Big country...small impact. An eco-tour in Queensland's wildlife-rich rainforest

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Drunk parrots, glowing gnat larvae and leathery fruit bats are the highlights of Cathy Pryor's trip into the Gold Coast hinterland

In Australia they have an expression, "pissed as a parrot", and if you visit Cedar Creek winery on Tamborine Mountain in Queensland, you will find out why.

Thousands of parrots live there, and many, mostly rainbow lorikeets and king parrots, like to feed on grapes. Some of the fruit ferments on the vine and it goes straight to their heads. "They quite often start fighting each other," says Bridget on the winery's front desk. "That can go on for a while. They squawk and carry on. Crazy behaviour. Then they fall off the vines and go to sleep on the ground." A typical evening out up northern Australia, then? Bridget doesn't comment.

The winery doesn't mind, though, and lets the parrots feed. Generous, but then they're like that. They like nature. They've also tried to help out the local glow-worms. Not to be confused with fireflies, which are beetles, glow-worms are the larvae of gnats, and are found only in Australia and New Zealand. Tourists love them, and have been visiting Mount Tamborine's national park to see them in such vast numbers that the insects got stressed and their colonies shrank. So in 2004 Cedar Creek built a glow-worm cave to divert the tourists. It started with just 100 glow-worms and now has 4,000, making it the largest colony anywhere in the world.

I'm at Cedar Creek courtesy of Araucaria Ecotours, an award-winning Brisbane firm run by Ronda Green, a zoologist, supported by her amiable son Damian, who drives the van. It runs day trips out of Brisbane, plus longer journeys, including a six-day venture into the heart of the outback. The aim is always to keep ecological impact at a minimum. If you've flown to Australia, that's a lot of carbon footprint, so this represents a nice way to keep it down while you're there. The Rainforests, Glow-worms and Wine tour is one of its day trips. We took in the rainforest first with a visit to the Skywalk, a fragile-looking elevated steel walkway that threads through a kilometre of forest canopy on Tamborine Mountain.

On the hour-long walk, Ronda, who is friendly and chatty, proves herself an expert on all things nature-related. "There's no wind in the rainforest, so the trees rely on birds to disperse seeds," she says. And then points out a huge strangler fig, so-called because it grows in a predatory way around and out of the carcass of another tree. The fig sweeps up in such primeval curves it looks as if it were sculpted. So does an artistic wiggly pattern carved in the bark of a tree, which turns out to be the work of a large slug – the red triangle slug, to be precise. Our path is thronged with geckos, dragonflies, butterflies and lacewings. And then is some native ginger. "You can use the roots just like normal ginger," says Ronda. (I begin to feel Ronda could survive quite successfully in the wild.)

But the headliners of the trip are the glow-worms. Inside their cave it's dark, damp, quiet and eerie. You look up as if at the night sky, studded with thousands of fiery stars, only the stars are insects. They live along the cave walls, close enough to see that each glow-worm reclines behind a curtain of elegant threads, as if it were in a minuscule boudoir. The threads have a purpose: they're sticky and catch prey, insects attracted by the glow-worm's shining rear. The glow has inspired the winery to wax lyrical with a poem: "I wish I was a glow-worm. A glow-worm's never glum 'cos how can you be grumpy when the sun shines out your bum." Well, indeed.

Emerging blinking from the cave, our next stop is the winery restaurant, next to a small lake, where we enjoy food, wine and yet more wildlife: slow-moving eastern water dragons sunbathing on the lawn to our left, and flamboyant rainbow lorikeets at the bird-feeders to our right. The lorikeets, which are loud and raucous, are very common in Australia, but no less dazzling for that, their upper bellies a block of flaming orange, their heads and lower bellies sapphire blue, their wings brilliant green, their beaks post-box red. If birds are your thing, this is a good part of Australia to visit: roughly half of all its species have been spotted in south-east Queensland.

And birds are not the only flying creatures about. We visit a fruit bat colony, hanging in their hundreds like flaccid balloons in trees by the side of the road, croaking grumpily, with their leathery wings wrapped round themselves. We also make a quick visit to Cedar Creek Falls, a small, rough waterfall, where Ronda chats about the rich red volcanic soils and I rest for a while by the rock pools, listening to the water. As I settle back into the van en route back to Brisbane, I reflect on its lucky residents who have so much within reach of their city. Tamborine Mountain seems a fine place. No wonder the parrots are celebrating.

Compact Facts

How to get there

Austravel (0800 988 4676; austravel.com) offers seven nights' fly-drive in Southern Queensland from £1,549 per person, including four-star accommodation, car hire and return flights from London, Heathrow to Brisbane. Araucaria Ecotours (0061 7 55441283 araucariaecotours.com.au). Rainforests, Glowworms and Wine day-trip from Brisbane costs $143 (£80) including lunch, refreshments, wine-tasting, all entries and sales tax. Cedar Creek Estate (0061 7 5545 1666; cedarcreekestate.com.au). Skywalk (0061 7 5545 2222; rainforestsky walk.com.au).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments