Raindrops fell as we floated up above the canopy in a glass box and disappeared into a cloud. For a minute we couldn’t see anything except off-white and a few stolen glimpses of wet, green leaves. But the rain wasn't a surprise; we were in a rainforest after all.
We were lucky to have three nights in the northeastern city of Cairns (pronounced “cans”), which would be just enough time to explore the two UNESCO World Heritage sites that sandwich the city: off the coast, the Great Barrier Reef; on the land, the Wet Tropics.
Since we were limited to a one-day rainforest trip, we took to the skies. Just outside of town, Skyrail runs gondolas above the treetops. The “diamond” gondola was enticing, as is anything with a glass bottom, so we paid a tad extra for it and hopped aboard. The floor-window didn’t necessarily offer much better of a view, but it was neat to be standing on nothing, watching lush greenery flow under my feet.
Down in the dense tropical forest is one of the most ancient ecosystems on the planet. If you’ve seen FernGully (which takes place in Australia), you get the idea. Virtually untouched by humans, it represents a massive living record of the ancient world, the closest modern-day counterpart to the extremely old Gondwanan continent. This is where Australia’s marsupials came about and primitive flora can still be found. The region’s weirdest fauna award goes to the flightless cassowary, the second heaviest bird on earth that sports a blue face, red wattles and a huge horn-like spike on top of its head.
Though we didn’t get to see any super-amazing wildlife from our viewing post, the skies did clear to reveal a jaw-dropping view. We saw steamy tree-covered mountains, families of pure-white cockatoos and ribbony waterfalls.
There are multiple stations throughout the journey to hop off and have a look around - umbrellas provided. The wide rope-lined boardwalks (there to preserve the environment) meander through the trees, filling people's ears with sounds of rainfall and dozens of bird calls.
At the end of the line, the town of Kuranda offers more sights and attractions to fill a day. Unfortunately, we had a late start that morning and got delayed by a passing storm at one of the mid-points, so we just stayed on the gondola to head back down the mountain. Though this coastal rainforest takes up only 0.2% of Australia, it contains the most diverse selection of plants and animals in the country. It’s a spectacular sight to witness first-hand, as long as you can see it through the clouds.