torrential downpour, similar to hurricane levels. I had come half way around the world to Australia, and I wasn't about to let some rain get in the way of my plans to explore Brisbane on the first day. So, once I'd checked into my hostel, I took my backpack and headed out to explore the city.  I returned to the hostel that evening completely drenched.   The rain we were experiencing was no normal tropical shower; it apparently had been raining like this for the past 2 days, non-stop, some of the worst rains Australia had experienced in some forty or fifty years.

Luckily, the next day was sunny. I had planned to head up to Australia Zoo. Going to Australia Zoo, for me, would be like a Yankee's fan getting to walk onto Yankee field, a holy place where legends played, as I had grown up watching every single one of Steve's TV shows. On the train ride up to Australia Zoo, I also got to see the havoc the recent rains had on the suburbs of Brisbane, as well as the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains. After Australia Zoo, while waiting for the train to arrive to take me back to Brisbane, I sat and watched a colony of bats fly off into the sunset. Early the next morning I was back on the train heading towards the airport to catch my plane to Cairns, the main reason I had come to Australia- the tropical north.

Once landing in Cairns, I was immediately in awe of the mountains that border the coast. After collecting my bags, I was off to get my rental car, which would be crucial for getting around. Luckily, I found a local company that would rent to an 18 year old, not an easy task! After collecting my car, and a crash course on driving on the left hand side of the road, I just wanted to get out of Cairns where I could get used to driving without all the other cars. After driving around for a little while, I saw a sign for Crystal Cascades and decided to check it out. As the name implies, the river was crystal clear and had a number of beautiful waterfalls and turned out to be a great swimming spot.  I ran into a number of locals who go there quite often since the ocean around Cairns is off limits due to the ever present saltwater crocodiles and seasonal jellyfish threat. It also reminded me a lot of the Smokey Mountains back home. After having a relaxing day swimming, and absorbing the picturesque landscape, I decided to return to Cairns and call it a night. The next day would be the start of the serious herping!

After a less than restful sleep, due to the other people in my hostel partying into the wee morning hours, I was out the door early, and on my way to the Atherton Tablelands. The Tablelands is a tropical plateau, ranging from 600-1,100 meters above sea level, just southwest of Cairns. There are two main habitats in the region, both home to a variety of interesting herps: the dry scrub in the Mareeba area, where one can see the iconic large termite mounds, eucalypt trees and the tall grasses, and then the World Heritage Rainforest further south. The Tablelands is also a major producer of coffee and beef, both of which have taken their toll on the natural landscape. Only 3% of the original rainforest remains; one minute you can be driving through a cow field, the next you are in some of the most ancient rainforest in the world! Luckily, all the remaining fragments of habitat are protected, and there are groups working to replant the surrounding cow pastures.

After about a two hour drive over the mountains, I was in the tablelands. I had made arrangements to stay at the On The Wallaby Lodge in Yungaburra. Yungaburra is a small town about 10 minutes down the road from the town of Atherton, its central location is perfect for what I wanted to do- catch reptiles! After checking in and getting a quick lunch at the lodge, I decided to take a kayak tour with one of the guides on Lake Tinaroo. After a quick five minute drive to the lake and putting the boat in the water, I was off!

I soon spotted my first reptile, a saw-shelled turtle sunning himself on a log. I decided to try my turtle catching method I used back home, so I hopped out of my kayak about 50 feet away and slowly swam up to the log trying not to make a ripple, I was soon about two feet away from the turtle, when it quickly dove into the lake, luckily I reacted quickly and dove down into the reeds and quickly grabbed it, just to resurface to the hysterical laughter of my guide. Paddling further along the river, I saw numerous water dragons basking on the exposed branches in the water; unfortunately, they were harder to catch than the turtle. My guide was also able to spot a Lumholtz's Tree-kangaroo (Dendrolagus lumholtzi) resting in an over-hanging tree.  After a pleasant trip, and watching the sun set over the lake, we returned back to the lodge, where another staff member was busy cooking up a delicious dinner for everyone. After dinner, I decided to try some night spotting at the Curtain Fig Tree. The Curtain Fig Tree is only a few minutes drive from the lodge and, as the name implies, it's a fig tree that formed a curtain, by falling onto another tree and then the roots growing down across the gap. I had high hopes for this location as I had heard one of my target species could be found there, the leaf tailed gecko (Saltuarius cornutus). It is one of the largest geckos in Australia, and one of the most beautiful and bizarre as well.

