The Wildlife of North Queensland’s Reef and Rainforests


North Queensland, in Australia, is a destination tailor-made for wildlife holidays. Not only is the top end of the country home to the world’s largest coral reef, it’s also the location of our most ancient tropical rainforest – dating back an astonishing 180 million years.

The Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest have been listed as World Heritage sites, and the uplands of the Atherton Tablelands provide a habitat for a vast array of species, many of them endemic to the region. Dedicatedwildlife tours that take in the magnificent reef, rainforests and uplands of Queensland around the northern city of Cairns afford sightings of countless rare birds and mammals. The Great Barrier Reef

The incredible ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef is spread over 350,000 square kilometres of ocean and hosts the most diverse and concentrated marine life on the planet. There are more than 400 species of coral and 1,500 species of fish, including the colourful and highly recognisable clownfish, parrotfish, groupers, cod, trout and wrasse.

The waters around the reef are also home to an abundance of turtles, sharks and dolphins. During their migration season whales can also be seen. As well as the plethora of marine species beneath the ocean, the reef also provides the infrastructure for a vast array of birds.

Daintree Rainforest

North of Cairns, the Daintree Rainforest is a unique and biologically diverse ecosystem. The rainforest supports an extraordinary amount of flora and fauna, including a proliferation of rare birds like the Papuan Frogmouth, Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher, Great-billed Heron and Black Bittern. It is also home to mammals not found anywhere else, like the Southern Cassowary, Musky Rat-kangaroo, Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Spotted-tail Quoll, Daintree River Ringtail Possum, Lesser Sooty Owl and the exquisite Ulysses Butterfly.

A cruise up the Daintree River affords sightings of the infamous Estuarine Crocodile, gliders, possums and a host of other small mammals that make their homes around the banks, on the forest floor and in the canopy of the rainforest.   

Atherton Tablelands

The landscape of the cool, grassy Atherton Tablelands is made up of rainforests, farmland and wetlands. The diverse habitat supports a huge number of avian species, many of them endemic. Along with several species of owls and doves, sought after sightings include the local Atherton Scrubwren, the Chowchilla and the Wompoo Fruit Dove.

The rainforests of the tablelands come alive after dark. Wildlife tours that include a memorable night-time excursion on the itinerary provide encounters with iconic Australian mammals like gliders, possums, tree-kangaroos and flying foxes. For those with patience, a sighting of the shy Duck-billed Platypus is a highlight. 

Wildlife Tours to Queensland

Australia is one of the most wildlife-rich continents on the planet and is home to myriad unusual and fascinating species. Wildlife tours to Queensland afford nature lovers a once in a lifetime opportunity to come face to face with many animals that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.

Author Plate Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in birds. With a passionate interest in rare avian species, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife tours organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of flora and fauna in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.