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Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Review

Created by Julie under on Tuesday 12th of April 2011

Cairns is home to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the World’s Seven Natural Wonders. Did you know it was also home to the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforests on earth? These ancient forests are home to the world’s first flowering plants, 65% of Australia’s fern species and an amazing range of animals. When you’re not in the water, take advantage of Cairns’ excellent range of touring options, with Skyrail Rainforest Cableway at the top of the list.

Skyrail is a 7.5km gondola cableway which traverses the rainforest mountain ranges surrounding Cairns. Travelling between its Caravonica and Kuranda Terminals, Skyrail offers simply stunning views over the rainforest, Cairns hinterland and Barron Falls.

This iconic attraction is a world leader in environmental protection and best practice management, so for people wanting to visit Cairns’ rainforests and minimise their impact and footprint, this is the day tour for you.

As well as having twice won the Qantas Australian Tourism Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism, and being in the Queensland Tourism Awards Hall of Fame for the same category, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is the only tourist attraction in the country to have Green Globe Gold Certification, in recognition of its continuous improvement in environmental performance. There are more environmental awards and accreditations to their resume, these are just the highlights and needless to say, they have very impressive credentials.

Our Skyrail Rainforest Cableway experience commenced with the collection of boarding passes at Caravonica Terminal at 10am. This Queenslander-style building has wide verandahs and is set amongst rainforest landscaped gardens, setting the tone for the journey ahead.

Boarding the gondola, which we shared with a couple from England, we left Caravonica and commenced our journey of rainforest discovery. Rising from 12m above sea level at Caravonica, to 545m at Red Peak Station we enjoyed amazing views over Cairns, its sugar cane fields and the Barron River catchment. The Coral Sea glistened in the distance and Green Island was just visible on the horizon.

Beneath us, towering trees were covered with epiphytic basket ferns and staghorn ferns, with the occasional Alexandra Palm or Tree Fern visible amongst the green canopy. Red Peak Station is nestled on top of the mountain ridge and alighting from the cableway, we explored the boardwalk to learn more about this amazing environment.

Highlights included seeing Strangler Figs, Lawyer Cane (two types – Golden Cane & Vicious Hairy Mary), a fruiting Hairy Red Pittosporum, Native Mangosteen, Bird’s Nest Fern and the flowering Prickly Alyxia. The boardwalk hero was undoubtedly the touring Kauri Pine.

Kauri Pines live up to 1,000 years of age and come from one of the world’s primitive plant families. Unlike other pines, this tree has flat leaves, but it does produce cones, which are popular with the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos. The Skyrail Kauri Pine is about 35m tall and believed to be around 500 years old. Very impressive!

Under Red Peak Station there was a Cassowary display and model, as well as the skull of a feral pig. Both displays provided very good reasons not to wander off into the rainforest on your own.

From Red Peak Station, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway tracks down through the Barron Gorge National Park, part of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, providing stunning views over the lush canopy and surrounds.

Several tree species were fruiting this day and easily visible and identifiable from the gondola cabin, including the purple sprays of Umbrella Tree fruits, orange fruit clusters amongst the leaves on the Rusty Figs and the white, leafy crowns of the Candle Nuts (related to the Poinsetta), which stood out amongst the green canopy.

Cresting another mountain ridge, Skyrail provided amazing views of the Barron Falls and Gorge. At this time of year the 260m Barron Falls is thundering down the Gorge, providing an excellent photo opportunity for visitors.

We alighted from the cableway at Skyrail’s Barron Falls Station, to spend some time admiring the beauty of the Falls and Gorge. A comfortable walkway meandered around the edge of the Gorge to a timber lookout over the Falls. Interesting historical displays enlightened the site’s European Hyrdo-Electrical history, while interpretive signage explained the Indigenous Past, including the story of how Barron Falls (also known as Din Din) was created.

After spending some time watching the waters pour down the gorge, we visited the Rainforest Interpretation Centre, which was built in conjunction with CSIRO. Touch screen computers told the story of the rainforest’s evolution and the impacts of climate change. They also brought to life some of the rainforests birds, frogs and critters through interesting sound and image presentations.

It was close to lunchtime and we were in need of refreshment, so we boarded Skyrail to complete our journey through the rainforest, taking the 10-minute trip to Kuranda, the ‘Village in the Rainforest’. Passing through Skyrail’s retail store, we could not resist one of the Ulysses visors, perfect for our next visit The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.

Settling in Kuranda for lunch, we enjoyed the scenic surrounds of this picturesque village, while visitors from around the world wandered the streets, admiring local art and craft.

The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary is situated near the Kuranda Markets and is home to around 2,000 butterflies. Stepping into the flight aviary, we were immediately surrounded by fluttering beauty, as flashes of blue, green, orange and red whizzed around the air.

Joining the guided tour, we were interested to learn that the pretty blue butterfly we had seen (the Ulysses) can fly up to 60km per hour and always closes its wings when it lands: no wonder it was so hard to photograph! We also learnt that some butterflies can live up to one year, while others live only a few days.

At the breeding centre, we watched caterpillars hatching from eggs, growing, making cocoons and then emerging as butterflies. Our guide was very interesting, revealing many secrets I never knew before. For example, did you know that caterpillars do not turn into butterflies? Rather, once in the cocoon, they completely break down into “juice” and use that material to grow into a new entity – with separate DNA – being a butterfly! Amazing.

I also learnt that the world’s largest moth, the Hercules, can take up to two years to transform from caterpillar to moth and then only lives for a few days once it emerges. Why? The male moth can’t eat once it’s born: its only purpose is to find a mate, breed and then die.

I left the breeding facility with a new appreciation of butterflies and moths, returning to the flight aviary to watch them feeding and free flying with their magic and grace.

THE VERDICT: Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is a must do on any visitor itinerary to Cairns. As well as being a multiple Australian Tourism Award Winner (Best Attraction & Excellence in Sustainable Tourism), it provides unbeatable views of the World Heritage Rainforest, Barron Gorge and Falls. On our day, guests included young families with strollers, mobility impaired passengers in wheelchairs, young couples and touring parties. Everyone was welcomed and enjoyed what it is billed as “The World’s Most Beautiful Rainforest Experience”.

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Review Image Gallery

Lovely way to end our rainforest day This is the largest butterfly flight aviary in Australia Ulysses Butterfly flys at 60km per hour Cairns Birdwing Butterfly Caterpillar Interpretive Signage helping us to learn more Butterfly Feeding Station Hello Mr Butterfly Cairns Birdwing Butterfly resting Inside with the butterflies at Kuranda The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary Leaving Skyrail at Kuranda Terminal Lichen at Barron Falls Station Lawyer Cane Leaves at Skyrail Fan Palms at Barron Falls Station Skyrail Pathways at Barron Falls Station Tree Ferns as seen from above Looking down into the Barron Gorge Barron Falls in the Barron Gorge Barron Falls in flood Skyrail looking over Barron Gorge Skyrail in the Barron Gorge National Park Skyrail has great views over the rainforest Basket Ferns perched high in the canopy Look down to see gingers and bananas Inside Skyrail Gondola Cabin Tree Fern leaves at Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Walk through the rainforest Skyrail Red Peak Station Boardwalk Baby Bird's Nest Fern Red Peak Station Boardwalk Kauri Pine Leaves This Kauri Pine is about 35m tall Skyrail's Kauri Pine Vicious Hairy Mary Golden Cane Strangler Fig on Red Peak Boardwalk Alexandra Palms near Red Peak Station Beautiful Basket Ferns

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