The key to night searching is to walk slowly, and examine every inch of everything your spotlight illuminates, you find so much more by thoroughly searching a smaller area as opposed to just walking normally through the forest hoping to spot something in your light beam. After an hour or so of finding nothing other than some really bizarre insects and spiders, I heard a rustling up in the canopy. After a few minutes of trying to get a good look, a little face appeared; it was a Green Ringtail possum. After a few seconds of admiring him, he disappeared back into the darkness.  Satisfied with what I had seen, I decided to call it a night and get an early start the next day.

The following day, I decided to 'walk about 'the nearby crater lakes, in hopes of seeing some herps along the waters edge. Amystethine pythons were known to be seen out basking themselves in the morning sun in the overhanging vegetation along the shoreline. Although I didn't see any pythons, I did manage to catch a few Green Tree snakes that were doing the same thing the pythons should have been doing. Tired, after walking six miles around both lakes, I decided to spend the afternoon checking out the waterfall circuit. In the tablelands there are a number of stunning waterfalls that jut right out of rainforest and they are all quite easy to access via a small road that loops around them. After seeing the waterfalls, dusk was approaching, so I decided since I was fairly close I would go spotlighting at Mt. Hypipamee. I was told that both Carphodactylus laevis and Saltuarius cornutus could be found here, and it was also the site of a huge crater! I arrived at the crater just as the sun was setting and so I got to admire the immense size of the crater before darkness fell. It was a 3 mile trek back to the car and so with flashlights in hand I started the slow, tedious trek, scanning every tree, raking leaves, and searching tree hollows. In one log I found three Dumpy's tree frogs ( Litoria caerulea), bunkered up.  I assume they were trying to stay away from the "relatively" cool temperatures that night. After a few more hours of searching, and not finding any geckos, I was happy to be back at the car as I was rather tired and had to still drive 30 miles back to the lodge.

The next day, somewhat discouraged that I hadn’t yet seen any of my target species, I decided to check out another trail south of Yungaburra.  I had heard that leaftail geckos, as well as Forest Boyds Dragons had been found here, so I decided to try and catch some reptiles sunning themselves in the morning sun, after a relatively cold night.  As I was entering the forest, I noticed a small sign cautioning hikers of a “Stinging Tree”- not really thinking much of it, I continued.  I had thought it was a plant comparable to Poison Ivy back in the states.  I had seen my fair share of Poison Ivy over my adventures back home and wasn’t really affected by it anymore, and besides I was in the Rainforest where the threat of dangerous wildlife was so high, that a plant seemed to be the least of my worries.  After a mile or so of walking into the forest admiring the sunlight glistening through the canopy, and the birds singing, and just leisurely examining trees bordering the path, I decided it was time to start venturing off the trail a bit, and really start getting dirty and find something.  Amongst the other sounds, I could hear a small stream flowing just through the trees  so, thinking I might still find my Amystethine python basking in the morning sun, I started walking through the creek searching the riverbanks.  After another mile or so of seeing water dragons dart into the forest, and finding some rather impressively sized crayfish (nearly the size of a Maine lobster!) under some river stones, I decided to try and get back to the trail.  I knew the trail snaked along the river, so luckily I didn’t have to worry about getting lost. There was about 500 feet of forest between the creek bed and the trail, 'no biggie' I thought.  However, while moving through the dense forest, I felt an intense pain on my legs. It was if someone had lit them on fire!  My first thought was that I had stepped in an ant nest and so, without a second thought, I immediately started wiping my legs with my hands…..big mistake!  I soon realized there were no ants, and all of a sudden my forearms were on fire and then my hands.  I could barely stand it! I ripped through the remaining bit of forest and launched myself onto the dirt trail.  Was I bit by a snake?  The pain seemed to match the description of the stories I had heard from victims, but where was the bite mark?  I soon realized that the source of my escalating agonizing pain was from the stinging tree.  Hardly able to contain my discomfort, I ran down the trail towards the trailhead, trying to run faster to take my mind off the pain.  After 30 minutes of all out sprint, I finally was back at the car. 

