Thala Beach Nature Reserve is located smack in the heart of some of north Queensland’s most spectacular country. With the Great Barrier Reef as the star attraction, the region has plenty of other diversions too!
The Atherton Tablelands are easily reached during on a day trip from Thala Beach Nature Reserve. Driving north past Port Douglas, take the Mossman – Mt Molloy Road up the Rex Range to the Atherton Tablelands. The road twists and winds through rainforest and farmlands, reaching an altitude of nearly 1,000 metres at the summit, affording some spectacular views across the coastal plain towards the Coral Sea.
The Atherton Tablelands are considered the ‘food bowl’ of north Queensland thanks to rich fertile soils – the legacy of its volcanic origins. Rolling green hills, dairy farms, orchards and plantations mix with World Heritage list rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and crater lakes. In fact, there is so much to see and do on the Tablelands that one day is probably not enough! You could easily combine a stay at Thala with a couple of nights in the Tablelands as well.
The Tablelands European history dates back to the late 1870s when European explorer James Venture Mulligan discovered the Atherton Tablelands quite by accident. His original purpose of exploring Australia was in searching for fertile land and minerals, particularly tin and gold. Aborigines had inhabited the region for about 10,000 years prior to European arrival, thriving on land that provided plenty of sustenance.
Grazier John Atherton and explorer John Newell later joined Mulligan in the search for rich deposits of tin, gold and timber. Vast tracks of ancient forest were subsequently cleared for grazing and crops. Conservation has now seen much of the land regenerated and large tracts of original forest preserved to form one of the largest conservation zones in the world. These days the Tablelands are a popular destination for visitors who enjoy the cooler climate in comparison to that experienced on the coast. Plus there is the added attraction of glorious food and produce.
The unique natural environment of the Atherton Tablelands is also home to the rare Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, a small arboreal kangaroo. The tree kangaroo was first discovered by Carl Sophus Lumholtz, a Norwegian naturalist, ethnologist and explorer. He worked in South and North-Eastern Australia from 1880 to 1884 to collect new mammal specimens for zoological museums of the University of Christiania, Norway. He also studied the customs and anthropology of the Aboriginal populations. Lumholtz enlisted the help of some Aboriginal hunters to collect specimens and in 1882 they told him of an unusual animal species that lived high up in the trees of the coastal mountains. These turned out to be what are now known as Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroos or, among the Aboriginal people, the Boongarry.
Tree kangaroos are about the size of a small dog. The tail is long, cylindrical, and tufted on the end. It is used as a counterbalance while climbing or hopping but is not used for grasping branches. Their head is small and round with a large snout and small, rounded ears – rather like a bear. They are generally brown or black, solitary and nocturnal, sleeping in tree branches during the day. They live in small, loose-knit groups of three to five, consisting of a male and female mates dispersed within a strongly defended home range.
To sight them during the day, the long pendulous tail is the best give away as they nestle high in the canopy. On wet drizzly days they will avoid the heavier foliage and perch on the outer branches. Night spotlighting is difficult since the eyeshine is a dull ruby red and they are skittish at night. The Malanda Falls Visitor Centre near has a terrific display on Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos as well as Tablelands history.