Wildlife-Spotting in the Great Barrier Reef
Concierge.com's insider take:
It's hard to wrench yourself away from the water, but once you do, you'll discover that many Barrier Reef islands have great walking trails. Large portions of the islands are designated national parks, with surprisingly varied scenery: Some are shrouded in rain forest; others are rocky and mountainous. The abundant wildlife on islands like Hinchinbrook and Long Island includes colorful lorikeets, kingfishers, possums, lizards, snakes, 'roos, and wallabies.
In the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, scenic walks abound, but wildlife, though abundant, can be elusive. Touring with a guide will help you spot well-camouflaged natives such as the endangered southern cassowary (a large flightless bird with blue-black plumage), nonvenomous tree snakes, amethystine pythons, goannas (large monitor lizards), bandicoots, the elusive Bennett's tree kangaroo, and estuarine crocodiles (known in these parts as "salties"). Both Daintree Eco Lodge and Coconut Beach Resort run wonderful rain forest tours for their guests.
Outside of the resorts, there are lots of independent tour operators to take you creature-peeping. Down Under Tours, based in Cairns, is a cut above; by appointment, their expert guides bring small groups on four-by-four treks into the rain forest, as well as to other prime wildlife-viewing spots around the coast (61-74-035-5566; www.downundertours.com).