Trying to bring myself to grip the steering wheel, as by this time my hands felt like I had been playing with fiberglass insulation all day, I drove as quickly as I could to nearest town of  Malanda.  I parked the car on the main street, and then ran into the local pharmacy store thinking there must be a drug or something to deal with this.  Unfortunately, I learned that there was no cure, and that time is the only real effective medicine.  The cashier suggested that hot wax strips might help at removing some of the microscopic stingers, so without any other options I figured it was worth a shot.  So on the hood of the car, in the street I applied the wax strips and, while hesitant to pull them off (my legs are quite hairy), I ripped the wax from my legs, arms, and hands.   Needless to say they weren’t really effective since the stingers had an entire hour to deploy their neurotoxin.  Turns out pain from the stinger tree can last several days, and even re-activate several months later.  I later learned in the shower that they can be re-energized by cold water as well.  So while the day was off to a bad start, I was determined not to let a plant be the folly of my trip.  After a quick lunch in Malanda, I decided to go back to the same trail, and continue my search, this time ever-alert of the stinger tree.  Stinging trees like to grow in sunny areas in the forest, the same spots I was looking to find reptiles basking in the sun, luckily they turned out to be quite an easy plant to identify and I was able to work around them the rest of the trip without an issue.

After five hours hiking without seeing any reptiles, except the abundant forest skinks that scurried into the leaf litter with every step, I was back at the car.  After cooking some dinner on hood of the car, I sat there watching the sun disappear through the forest and the sounds of the forest change from day mode to night mode.  Even not knowing all the creatures behind those sounds it is incredible to sit there and just listen to something that has been going on for the past million years.  Being as it was now pitch dark, I decided to hit the trail again. 

It had just started to rain and so I was really hoping the higher temps during the day, the rain, and the mild evening temperatures, would blend together to create one of those “perfect storm” type scenarios for catching reptiles, and what a night it was!  Within the first 15 minutes of searching I spotted my main target species: Saltuarius cornutus, a big adult male!  It’s amazing how quickly one can go from tired, worn and hurting to ecstatic and elated.  This is the moment I had dreamed of, and the ecstasy of the moment finally happening is a moment I will never forget.  The night was still young, and so I continued on my path. I soon came up to a log I had flipped just earlier that day and flipping it  again this time I revealed two prickly forest skinks (Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae).   They are a small skink (compared to the other skinks Australia hosts), but the beaded texture of their skin and interesting habits make up for their smaller size.  Moving on, I continued to search every tree, crevice, and leaf. I also turned up a variety of interesing insect species, ranging from giant king crickets to spiny katydids.  I also found one of the largest spiders I had ever seen- a female Golden Orb Weaver.  While it wasn’t a bulky spider such as a tarantula, it was about the size of a dinner plate, and was quite menacing looking.  Luckily, their bites are not lethal to humans, however, I can't say I would want one to crawl over me.

As luck would happen, the rain also brought out an annelid that I had yet to run into.  I had not noticed that my body had leaches scattered all over it.  After a few minutes strip searching myself in the middle of the forest, removing well over two dozen leaches, I put on the pair of pants and long sleeve shirt I had in my backpack to help discourage any further free blood buffets.  While scanning one of the palm fronds adjacent to a nearby strangler fig, I caught sight of the outline of a snake. Iit was a Brown Tree Snake (Boiga irregularis).  I quickly shook it out of the palm frond and grabbed it mid-air, careful not to let it bite me as they are slightly venomous, but not considered dangerous to humans.  It was a medium sized animal approximately 4.5 feet in length, but it made up for its size in attitude, and repeatedly struck out at me until it finally came close enough that made me drop him and he disappeared before I could recapture him.  Nearing the end of the trail, I was quite pleased with my finds, and knew that I could now leave the tablelands and move onto my next location.

