Before I get blogging about my recent wedding and about our awesome three week honeymoon to Australia, I wanted to jump ahead to the final week of our trip that we spent in the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland. Before I talk about how we had an incredible time, I wanted to do a blog post solely on one thing: those dinosaur-like birds that roam that rainforest. I’m talking about the Cassowary. If you know me, you know that I love birds. I come from a family who used to go bird watching and I remember the thrill of seeing a new bird. It was exciting and it was something to check off the list.
When we were planning the actual honeymoon part of our trip we looked at a number of options but eventually settled on heading to Northern Queensland to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree Rainforest. I have to admit that my entire reasoning to go there was in hopes of seeing an actual Cassowary in real life. The fact that it is the oldest rainforest in the world (yes, in the world!) and that it is probably the only designated World Heritage site that you can walk out of and immediately enter another (the Great Barrier Reef, of course), were extra bonuses. I wanted to see those legendary birds that look more prehistoric than anything else. They are a special species because they can only be found in New Guinea and the pocket of Australia that we visited. They come from the same family group as the Ostrich, Emu, Kiwi and the extinct Moas and Elephant birds. And they’re endangered. Their habitat is disappearing and so there is less food for them to eat.
Did we see any Cassowaries on the four nights that we spend in the Daintree (much more about that later!)? Oh yes, we did! On every single day, we saw at least one and every time it took my breath away. We stayed at the Cockatoo Hill Retreat (more about that later!) and every day we were blessed by a male who the locals call Coco and his three chicks. Yes, the Dad with his chicks because this is how the Cassowaries roll. The females lay the eggs, the male sits on them and then raises the chicks for about nine to ten months before he sends them off on their own.
If you Google “Cassowary” one of the first search terms that will come up is “Cassowary attack”. Yes, these majestic birds can get aggressive but wouldn’t you as well if some Bogan provoked you? Or if some stranger got in between you and your most prized possessions, your babies? But of course! All over the Daintree there are signs to stay away from the birds. It’s incredible how quickly people can forget that these are wild animals and they are unpredictable. While I loved seeing them, I was also terrified. I photographed them from a distance with my 70-200mm lens and when Coco would begin walking in my direction, I kept eye contact with him and slowly moved out of his way.
When an adult Cassowary stands with it’s neck extended, they are nearly six feet tall. Coco’s chicks when we saw them in April were about three feet tall and we were told they were approximately seven months old. They are big birds! The colours on their head are stunning. An ombre of reds and oranges and then that brilliant blue. The crest on their head is called a casque and gives them a more serious look. These guys means business. I wondered how such a big bird could walk through the rainforest and then we saw one while doing a walk on one of the boardwalks. You could barely hear it’s feet as they touched the rainforest floor and it was barely visible, looking just like a shadow. It was incredible.
The Cassowaries are extremely important to the rainforest and without them, many species of trees and plants would not exist. They eat fallen fruit whole, digest the pulp and disperse the whole seed elsewhere in the rainforest with their dung. As gross as it may sound, their dung actually ends up being almost beautiful due to the incredible variety of what they consume. The rainforest needs the Cassowary to survive. It’s a beautiful relationship that they have worked out.
I felt like I spend hours just staring at the birds. At night I would dream of Cassowaries, even when I returned to Toronto. They are so beautiful and so special and I feel lucky that we got to experience them. I miss Coco. No actually.