A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published August 6th 2019
Ancient 'Forest Bathing', River Rapids & Going with the Flow
Nature is the best teacher.
Holidaying up in tropical Port Douglas, in the region home to the Daintree National Park last month was a soulful escape from the big smoke and the daily grind. It was a divine time in warmer weather, away from a midwinter Sydney. Of the tours we did was one most unique and enlightening experience; a river drift through a pristine pocket of rainforest in Mossman, thanks to Back Country Bliss.
Not only was this a great adventure and immersion in the serenity of the forest, but an educational, close-up encounter with flora and fauna that has been in the area for hundreds to over 150 million years. Truly humbling to witness, especially as humans are not even a drop in the ocean compared to the length of time this rainforest has evolved and thrived for here.
Further enriching this experience, we immersed ourselves in a good dose of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Enjoying the therapeutic effects of this, the experience also symbolically helped me reflect a little on life, and the art of going with the flow.
Ready to explore the Mossman Gorge freshwater river network and surrounding rainforest
Back Country Bliss picked us up from our resort (the beautiful Bali-esque Ramada resort) bright and early at 9am to commence our tour of the ancient forest and crystal streams. These guys offer family-friendly tours in Far North Queensland with well trained guides who know the area like the back of their hands. The 20-30 minute drive to our drift spot near the town of Mossman was scenic and entertaining as the guides bantered and told us facts about the area including the greater Daintree, sugar cane harvests (which are huge here), and cassowaries.
Upon arrival at the location at which we'd commence our river drift, the guides equipped us all with thermals and wetsuits - the waters were still rather fresh upon getting in, and are sure to wake you up, but the gear definitely helped us feel comfortable within a matter of minutes by insulating us with our own body heat. With snorkel masks and river sleds in hand, we were ready to begin our adventure.
The experience consisted of snorkelling in calmer inlets in search of fish, eels and turtles. A myriad of life can be found along the banks, and in the waters - pop your snorkel mask on and take a peak beneath underwater rocks and see what you can find.
As well as taking to the water, the tour included educational walks through the forest, learning about different flora and fauna from our trusty guides. In the water, in addition to snorkelling, we got to float downstream as a group, aboard our river sleds, and even transcended some exciting river rapids.
Daintree national park - where we suited up before walking down to the river
One of my favourite parts had to be the close-up encounter with one of the 300 year old mahogany trees, amidst the 150 million year old rainforest. They are more than just a tree; they are a weather system, and due to the density of their wood they have a resonance that can carry kilometres through the forest. Trees like these, together with the mountains throughout the Daintree are responsible for creating and conserving an optimal weather system that has allowed it to thrive here for so long. Nature never ceases to amaze me!
I absolutely loved the rapids. It was so much fun getting a little speed behind us as we drifted around rocks and over currents, even when I capsized - no need to worry if this happens, just hang on to your sled and one of the experienced guides will throw you a line to reel you in.
After the rapids, we got to enjoy a serene stretch of gentle waters. We laid on our backs, floating downstream, with trees and bird nest ferns towering overhead, forming a jurassic tunnel. Could have laid here in the lush, tranquil rainforest all day, pondering the vast length of time for which this has all existed here.
All aboard the river sleds to explore this stunningly beautiful & tranquil place
Before taking us back to our resort, the guides helped us warm up with cookies and steamy hot chocolates.
Forest bathing and going with the flow
This incredible experience certainly took forest bathing to a whole new level. For one, we were quite literally bathing in the streams of the Daintree. This concept, found in Germany, Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, and other places around the world, captures the idea of immersing all your senses in the forest and experiencing the good things this kind of nature therapy does for our physical and psychological wellness.
I certainly felt at peace, cleansed, and in a way, soulfully rejuvenated after our time in the fresh forest waters, breathing in fresh forest air, surrounded by luscious green and tranquil sounds - the gentle trickling of the stream and birds. I felt clearer-headed, as though a fog in my mind had lifted and in reflecting on the experience afterwards, I somehow got reflecting about what the river rapids can say about life and going with the flow...
Life, metaphorically if you will, goes a little like the river rapids of Mossman Gorge; sometimes you're on a fast current and get a ride to new places, unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes you may hit a rut and capsize - even so, the river keeps moving, and you go with it and okay in the end. Sometimes you have to swim to get out of a bad patch faster or go against the current, and other times you can simply lay on your back, enjoy the scenery, and drift along.
The rivers and surrounding Daintree rainforest have been here for at least 150 million years so it seems nature's flow is a fairly sustainable way to be. Try letting go and going with your flow a little more (everyone's is a bit different) and see what happens. While deeply rooted in some parts nature always keeps flowing and growing and moving with the cycles, winds and currents. It's harmonious.
This is just my take on it anyhow through my reflections on this amazing experience. There are plenty of great photo ops for you along the way - the guides carry your phones and cameras in waterproof bags. Be sure to try out this unique tour by Back Country Bliss next time you're up far north!