After leaving the Tablelands I headed west. I had heard from a friend that the herping around Almaden was a great spot to check out for finding numerous reptile species, including Diplodactylus steindachneri, Nephurus asper, Oedura marmorata, Cyrtodactylus louisdayensis, as well as Black Head Pythons (Aspidites melanocephalus), and King Browns (Pseudechis australis) all species I hoped to find. As I passed through the town of Mareeba the landscape drastically changed, from tropical forest to dry eucalypt forests with huge termite mounds randomly scattered throughout. This was prime habitat for Chlamydosaurus kingii. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to look for them and the odds of finding one during the particualr time of year was quite slim. After gathering some last minute provisions in Mareeba I headed off on the Burke Developmental Road towards Almaden. The scenery became more and more desert-like the further I went, rather similar to Southern California/Baja. There were also a number of large coffee plantations around Dimbulah. One thing that struck me as strange was the way the ranchers just let their cattle wander around with no fences, talk about free range! I later learned that ranchers just seemed to claim cattle between certain mile markers, regardless if they were their original cattle. So after five or six hours of driving avoiding cattle and the odd kangaroo (Australia's version of a North American Deer in terms of their relationship with automobiles) I had arrived at Almaden. However it was a good thing I blinked at the right moment, as I found out Almaden was no more of a town than a truck stop along an interstate. There was nothing really there in terms of accommodation and so, after talking to a local, he said my best bet would be to drive thirty more miles down the road to Chillagoe. Heeding his advice I was off again. I soon realized the "road" he referred to was more of a clearing of trees paved with sand, rock , and dust. Needless to say my cheap rental car wasn't equipped with 4WD. Luckily, it was the dry season so I didn't need it.  Between avoiding potholes and searching for any wildlife I could spot I checked my rear view mirror. Now there isn't a lot of traffic on the road, but what I saw in the mirror was something I had seen signs about, but never saw until now. Barreling towards me at quite a fast clip (considering the road) was my first road train. Its basically like three 18-wheelers hooked up like a train, decked out with massive tires to glide over any bumps in the road, which I'm sure wouldn't care less if my little neon like car was in the way. So I quickly pulled off and let it pass only to be quickly blinded by the dust storm behind it. After a few more stops to check out some interesting and possibly productive herping spots I arrived in Chillagoe. Chillagoe looked like a the town they filmed Walking Texas Ranger in, they had a Saloon, with a real Saloon sign as well the open style hotel with a bar in the lobby.  I'm sure if tumbleweed grew there, that there would be some blowing down Main Street. It wasn't a huge town, but a small town that used to be a major mining town. Its main attraction nowadays is its convienent location to the hundreds of caves that surround it. Its climate is hot year round, the only difference in season being the amount of rain that falls. After finding a place to camp out the next few days, I decided to spend the last of the daylight hours (it was just coming upon dusk now) at the local swimming hole. The small lagoon was a great place to relax after the long hot drive out to Chillagoe. I spent the rest of the evening watching the New South Wales vs. Queensland rugby match.  As it was a rather highly anticipated game, and being that I was in Queensland, I felt I better cheer them on.

Being that Queensland won the game the night before, the next morning I was pumped and ready to start exploring the bush around Chillagoe.  Temperatures quickly soared to over 100 degrees and I was hoping that I might see some of the goanna species that were supposedly common in the area.  However, after hours of walking, I had yet to see any of my target species. I did however find a few surprises such as a few Knobby Dragons.  I also managed to find a few LBF’s (Little Brown Frogs) under some rocks that were trying to retain some moisture from the dry hot air surrounding them.  With the heat becoming more and more intolerable I decided to shift my search to the cave systems.  One species I hope to find was the spotted python, one of the smallest species of python in the world, they are known to eat bats and the caves were full of those.  The caves provide and interesting hide out for reptiles as they stay constantly cool and are nearly 100% humidity all the time.  So reptiles can hide in them during the day to avoid overheating outside and then once night falls they can emerge out and warm themselves on the black stone which holds the heat for hours after the sun disappears.  After some tight squeezes and some intimate contact with some bat guano I reached a large cathedral like opening that was home to hundreds of bats.  Thinking that this was the perfect place to be if I was a spotted python I started searching under fallen rocks, around stalagmites, and in the dark tight crevices on the cave walls.  However after hours of searching and flashlight batteries getting low I decided to leave before I was left in the dark.  That night I decided to search around the exterior of the cave and the surrounding rocks.  I soon found a number of Gehyra dubia and Nactus cheverti along the rocks.  However I soon found one of my target species, Cyrtodactylus louisiadensis, a large bent toed gecko, I later found a few more on other rock formations.  The following night I decided that I would try doing some road cruising on the dirt road from Chillagoe to Almaden. Hoping it might yield a black head python.  I was also hoping I might turn up a Diplodactylus steindachneri of a Nephurus asper.  Shortly into my drive I saw a tiny gecko rocket across the road, excited I hopped out of the car and ran into the bush after it.  After a few minutes of searching I flipped a rock to find two Heteronotia binoei.  They are a small gecko, found all over Australia.  They are interesting in the fact that the population around Ayers Rock is pathogenic, while the rest of the population are heterosexual.  Continuing on I crawled down, it wasn’t easy to spot small animals due to the fact that they blended right in with the naturalistic road surface.  I ended up leaving the car several times to venture off into the surrounding brush, luckily it was easy to find my way back to the road due to flat land and the occasional road train with had high powered lights on them.  Heading back to Chillagoe I noticed something in the road, could it be, yes it was a snake!  Ecstatic I jumped out of the car to discover my first black headed python, unfortunately it had been hit by one of the road trains that had passed me (there was no other traffic) and so the lower third of its body had been crushed.  Feeling as if someone had punched me in the gut, I somberly got back into the car and drove back to Chillagoe.  After three days of searching around Chillagoe it was time for me to leave for my next stop, Daintree and Cape Tribulation.

