The East Coast and hinterland of Australia boasts some exquisite rainforest areas. I was fortunate to be staying close to the Sea Acres rainforest at Port Macquarie where I had a one-on-one tour with an experienced guide.
The rainforest is an abundant environment providing a diversity of nutrients and foliage for the wide variety of birds, animals and plants who inhabit and traverse the area. Perched on the coast and overlooking pristine beaches, Sea Acres has been a dedicated nature sanctuary for more than 100 years. I was amazed at the uniqueness, diversity and venerable lineage of the life forms. Take the leaf cutter bee for example. This native bee sets to work cutting perfectly rounded pieces from the ginger leaf, which she then uses to line her cell chamber in preparation for laying her eggs. When you look at the plant, you are amazed at the precision of her cutting.
Then there’s the 400 million-year-old plant, the skeleton fork fern. A modest, somewhat delicate-looking plant that lodges itself in the ancient trees of the area. I cannot conceive of such amazing longevity.
The Bolwarra tree, a mere 140 million-years-old, came into existence before the first bird flew the skies. The local Indigenous clan, the Biripai, used the empty pods from the tree as necklaces. These resourceful and creative people used so many of the plants and trees for medicine, bush tukka and equipment. Their knowledge of the land, developed over 40,000 years, was refined to the point where they knew how to access and use parts of even the most toxic of trees.
Rosewood, Giant Water Gum, Black Apple, Walking Stick Palm, Hard Quandong… the 1.8 metre boardwalk twists and turns through an environment created by 270 different tree types. As we walked , the environment changed and entering a part of the land which had been cleared by some trees which had fallen in a storm, there he stood sunning himself, the land mullett. It’s the largest member of the skink lizard family, so named for his fish-like scales and the fishy smell he produces when threatened.
As it was at the beginning of spring, not many of the prolific orchids could be seen. We did however, enjoy the company of a yellow robin flitting in perfect camouflage with the trees. The call of the male whip-bird and the return song of the female, also accompanied us throughout the tour. My guide told me about a pair of powerful owls, the largest owl in Australia he had seen every so often in the area. I couldn’t see them, but perhaps they saw us.
Towards the end of the walk we came upon the outdoor education area dedicated to a volunteer who had died fighting a bushfire. The powerful owl was his favourite bird, so a local sculptor had created the chair and carvings in Bryce’s honour.
At the end of the tour I felt grateful that the pioneers had the foresight to dedicate the area as a nature reserve, and to the Biripai people for their stewardship of the land over thousands of years.
Author: Kate McManus
Read more about Kate’s escapades at http://lightravellerkate.wordpress.com/