Forget yoga for your daily dose of zen. All you need is a snorkel, mask, floatation device and a river running through Australia’s most lush rainforest.
Sure, most people head to the tropics of Far North Queensland to snorkel on the famous Great Barrier Reef. But if you’re looking for an experience yet to be splashed across TikTok and Instagram, though, you will take that snorkel gear and head into the rainforest instead.
Yes, the rainforest. I discovered a place where you can snorkel under the canopy of Queensland’s tropical rainforest on the Mosman River, thanks to Back Country Bliss Adventures and their small group tours.
I was picked up in the morning at Port Douglas by Jason whose local insights and stories about the region easily filled the half-hour drive to our launching pad. From there, it was a quick change into a wet suit then off we went — which seemed strange in the heat of the tropics, but I was assured it was needed in the crisp river water.
Into The Undergrowth
With my snorkel and mask in hand and a large inflatable floatation bed tucked under my arm, I followed Jason as he descended into the depths of the rainforest. We were just moments from our entrance when the temperature dropped rapidly, and I was suddenly thankful for the wetsuit. My chill was soon forgotten though, thanks to sheer awe.
The rainforest in Mossman Gorge is a 56,000-hectare area within the World Heritage Listed Daintree National Park. It’s ancient, as in 135-million-years-in-the-making ancient. Tree-clad mountains rise sharply from the Mossman River’s banks, really creating a spectacular entrance to Daintree National Park with its spellbinding beauty.
When the sound of the river running began to dull out the rainforest hum, I knew we must be close. While on the walk, Jason explains the story of the traditional owners of the land, the Kuku Yalanji people. As I gazed around me, I became mesmerised by the enormity of history that lay in those surroundings. Walking the path that meanders through the lower rainforest canopy and down to the river, I felt somewhat light-footed, as if gliding through a dream. Nature’s energy pulsed through the air.
Dive Beneath The Surface
Upon reaching the river’s edge, we got a quick instructional brief with Jason before launching into cool, crystal-clear waters. You drift with the current, so there is no need for flippers. Just drop in and float. For those who are a bit uneasy in the water, there are floatation beds that allow you to peak your head in from the surface.
When I plunged my head beneath the water I was surprised at just how clear the visibility was — I could have been swimming in a fish tank. Fish darted around the river stones, and I followed one who took me toward the river bank and a half-submerged tree. The tree’s roots looked like an old woman’s hand, long wrinkled fingers extending out as if the tips were feeling the water rush over them.
I can see why my fish friend liked it here, sheltered in the calmer water; it seemed a popular meeting place for all the underwater creatures. When he darted off into the depths in the middle of the river, I left him to his solitude and continued floating down the river.
I soon became lost in this unusual underwater world. The sound of moving water was a foreign noise to that typical crackling of fish nibbling coral you get when snorkelling a reef. Here, it was peaceful and welcoming.
Jason explained that you can spot turtles, eels and even platypus if you are lucky, so I was keeping my eyes peeled. I desperately wanted to spot a platypus. Heck, I would have even been wrapped with a turtle or two.
Alas, I ended up with just two giant, slithery and slimy eels. I floated over them and soon regretted my decision as they began to rise to the surface, forcing me to manoeuvre my body away quickly to avoid contact. I am all for a wildlife encounter, but eels were not high up on that list.
Cathedral Of Zen
The eel encounter left my heart pumping and nerves rattled, so I opted to climb on top of my floatation bed and chill for a bit. The chill was short-lived as some tiny rapids were fast approaching.
This tour had all the ups and downs of a suspenseful movie — calm, excitement, thrills, terror and amazement. Gripping my floating bed, I rode down the rapids and even let out a little “whoo-hoo” squeal of delight.
The water smoothed out, and the gushing turbulence subsided. Lying back on my floating bed I looked up at the rainforest canopy as it opened up like a grand cathedral of trees. This enhanced the sounds of the rainforest, which rang out like an orchestral symphony of bird calls, wind chiming through the leaves, crickets chirping, and bubbling water. It was pure magic to the ears.
A euphoric state of zen encompassed my body, and I mentally and physically drifted off. It was the best stress-relieving meditation by nature I have ever experienced.
(Lead image: provided / Back Country Bliss Adventures)
Kate Webster is a world traveller, ocean lover and conservation warrior who is determined to make every moment count for not only herself but the world around her. This has inspired Kate to translate those moments and share them through her storytelling as a travel journalist.