While driving up the coast towards Cape Tribulation and admiring the scenic coastline and the mountains that extend right up the beach. I soon arrived at the small town of Daintree, my first pit stop. Daintree is a small town nestled on the Daintree River and borders the Daintree National Park. Although it turned out that it wasn’t as great a location as I had hoped. It turned out the spots I had planned to go to were across the Daintree River. There is no quick way to get across the river, the only way across is to pay $20 to get on a small ferry boat, quite the rip off considering a bridge could easily be built across the rather small river. However since the river is full of crocodiles you don’t have much of a choice. Deciding to hold off on crossing the river I decided to stay in Daintree for the night and try my luck at some herping in Mossman Gorge. I decided to spend the remaining daylight hours searching the cane fields that are bisected by the main highway. Hoping I might come across a Carpet Python or King Brown (Mulga) I started looking around old storage houses and machinery, careful about where I put my foot due to the rather high sugar cane stalks that encased the property. Unfortunately I only ended up finding their prey, rats were turned up almost every board so long as a cane toad hadn’t claimed it first. As dusk was setting I was just setting out on a trail in Mossman that would hopefully yield another of my target species Boyds Forest Dragon and if I was lucky an Amethystine or Water Python. Searching on some trees near the rivers edge turned up a nice surprise, a massive White Lipped Frog! Then I heard some bustling in the bush that sounded like a snake gliding over the leaf litter, I scanned my flashlight on the forest floor only to find out it was a Brush Turkey. These turned out to be quite prevalent, but it was the first time I had thought I had a snake and it ended up to be a turkey! Carefully scanning the small trees I was in perfect habitat for a Boyds Dragon, they reminded me of looking for in Costa Rica. Making sure to look around the entire tree I knew how easy it is fro such a large lizard to disappear on even the smallest of saplings. As I was searching one tree no bigger than an inch in diameter, right above my head I saw one! Quickly going to grab my camera I slowly starting to bend over the small tree in order to get a better picture, however this quickly woke the lizard and before I realize what was going on the dragon jumped off my head and had bolted towards into the forest. Extremely discouraged, thinking I just blew my only opportunity to photograph one I decided to call it a night since it was getting quite late and I still had to make the drive back up to Daintree.

Crossing the river the next morning I managed to see a few crocodiles basking on the mud banks, and there were cockatoos flying above. I was now entering one of the oldest rainforests on earth! On the drive in I immediately took notice of the cassowary warning signs. Cassowary’s are large emu like birds that are found only in the rainforests of Queensland and are endangered due to loss of habitat as well as their tendency to get hit by automobiles. They are essential for the rainforests survival as they play an essential part in seed dispersal for dozens of plant species. After many twists and turns through the jungle I made it to my base camp for the next several days, Crocodylus village. It is a small hostel that is built among the forest that has a nice chunk of forest attached to the property. After checking in I decided to spend the rest of the day by renting a kayak and paddling around Snapper Island, a small island just at the mouth of the Daintree river. Once returning back at the lodge around dusk, I decided to do some night herping on the loop hike in the forest behind the lodge. There was a low pressure system moving in and it was starting to drizzle a bit, soon the deafening sound of the forest was in full swing and I soon found almost a dozen frogs just on the tarps (the walls of my cabin). After just 30 minutes of hiking and finding some interesting insects the small drizzle turned into a torrential downpour. Night herping for me is largely based on movement, and so when it rains everything around you is moving and this in effect makes it hard to differentiate between a snake and a vine for instance. The wind also was picking up quite significaly, and most people wouldn’t believe that wind can actually be one of the most dangerous things when it comes to walking around in rainforest. One has to realize there is a lot of dead and rotten wood high above your head and it doesn’t take much of a storm to blow it down and with the volume of the forest already rather loud you would be likely to not even know what hit you. I ended up calling it an early night and headed back to get some rest. Unfortunately rest wasn’t easy to come by due to the noise of the rain pounding against the tarp roof on my cabin and the warm muggy temperatures inside my cabin.

