The Giant Fig Trees
The top of the Gillies Range is quite sensational and this is enhanced by the sheer number of Fig Trees in the region. There is one you walk through (yes, walk through) half way along the hike around Lake Eacham, but that is dwarfed in comparison to the phenomenal examples seen at the Curtain and Cathedral Fig trees. It is a must to see one of these sensational stranglers up close and we choose one of them on each waterfalls tour with Barefoot.
The Strangler Fig Tree
In the surrounding environment over 5000 species of flora battle for survival. Throughout evolution, plants and animals have adapted to survive. Far North Queensland’s rainforests are a perfect place to witness some of the wild ways these natural wonders have modified themselves over time. The Strangler Fig Tree is a prime example of a species that has turned the plant world upside down. These trees grow from the top down, beginning their lives some distance up the rainforest canopy before reaching down to the ground to implant its formidable root system into the ground. Their seeds implant into a host tree from which they steal nutrients to enable the root system to surround the trunk. On its way towards the ground it lattices around the host strangling it as the fig grows, eventually killing it. Yes, not only is the fig a thief, but also a murderer in this hostile rainforest environment. You have to do what you can to survive. It’s a jungle out there.
Whether you visit the Curtain or the Cathedral Fig Tree you are in for an experience. The Cathedral Fig Tree is found in Danbulla National Park near the eastern end. On the drive in here you can see the distinct contrast between vast clearing of the farms on one side and the luxuriant dense forest on the other. The short walk to the Cathedral is a religious rainforest experience and as the gigantic old tree comes into view it will astonish you. It towers towards the top of the canopy with roots cabling down to the ground. It is HUGE. If you were to come here at night you would also be to witness glow flies and glow in the dark fungi in the region. Its enough to make you feel like you are in the movie Avatar. It’s possible to circumnavigate the root system along the boardwalk at its base, a great way to get up close to some of the huge buttress roots. The Cathedral Fig is thought to be at least 500 years old but it is hard to determine the exact age of this tree due to the way it grows. This fig has completely killed its original host and is a formidable sight in the forest.
Danbulla National Park has much more to offer. Continuing past the fig, the road turns to dirt, and there are some campsites and hiking opportunities surrounding Lake Tinaroo. If you have some time on your hands this would make a great overnight stop so you could venture to the JungalJungal circuit hike or the Regeneration walk to catch some of the amazing morning birdlife around the park.
The other fig tree of renown acclaim in the region is the Curtain Fig tree. This fig has not grown with the help of just one host, it has curtained across at least four with columns of roots resembling a giant church pipe organ. It is MASSIVE. The Curtain Fig tree is found near the town of Yungaburra and has a short boardwalk surrounding the fig. It is an easy walk and a great place for listening to the whip birds, and on a rare occurrence you may even spot a tree kangaroo in the region. As is every other stop on the waterfalls tour it is a great place for a photo opportunity, the sheer size of the tree and its rigorous roots will dwarf you. On the drive through Yungaburra it is also possible to stop at the platypus lookout to try and see another of our freaky Australian animals.
All of Barefoot’s waterfalls day tour visit one of these masters of the rainforest, the Strangler Fig.