Creatures Of Cairns & Where To Find Them

Traveling to Cairns isn’t like traveling to any other city in Australia, or the globe as far as I am concerned. Imagine going to the coolest zoo or animal exhibit you’ve ever experienced, except there are no barriers and you can walk through the exhibit yourself. That is the glory of animals in Cairns. 

Cairns is a trip on the wild side, home to some of the world’s most unique animal species, some that are hard to find anywhere else except perhaps the pages of a Zoobook. It’s like Pokemon Go in real life! From lizards that only live in a small section of the Daintree Rainforest to birds that may or may not be related to the dinosaurs, I look at several animal species you can get up close and personal with in Cairns.

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As always, make sure to use the Tripio app to make a custom itinerary that will allow you to see all these great critters!

The Saltwater Crocodile, Animals in Cairns: Marineland Melanesia

Saltwater Crocodiles Cairns

Photo by Amber Kipp on Unsplash

Perhaps the most dangerous animal on this list is the saltwater crocodile. You don’t need me to tell you this creature is dangerous; just look at those teeth!

These reptilian monstrosities dominate their territory. So powerful and fearsome are saltwater crocodiles, not even other predators like sharks dare to mess with them. Any animal that enters their territory is likely not to see the light of day again. They might appear lethargic, but that’s only because they prefer to lie low and wait for prey to get just a bit too close, before lashing out and swallowing them whole. You name it; birds, crabs, frogs, even humans. It just takes one bite!

Crocodiles and their close cousins, alligators, can be found in many corners of the world. Saltwater crocodiles, however, are unique in that they live in saltwater environments as their name suggests. Additionally, Australia is the only “western” country where you can find these baddies, in addition to their smaller, freshwater cousins.

Freshwater crocodiles are more common near Cairns, and while dangerous, they aren’t quite as alarming as the saltwater crocodile. If you think you have what it takes to witness a saltwater crocodile, make sure Marineland Melanesia is high on your list of places to visit.

If the 50 other crocs on the island don’t intimidate you, Cassius will. Big, cantankerous Cassius is considered the world’s largest crocodile in captivity, weighing in at an outrageous 2,205 lbs and measuring 18 feet in length, the length of four foosball tables. Did we mention he’s over 30 years old? It’s no wonder this beast was named after the great Muhammad Ali, but his trainers insist he is more of a sage than a gladiator. 

The Cassowary, Animals in Cairns: Daintree Rainforest Circuit Track

Cassowary Cairns

Photo by seiichiro on Unsplash

What the cassowary lacks in its aerial capabilities, it makes up for with its curious looks, unusual choice of habitat, and ornery temperament. They are native only to the tropical rainforests of southern hemisphere islands like New Guinea, the Aru Islands and, you guessed it, Queensland Australia. 

With its smooth, blue head, chestnut brown plumage, and mohawk-like crest, the cassowary might remind you of Yondu Udonta of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. Only, instead of being a moody, intergalactic bounty hunter, the cassowary is a moody, flightless bird that is dangerous to approach in the wild. Subtle differences in coloration exist between species, the most commonly found varieties in Cairns being the southern cassowary. 

What separates the cassowary from ostriches and other flightless birds is their choice of habitat; the tropical rainforest. It may not have the same wide-open freedom and options for running away from predators that the steppe might have, but cassowaries don’t need to run from their foes. Remember, when you’re a flightless bird, that whole “fight or flight response” thing isn’t really much of a choice. They are not afraid to use their sharply clawed feet to kick out and defend themselves. 

No wonder these birds are believed to be distantly related to the dinosaurs.

The Daintree Rainforest is one such place to see these unique birds. The Circuit Track trail, in particular, is a moderately difficult trail that offers the best views of the rainforest. Who knows; you might just come across one of these rare birds! Just don’t make a point of confronting them, for they will defend themselves if they have to.

The Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Animals in Cairns: Mount Sorrow Ridge Trail

Forest Dragon Cairns

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

The word “dragon” might generate images of fearsome monsters guarding treasures or castles of evil warlords. You won’t find such behavior (or sizes) with the Boyd’s forest dragon. 

Most of the other animals on this list might be more common in Queensland, but I suppose you could find them elsewhere if you looked hard enough. That’s not the case with the Boyd’s forest dragon. It is not only unique to Australia; it’s unique to a small sliver of the continent, that being the rainforests of northern Queensland. Which is to say, near Cairns.

Unlike the dragons of fantasy, Boyd’s forest dragon is a small, timid creature. It also seems to lack motivation, for instead of running from threats, it will merely move to the other side of the tree it is clinging to. Hoping to put the tree between itself and its foe.

