Skyrail is a seven and a half kilometer long aerial tramway from the Atherton Tablelands town of Kuranda to the Smithfield ground station just sixteen minutes north of Cairns. You can take the cable cars in both directions for a round trip, or you can combine it with the Kuranda Scenic railway excursion as we did. We took the train up and the aerial tram back down. A free shuttle bus will take you back to the train station you departed from, but you need to book it in advance. We didn’t know that and ended up hiring a taxi to take us back.
In any event, after our rail trip up the mountain and a visit to Kuranda, we eagerly took the gondola back down.
Leaving Kuranda the tram travels along a path cut through the vegetation and soon soars over the Barron River and over the treetops. The rainforest is dense here, rivalling the Amazon as one of the great rainforests of the world. The noted naturalist Sir David Attenborough remarked that “One tends to think that the Amazon is the great place for jungles, but northern Queensland jungle is absolutely fantastic.”
The first stop on the downhill trek is at the Barron Gorge station. The cars slow down her so you can disembark and take a stroll through the forest to a platform overlooking Barron Falls. We saw the falls on our way up as the train stops at a station on the opposite bank, but the view from this platform is just as spectacular.
For much of the year the falls are a steady stream of rivulets cascading four hundred feet to the gorge below. The flow is controlled by a weir at the top, part of the hydro-electric facility nearby. But in the rainy season when the water is at its peak, the falls becomes a raging torrent. There was a sign on the viewing platform showing the falls during flood season.
Although we were there in January, part of the rainy season, the week had not been as wet as it sometimes is and we did not see the falls in flood. Continuing our aerial tram ride, we traversed more of the dense jungle below.
And soon we were at Red Peak, the second stop along the way. Here we disembarked again and hiked along a another trail to another viewing platform. Along the way we came to a very tall tree soaring up to the sky.
Remarkably, the trees of the rainforest get 30-40% of their water from the ever present low-hanging cloud cover. Known as Cloud Stripping, this phenomenon was discovered right here at Red Peak. An extensive educational display at the station explains the biology and life cycles of the rainforest.
Besides the lush green vegetation, there is also an an abundance of wildlife here. Australia itself is a very bio-diverse region with many species of animal and plant life indigenous only to the continent. But nowhere is the diversity greater than in the Queensland rainforest. It has an abundance of insect life including the world’s largest cockroach. Just listen to the humming of the insects in the video below.
One of the interesting things we discovered is that the rainforest in this particular area was the inspiration for the scenery in James Cameron’s epic movie Avatar.
There is a special display of information on the wildlife of the rainforest in a separate building. This includes a life size model of a cassowary and its chicks. One of the odd animals of the rainforest is the tree kangaroo. And the giant Scrub Python which can grow to 27.5 feet in length! And, of course, many insects including gorgeous butterflies and the world’s largest cockroach!
We boarded the tram again for the last leg of our journey, enjoying the unfolding vistas before us. This is the last of my series on our visit to Cairns and the surrounding region in Queensland, Australia. We enjoyed the visit tremendously. One of the truly fascinating regions of the world. After the next few pictures, you’ll find link to the previous essays in this series as well as a link to the Skyrail website.