Through stealth and guile I managed to drag the good wife, kicking and screaming, up to a four-night camping trip to Cape Kimberley. The enthusiasm of the two kids and I won the day.
The lead up to the full moon in the second week of the September school holidays saw the Lavalle-Smiths, the Kearneys and the Abel-Eastons on a repeat of last year’s adventure. There had been considerable discussion about a change of location but the telling factor ended up being the ability to have an open fire at Koala Beach Resort – Daintree.
The first day saw us set up in time for lunch and we then made the first of a number of strategic errors, which plagued us throughout our stay. The weather was perfect and the sea flat, with Snapper Island beckoning, but the enthusiasm to watch the Cowboys v Roosters rugby league final won the day – Snapper could wait. Not only did the Cowboys lose the game but the wind came up overnight and Snapper Island was off the agenda.
On day two we set the crab pots in the Daintree River in the morning, and wetted a line for an hour so the kids could catch a few tiddlers. We had a lamb roast planned for tea so we collected timber and lit a fire mid-afternoon. Rainforest timber is generally useless for making coals as it is either too wet or eaten out, so we spent considerable time looking for good hardwood, which would produce plenty of coals for the camp oven.
Mike Kearney prepared the two small lamb legs with some olive oil and water in the bottom of the pot under the stainless steel tray, put slivers of garlic in cuts in the legs and some rosemary leaves on top. The red hot coals were placed around and on top of the oven and it was time to check the crab pots while the roast cooked. The plan was to check the roast in a couple of hours and add the whole spuds, onions and pumpkin slices.
The tide was extra low and we decided to troll for an hour while the tide rose, making it a bit easier to retrieve the boat at the ramp. A check of the pots saw us back at the ramp with no keeper crabs and the tide not much higher than when we launched. We ended up having to dry load the boat using the full length of the winch rope and the launching rope to drag the boat over the mud to the trailer. By this time the roast had been on for over 2 1/2 hours and we hoped someone else had added the vegetables to the roast or it would be a late tea.
As we entered the camp, the other three adults told us to check the roast. Lifting the lid revealed two black lumps! The timber had proven too good and our time on the water too long. Mike came to the rescue with a spag-bol.
We had decided to leave the crab pots in overnight in spite of reservations due to previous experiences with crocs. It turned out to be yet another bad decision with three of the pots wrecked when we retrieved them in the morning. Unlike previous years where the crocs attacked the floats, this year they went for the bait, but they were picky. They took only the heads, which were clipped into the pots with large stainless steel clips. The fish frames, which were in mesh pockets, were left alone as the little devils wrecked a funnel in each pot to steal the bait. We decided not to use the crab pots again as they were seen as the key players in the ‘Don’t mention the lamb roast’ saga.
A tourist drive towards Cape Tribulation was the feature of day three and a stroll along Cow Bay Beach and a swim in a beautiful rainforest stream, followed by ice-cream made for a great family morning. The ice creams are made from locally-grown exotic fruit and were unique and great tasting.
We were back at camp for lunch and an afternoon swim. In spite of the time of year and plenty of people swimming unprotected, we opted to have the kids wear stinger suits. This turned out to be fortuitous, as baby blue bottles came in with the light winds and my son Marcus got a small sting on the leg through the stinger suit.
The afternoon saw the wind die to nothing and Snapper Island beckoned yet again. An afternoon beer and chat around the camp fire won out and Snapper Island was placed on the agenda for the next morning, as the forecast had the wind continuing to drop out. Another strategic error!
Day four dawned with the wind up and coming from the northeast. With Snapper off the menu, and in spite of howls of protest from the kids and I, Antonietta managed to convince the other parties it was time to go home. We were packed and on our way in time for lunch at Daintree Village.
Let’s hope we can make it four nights next year!
From $10 per adult per night ($5 per child) for an unpowered site, to $13 ($6 per child) for a powered site. A cabin with ensuite (sleeps four) costs $85 a double for the first night, then $69 per night from then on, (cost $22 per head/night for extra adults and $11 for kids.) Jungle tents are also available at $18 per head/night and sleep four. Air-conditioned dorms cost $25 per person per night.
There is no need to book for unpowered sites but prior booking are required for all other types of accommodation. Koala Beach Resort – Daintree can be contacted on (07) 4090 7500.
There is a bar and restaurant if you don’t want to cook, and basics such as bread, milk and ice can be purchased daily from the main office. There is a swimming pool and covered barbecue facilities for those who don’t want to bring a cooking set up.
The Koala Beach Resort is on the northern side of the Daintree River and can be accessed only from the south via the Daintree River ferry, which operates from 6am to midnight daily and costs $20 return per vehicle or $26 return with a trailer. The only other way to reach Koala Beach Resort is to come south along the coast via Cooktown, after driving north along the inland route. The inland route is bitumen except for about 40km, but Cooktown to the Daintree is almost all dirt, with 2WD access in the dry season but definitely 4WD only when it is wet.
Fishing the Daintree is an all but flood time proposition, with all the northern species following the normal seasonal patterns. One popular option is to go right up into the freshwater above the ferry and chase barra along the weed beds. The local guides use this option a lot, and although the barra can be small they often make up for it with numbers.
Boat access into the Daintree River is possible on the northern side with a tinnie under 4.5m, via a dirt ramp about 10m upstream from the ferry, but for any bigger boat it’s high tide access only. There is a good double-lane ramp on the southern side, about 100m upstream from the ferry, but this is pretty useless when camping on the northern side unless you intend to leave the boat in the water or negotiate a reduced (local) fare with the ferry operator.
Snapper Island is an excellent mackerel and tuna fishery when it is firing, which is most of the winter months. The channel between Snapper and Cape Kimberley is the most popular area; out from the northern and eastern sides is a good area to look for the birds working the tuna schools. Launching a boat off the beach requires winds under 10 knots and preferably a 4WD.
Crabs are available pretty much all year round, but don’t expect more than a couple of keeper crabs per run, as they are seldom thick. Crocs and two-legged thieves can also be a problem at times.
1) A refreshing swim in a small rainforest creek is hard to beat. Make sure you pick a small water hole where you can see the bottom throughout to minimize the possibility of crocs.
2) The croc, cod or shark made a mess of the funnel. It can be repaired without too much effort.
3) The home made mesh pockets reduce unwanted guests. They are made from gutter protection mesh (available from hardware stores) folded over and stitched down both sides. The clips, which attach to the wire frame of the mesh pot, make it a breeze to get in and out of the pots. The large SS clips are great for quickly attaching fish heads inside a pot but do attract unwanted guests more readily.