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A day trip from Thala Beach Lodge takes you via the Rex Range to climb to the Atherton Tablelands. The views are spectacular as you begin a journey that can take you from 500 to 1000 meters above sea level. The Coral Sea, home of the Great Barrier Reef, spreads below the lush surrounds of Tropical Rainforest. Volcanic in origin, the landscape of the Atherton Tablelands is an undulating rich fertile plain of rolling hills interspersed with World Heritage Rainforest, spectacular waterfalls and crater lakes.
The history can be traced to the late 1870s when European explorer James Venture Mulligan accidentally discovered the Atherton Tableland. His original purpose of exploring Australia was to look for fertile land and minerals, particularly tin and gold. Aborigines had already inhabited the region for about 10,000 years.
Grazier, John Atherton, and European explorer John Newell joined Mulligan. Together they set out to find rich deposits of tin, gold and other natural resources such as timber and lumber. Vast tracks of forest were cleared for grazing and crops. Conservation has now seen much of the land regenerate and large tracts of original forest preserved to form one of the largest conservation zones in the world. There are a number of extinct volcanoes, caves and hills to explore.
The unique natural environment of the Atherton Tablelands is also home to the rare Lumholtz’s tree kangaroo, a small arboreal kangaroo, 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 the zoological and zootomical 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.
They are about the size of a dog. The tail is long, cylindrical, and tufted on the end. It is used as a counterbalance while climbing or hopping and is not prehensile. The 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.