Hanging Ten with Tarzan in Northern Queensland

“You don’t need a surf board to go surfing in the Daintree rainforest” writes Carol Sherritt.

In far North Queensland, where the coast is protected by the Great Barrier Reef, the beaches are beautiful but there’s not a lot of surf.      So I trade my board for a zipline and reveal my inner Tarzan by going jungle surfing in the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest. The Daintree Forest is the oldest forest in the world, some parts dating back 150 million years. The jungle canopy surfing tour passes through this ancient forest for over 250 metres, stopping at 6 platforms perched high in the canopy.

My tour begins at the Human Hamster Wheel, an eco-friendly people-powered machine which lifts surfers to the first platform. It’s a deceptively gentle start as I rise slowly into the canopy, accompanied by the calls of tropical birds hidden in the foliage.

Once I leave the security of the first platform, the pace quickens and the zipline takes me higher. I could be one of those birds as I zoom between the trees to the next level.

The Daintree is not just the oldest forest on Earth; it’s also one of the wettest places in Australia, with over 2 metres of rainfall each year. There’s been a heavy downpour earlier and even though the sky is now a brilliant blue, large drops of water continue to fall from the tree tops to the forest floor. They land with large plops on my safety helmet.

The third platform, known as the Penthouse, is supported by a massive spur mahogany. It’s comforting to know, when 19.5 metres above the ground, that the timber of this species has a breaking point 4 times greater than steel. From here we can see the forest-covered slopes of the Great Dividing Range, the sparkling Pacific Ocean and the fringes of the Great Barrier Reef 25 kilometres off the coast.

The zipline between the third and fourth platforms is the longest. After soaring halfway across the 78 metre span, I stop and dangle for several minutes enjoying the beauty of my surroundings. Lianas, orchids and staghorns cling to mighty tree trunks; prehistoric cycads carpet the forest floor and a small creek tumbles over boulders strewn down the mountainside.

The most exhilarating part of the ride begins at the fifth platform where I am challenged to ride upside down. Until the last second, I’m uncertain; it takes some courage to step off the platform before upending myself, legs crossed over and arms spread wide. When I hurtle down the 25 metre line my sense of space and direction vanish. The forest blurs as I spin wildly and laugh uncontrollably before slowing to right myself again.  I’ve done it!

My adventure ends with one last thrill as I race another zipliner to the ground. Adrenaline and my competitive spirit take over as I go full pelt for the last 65 metres, coming to a dramatic sudden stop just centimetres from the end. This ride through the rainforest might be over, but I am going again. Look out Tarzan, here I come.


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