Even among lizards, the Boyd’s forest dragon is an anomaly. Instead of basking in the sun like its many cousins, the Boyd’s forest dragon elects to let its body temperature fluctuate with air temperature. You can see them more commonly in the daytime, but make sure you’re looking for them in the warm months. In cooler months, these creatures journey closer to their seasonal homes in the forest canopy.

Like the cassowary, the Boyd’s forest dragon can be observed in the Daintree Rainforest. The best path for finding these creatures, however, is the more challenging Mount Sorrow Trail. This difficult trail is a 4.4 mile hike with a steep elevation gain of 2,362 feet, but I think the adventure is worth it to catch a glimpse of this extraordinarily rare reptile.

The Manta Ray, Animals in Cairns: Michaelmas Cay

Manta Ray Cairns

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Recognizable by their wide pectoral fins and lethal stingers, manta rays can be found in waters all over the world. Yet, perhaps the best and most safe waters where you can find them are near Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef. 

As intelligent as they are docile, manta rays have the largest brain-to-body ratio of all fish, and are even capable of recognizing themselves when looking into a mirror. Their diet, like the koala, is relatively bland, and they snack on plankton like one might chow down Doritos at a Super Bowl party. Perhaps Mr. Krabs should consider hiring one for security at the Krusty Krab.

All pop culture references aside, manta rays might keep to themselves, but once upon a time they were revered for their size and powerful sting. Early sailors even believed the creatures were capable of pulling ships out to sea merely by yanking on their anchors. Their stingers might intimidate larger predators, but parasites such as copepods have no fear clinging to their underbellies. 

Thankfully, manta rays are able to take advantage of natural “cleaning stations,” or parts of coral reefs where species of fish that snack on parasites live. Who says marine animals don’t get along?

If you want to see a cleaning station in action, or just want to see these beautiful fish in action, a great diving spot is the Banana Bommie off the Michaelmas Cay. You’ll get up close and personal with some of the Great Barrier Reef’s diverse fish species, including manta rays. 

The Koala, Animals in Cairns: Kuranda Railway and Historic Kuranda

Koala Cairns

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Let’s meet the Australian animal virtually everyone knows: the koala! Does this cuddly creature even need an introduction? 

These marsupials are easily recognizable by their short, plump frames, gray fur, and fluffy ears. Their diet is pretty bland compared to our own, considering they mainly snack on the leaves of Eucalyptus trees. They would love Bath & Body Works’ eucalyptus and spearmint essential oil, but I digress…

You might assume that, aside from being the most cuddly animals in Australia, the koala is a bit bland, but that’s simply not true. In fact, there are lots of things you might not have known about the koala…like the fact that they seldom drink water. Most of their fluids come from the leaves they eat, and these leaves are so low in nutrition, koalas sleep around 18 hours a day. Sounds like a dreamy lifestyle in our opinion, aside from the many places we wouldn’t be able to see if we slept in all the time. As lethargic as these creatures might seem, they are actually tremendous swimmers. 

There’s plenty of ways to experience koalas in Cairns, but perhaps the best way to snap some Insta-worthy photos and actually hold them is in the rainforest village of Kuranda. I highly recommend taking the Kuranda Railway to get there: it offers some awesome views of the rainforest, and will get you in the mood for the wildlife you’ll meet in Kuranda. 

Use Tripio for your Next Animal Adventure

We’re only scraping the surface of the many kinds of animals you can meet in Cairns, from kangaroos to clownfish to sharks. The Queensland region is absolutely drenched in wildlife, making this one of the best places to get away from it all in the entire world. Make sure you use the Tripio app to create your perfect, bucket-list adventure. 

You can also use the Tripio app to add to your trip, either before travel or while you travel.  Using the app, select the plus icon at the bottom of the screen titled “Create.” This will take you to the trip creator, which can create custom top 10 lists and a custom itinerary in under 60 seconds! It’s never been so easy to plan a great adventure or vacation.

Most of the experiences listed above are either Easy, Moderate, or Intense adventures; make sure to give these a 5 for trip importance, to ensure your custom top 10 itinerary has a focus on these activities. To really round out your top 10 itinerary, consider adding Good Eats for when you get hungry, or some Nightlife activities for a nightcap.

Stop waiting to take that bucket list trip; get Tripio today!

Looking for more adventures in Queensland, Australia, find out how to swim with humpback whales here: Sunshine Coast: Top 10 Best Adventures

0r maybe the animals at seaworld will catch your eye: Gold Coast: Top 10 Thrills & Chills

all that adventure got you hungry? Tripio has you covered: 10 Places A Foodie Must Try In Brisbane

and Adventure Junkie’s Dream Trip To Tahiti

or even more of Australia: Uniquely Perth: The Spirit Of Australia

-Joshua Faulks, Tripio Guru

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