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Hiking in the Wet Tropics

a man standing on a rocky hill

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Having lived and guided in Far North Queensland during the last 15 years I am still yet to complete my hiking bucket list of the region. As a tour guide in the Wet Tropics, a love of nature is essential and one of the most amazing ways to really get in touch with the rainforest is to trek through it. With over 30 national parks, an array of diverse habitats and some of the most sensational biodiversity in the world, I put a list of hikes together when first arriving to the region. It seems as though rather than powering through this list, it has grown over the years. This is not because of laziness, but intrigue. Each time one hike is completed it seems to uncover information about a few more.

Hiking in the Wet Tropics, FNQ

The Wet Tropics is an area of approximately 900,000 square kilometres of some of the world’s oldest rainforest, all protected by World Heritage listing. There are low lying rainforests, cloud forests, tropical savannahs, stunning coastal plains and much more to sweeten your senses. This series of articles is going to highlight some of the finer places to go hiking through the region and what you can expect for each hike. This first article will give an introduction to hiking in the Wet Tropics and set the grounding for what you need to know before getting out there.

Hiking in Far North Queensland needs some preparation, we are in the tropics and conditions can change in a matter of minutes. For those who are not used to the tropical conditions timing is of the utmost importance and understanding the conditions is imperative. Firstly in the tropics we do not have summer winter autumn and spring, it is either wet season or dry season. Wet season runs during the southern hemisphere’s summer, from around November through until May. During this time the daily maximum temperature sits over 30 degrees just about every day and the humidity makes the air stiflingly thick. It makes hiking conditions very difficult and if you want to ascend to any altitude you may encounter some lovely leaches and very slippery terrain. Dry season is during the Southern Winter, from May through until November. This period time of year is what allowed Queensland to push the catch phrase “Beautiful one day, perfect the next”, blue skies are predominant, their is less humidity. The perfect time to plan any hikes of a serious nature is from May through to the end September. Even though this is the cooler time of the year through the Wet Tropics it can still get very hot and humid in the rainforest. For this reason it is much safer to get an early start in the morning and aim to finish for the day and set up camp well before dark. It can get wet during this period but your chances of enjoying a dry trek are much improved. It is the tropics and a RAINforest.

“Come to Australia…

  • … You might accidentally get killed”
  • … Your lifes constantly under threat”
  • … Have you been bitten yet?”
  • … You’ve only got 3 minutes left”
  • … Before a massive coronary breakdown”

The above lyrics are from the song “Come to Australia”, and in the tropics this chorus is something to keep in mind. Last year I was astounded when visiting the Amazon, a guide there explained that you could eat nearly 80% of the fruit coming off the trees. This is not the case in the Wet Tropics and the rainforests of the Daintree, most of the plants you cannot eat without making yourself extremely ill and many are fatal. In fact, if you do not know what the plants are, then do not touch them. If you were unlucky and happened to touch the stinging tree (gympie gympie), this has been described to me as the equivalent to having boiling water poured on you, and the toxin released is potent for months. Not Pleasant. But don’t let this deter you from hiking through the tropics, just be wary not to touch what you don’t need to and stay on the marked paths. There is obviously also the chance of encountering snakes and spiders but if you respect them, there will be no problems. In 20 years as a tour guide I am yet to have a single snake or spider bite on tour.

The other aspects to hiking through the tropics are mostly common sense. Firstly, never hike alone. For safety’s sake hiking with four people as a minimum is best. This means if someone is injured, one person can stay with them whilst the two others go off to find some phone signal and alert the authorities. 99% of the time nothing will happen but in the case of the 1%, it is best to be prepared. This means also letting someone know where you are hiking and when you will be returning.

As far as being prepared is concerned, the following is a list of what I would be taking in my day pack on any hike through the tropics.

  1. Mobile Phone
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Water – take 1 litre for every hour you intend to hike. This sounds like a lot but due to the heat and the strenuous nature of hiking through the rainforest, it’s important. Also check your where you can refill your water along the way so you can hike light.
  4. A Map of the hike you intend to complete.
  5. Good quality hiking boots
  6. Insect repellant
  7. Sunscreen
  8. Waterproof jacket
  9. Hat
  10. Headtorch (in case you get stuck in the dark)
  11. Snacks and Food

So now the best thing to do is have a search through the website for some interesting treks to have a crack at. There are some sensational hikes like Mt. Bartle Frere, Windin Falls, Henrietta Creek and Nandroya Falls, Behana Gorge, and too many others to mention. You are also welcome to organise a supported hiking tour through Barefoot Tours. They have an excellent guide.