I was up early the next morning and, as it was still raining, decided to check out the nearby Daintree Discovery Center. It was an interesting place to visit and blow off a rainy morning. The rain finally tapered off around noon, and figuring I might catch some reptiles on the move, I drove towards the beach in Cow Bay, and pulled over at a nice looking spot to start searching. However, shortly into my hike, I happened to stumble across an animal that made my heart jump a few beats.  Looking me straight in the eyes was an adult male cassowary! It is amazing how such a large bird can just simply appear out of the forest. Knowing I was in a bit of danger, as these birds are capable of disemboweling a person with a single kick of their Velociraptor-like feet. I slowly kept my distance as the bird, seemingly interested in me walked closer and closer. I eventually was able to sneak behind a fallen tree covered in vines and watch the cassowary move off. It wouldn’t be the last time I would unexpectedly run into one, as their population seemed to be quite numerous in the Cow Bay area. Continuing on, I came up to a uprooted tree that had a lot of decaying wood around it, I soon turned up a small skink belonging to the genus Saproscincus (lewisi?). However, I inadvertently disturbed the wrong piece of wood, as a wild pig and two of her offspring jolted out of the tree, and descended into a nearby burrow. Wild pigs are another introduced species in Australia, and are very destructive animals that tear up the forest in order to make a den site. As the sun started to set, I took out the flashlights and started to scan the trees in hopes of finding another Forest Boyds Dragon. Since I was a good 3 miles into the forest, I was careful to keep tabs on the small mud trail that seemed to taper on and off the farther I went. After seeing a few enormous white-tailed rats, I was hoping I might see the predators that eat them, however after scanning the trees I didn’t end up finding anything except a Daintree River Ringtail Possum, which although wasn’t a snake was a nice find. Just as I was about 500 yards away from the car I noticed a break in a the shape of a tree, it was a Forest Boyds Dragon! Ecstatic that I had finally found one and got a few nice pictures I took the few more steps and got into the car. Who would of thought that after 8 miles of hiking all day that the lizard I sought was practically right next to my car.

After a day of just hanging out on the beach and taking it easy, the following day I drove north to Cape Tribulation. Comprised of a few high end resorts nestled in the forest and a few shops it wasn’t a big town. I immediately noticed a large tree covered in flying foxes, they are enormous bats that, unlike your typical bat, are actually quite cute. Walking along the beach, I came upon some mangroves, I had heard that Lace Monitors could be seen here, but being the time of year I didn’t end up seeing one. However I noticed that every time I put my foot down hundreds of little mudskippers were rippling away from my foot, amused by their funny behavior I spent the next thirty minutes just watching them scoot around the sand and around the mangrove roots. The remainder of the day I spent searching around the forest and the mangroves, it was interesting to see how the rainforest slowly blends right into the mangrove forests as you descended closer to sea level. That night while searching I came across two more Forest Boyds Dragons, as well as a few different frog species. I was also able to spot and get some video of a striped possum. I had learned that the only way to get any shots of the possums was to carry my camera around my neck ready to go, as once you spot them you have usually seconds to try and get a picture of them before the disappear back into the forest, so trying to get your camera out of the camera bag in time to get a photo is nearly impossible. However the warm humid air can take a toll on camera equipment.

The following day, it was time for me to head back down to Cairns, as I had planned to go out on a five day dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef.  I had dreamed of diving on the GBRfor quite some time. Unlike the small day trip boats that herd tourists back and forth to high traffic reef spots, the trip I had booked would be going to remote parts of the reef, and the Coral Sea. It would be 5 days of intense diving, as we would be doing 4 dives a day at different locations throughout the reef. The reef was one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen, the amount of biodiversity was truly astonishing! From the Nudibranchs to the Minkie whales and all the fish in between, it was a magical place to experience. One could spend a lifetime out there and not see everything the reef has to offer, so five days just seemed to sail right by (pun intended). I was also able to round a few herps out of it as well, a Stokes sea snake, as well as a few loggerhead and green sea turtles.

