David shares a glorious buffet breakfast with some fun little friends.
Doug Ryan can show you more of Queensland's wildlife in his wildlife sanctuary in a couple of hours than you would see in months in the wild.
Once a sugarcane field, the rainforest was planted from scratch. It was the concept of Michael Turner, who owned the Daintree Butterfly Farm, and John Morris, now Chairman of the Australian Tourism Commission. It was designed to house butterflies and exotic animals, but in 1996 took an environmental turn.
The animals at Rainforest Habitat Wildlife Sanctuary are endemic to the region, with many bought from or exchanged with other parks. Some come as abandoned pets or rescued animals which are unable to be re-released into the wild. Rescue assistance for the shire is also offered by the sanctuary.
Its detailed environmental plan focuses heavily on recycling all water through waterfalls which naturally aerates it. Extra aerators are also used.
The site is in three zones: one hectare of rainforest, almost one hectare of wetlands and 1.2 hectares of grasslands. All are immersion exhibits, meaning visitors can walk among the flora and fauna on boardwalks, rather than just looking into cages or over fences.
The boardwalks start at ground level, rise to the tree canopy level and gently descend towards the end.
Despite being covered in shade-cloth, the sanctuary feels very natural. Sun and rain come through and during showers, a wonderful mist forms.
There are around 1600 animals living there with birds, kangaroos, frogs, fish, eels and turtles being the most numerous. There are three animals kept isolated from visitors for obvious reasons, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles, but they can be seen two metres above from a boardwalk. Cassowaries have 10cm toenails which could give nasty injuries, and koalas have a special area so they won't be handled too much. As koalas are particularly susceptible to disease, their homes are cleaned and washed every day.
It is exciting to see Lumholtz’s tree kangaroos which are there to breed. Due to death from cars and dogs, this species was on the verge of being classified threatened. Thanks to the sanctuary, they are now just rare. The unusual kangaroo has a black-brown face, little round ears, a white furry ring around their faces and long tails, making them look more like monkeys than the kangaroos we are used to.
The one buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher is a prized resident. He is three and his breed is very rare. They live in Papua New Guinea and migrate to Port Douglas during the wet season to breed using termite mounds to lay their eggs, returning to the same mound each year. Their mortality rate is high and a female is being sought so they might start a breeding program.
Breakfast with the Birds is held in the wetlands area underneath a marquee. You can expect to be accompanied by many birds and animals who will walk or fly around very comfortably.
A sulphur-crested cockatoo likes to sit near the champagne table and greet guests. Andy, the one-legged lime and orange parrot, happily sits on people's shoulders. There are also magnificent king parrots, red-wing parrots, finches, rainbow lorikeets, frogmouths and galahs.
Don't be surprised to find a rufus betong small furry wallaby brushtail betong or bandicoot wandering around your legs.
Breakfast is served on big timber tables and consists of sausages, eggs and hash browns prepared on the barbecue. There are pastries and lots of locally-grown fruit.