Sailing back into Cairns as the sun was setting gave me time to reflect on the three and a half weeks I had spent traveling around Queensland.  What a time it had been! From busy downtown Brisbane to the scrubland of Chillagoe, and the prehistoric rainforest of Cape Tribulation, I felt very lucky to see everything I had seen and thought, for it being winter time, I had seen a fair number of herps as well. If nothing else, I knew a flame had been ignited, and that I soon would be returning to the land down under.

Pictures in Chronological Order

Brisbane from South Banks

Brisbane from Story Bridge

Downtown Brisbane



Red Kangaroos

Cairns waterfront


Australian Lapwing (Vanellus miles)

Crystal Cascades

Farmland Bordering Rainforest in Tablelands

Rainforest in Tablelands

On the Wallaby. My accomodations while in the Tablelands

Australian Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii)

Curtain Fig Tree

Watch out for those tree kangaroos

Female Golden Orb Weaver (

Green Tree Snake

Leaf Tail Gecko (Saltuarius cornutus)

Leaf Tail Gecko (Saltuarius cornutus)

White-Kneed King Cricket (Penalva flavocalceata)




Beware of the Stinging Tree

Every plant seemed to have some sort of thorn on it

Mila Mila Falls, Tablelands

Waterfall along waterfall circut, Tablelands

Waterfall along waterfall circut, Tablelands

Spiny Leaf Insect (Exatosoma tiaratum)

Prickly Forest Skink (Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae)

Prickly Forest Skink (Gnypetoscincus queenslandiae)

Strangler Fig

Catherdral Fig Tree

Catherdral Fig Tree

Platypus, tricky to photograph

Platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus)

Me with Wooroonooran Natl. Park in background

Road to Chillagoe, watch out for those roo's

Rush Hour Traffic

Termite Mound, over 2 meters tall (7 foot)

Karst Formations on the road to Chillagoe

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus)


Swimming hole in Chillagoe

Swimming hole in Chillagoe

Agile Wallaby (Macropus agilis)

Landscape around Chillagoe

Balancing Rock, Chillagoe

Bentwing Bat (Miniopterus)

Nobbi Dragon (Amphibolurus nobbi)

Nobbi Dragon (Amphibolurus nobbi)

Cave Spider

Landscape around Chillagoe

Better stock up on fuel

Cyrtodactylus louisiadensis (Ring Tailed Gecko)

Cyrtodactylus louisiadensis (Ring Tailed Gecko)


Adult Tree Dtella (Gehyra dubia)

My rental car

The Smelters in Chillagoe, a reminder of the towns mining past

Neonate Tree Dtella (Gehyra dubia)

Heteronotia binoei (Bynoes Gecko)

Little Red Frog (Litoria rubella)

Dome Rock, Chillagoe

Needless to say I had to climb the Dome Rock

Barron River

Barron Falls, Kuranda

Coastline north of Cairns

Coastline near Cape Tribulation

Daintree River

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

I guess there will be no swimming today!

Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus) Hatchling

Cane Toad (Bufo marinus), Australia's Folly

Brown-Striped Frog (Limnodynastes peroni)


Northern Dwarf Treefrog (Litoria bicolor)


White-lipped Treefrog (Litoria infrafrenata)


Mourning Gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris)

Brush Turkey (Alectura lathami)


Graceful Treefrog (Litoria gracilenta)

Spectacled Monarch (Monarcha trivirgatus)



Rainforest canopy, Daintree


Mudskipper, look at that camoflauge!


4'o clock Moth, funny I actually found this one at 4:15


Beware of the Cassowary

Male Cassowary

Female Cassowary

Prionid Longicorn (Agrianome spinicollis)

Prionid Longicorn (Agrianome spinicollis)

Boyd's Forest Dragon ( Hypsilurus boydii )

Flying Foxes (Pteropus conspicillatus)

Yeah the beach....oh wait

Beach south of Cooktown. That water sure looks enticing

Sulpher Crested Cockatoo ( Cacatua galerita )

Heading to the Barrier Reef

Our Dive Boat

Shark Feed

Dive Deck

Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta)

Barrier Reef

Overlooking Coral Sea



The sunsets were about as good as they come!

Leaving Brisbane, I'll be back!






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