by Oskar V. Conle & Marina Friede (May 2001)
(by positioning the mouse pointer over the pictures you will get more infos about the pictures)
We began our journey at the beginning of May and took a flight from Munich via Frankfurt and Singapore to Brisbane and finally Cairns, which is situated at the Australian east-coast in Queensland. The whole journey took us complete 2 days!
So, despite the good service of Singapore Airlines, we were very exhausted upon arriving at Cairns and during the following days had to overcome the jetlag, caused by the long travel and a time difference of 8 hours.
During our 4-week stay in Cairns we booked in at the Mercure-Harbourside, a good 4-star hotel although it is a bit nosy because of the many Japanese tourist parties.
Cairns is a middle sized town with a provincial character (about 100.000 inhabitants) and has many souvenir shops. At almost every corner one finds opals, Crocodile-Dundee accessories, typical Australian road signs and many other characteristic Australian souvenirs.
In the big supermarkets othroughout Cairns you can purchse almost all imaginable products and equipment. So to make luggage less heavy, you can easily buy many articles for the daily use after arrival in Cairns and the prices are almost equal to those in Europe. Worth mentioning is the great hospitality and cooperativeness of the Australians.
For being able to explore Australia's nature on one's own account, an off-road vehicle is needed because of the long distances and sandy or muddy tracks. During the three weeks that we stayed in Queensland we drove almost 3000 kilometres and had rented a big Toyota Prado (rented from Britz). The all inclusive price for such a big off-road vehicle for 20 days is about 2.300 Euros.
Cairns is in northern Queensland and is surrounded by the last primary rain forests of Australia (State Forests & Barron Falls National Park).
Situated directly on the coast, it is an excellent starting point for boat rides to the world-famous Barrier Reef, the biggest coral reef of the world. It is a must for each tourist to visit the Fitzroy Island and Green Island because of their famous diving sites.
Those in search for gorgeous beaches, will find these along the scenic route from Cairs to Port Duglas, which is winding itself along the coast.
Nature and Entmology of the surroundings of Cairns
As only few of the primary rain forests are still intact, mainly due to the numerous and wide sugarcane plantations and extensive pest control, many phasmid species exist only very locally and some are very rare. The endemic Australian animal diversity is also increasingly being replaced by newly introduced foreign species. At night one finds voracious giant toads (Family Bufidae) almost everywhere, which eat everything from insects to rats.
In the direct vicinity of Cairns we found the following species mainly in areas of primary rain-forest close to water:
Anchiale briareus (Gray, 1834), Sipyloidea larryi (Hasenpusch & Brock, 2007), Sipyloidea garradungensis Brock & Hasenpusch, 2007, Sipyloidea rentzi Brock & Hasenpusch, 2007 and Onchestus rentzi (Brock & Hasenpusch, 2006).
The Crystal Cascades are situated a few kilometres west of Cairns, in it's adjacent rain forest areas. This is a lovely river, were locals take a swim on weekends. Because of the hot temperatures it's a boon to spend the day in the river while observing the beautiful nature. During the night many phasmids could be obseved here. Anchiale briareus (Gray, 1834) was very abudant mainly in Eucalyptus-trees several metres above the ground, where we also found a single but giant 22 cm female of Acrophylla wuelfingi (Redtenbacher, 1908). Sipyloidea larryi (Hasenpusch & Brock, 2007), Sipyloidea rentzi Brock & Hasenpusch, 2007, Onchestus rentzi (Brock & Hasenpusch, 2006), Austrocarausius nigropunctatus (Kirby, 1896), Tropidoderus childrenii (Gray, 1833) and several unidentified Necrosciinae were found in the lower vegetation. And again a lot of giant toads!
Lake Morris Road (on a hill east of Cairns)
This street is somewhat elevated, thus one has an especially nice view over Cairns from different vantage points. We frequently searched for insects along the Lake Morris Road and here we took many photos of insects during the night (mainly orthopteroids and lepidopteras). Amongst others we spotted numerous Anchiale briareus (Gray, 1834), Sipyloidea larryi (Hasenpusch & Brock, 2007), some Extatosoma tiaratum tiaratum (Mac Leay, 1826) and some unidentified Necrosciinae.
Especially interesting for entomologists and naturalists is the area around Kuranda (about 50 min by car from Cairns).
It is also possible to get to Kuranda by the 10 km long "sky -rail". The sky-rail station is near to Smithfield, a small village some 15 kilometres north of Cairns. Besides kitschy souvenir shops there is a hughe butterfly house in Kuranda, where you can observe native butterflies like Papilio ulysses and Ornithoptera priamus. With a bit of luck, you can even spot freshwater crocodiles in the circumjacent rivers. On numerous paths you can here explore an opulent and very rich flora. Amongst some others, we here found Onchestus rentzi (Brock & Hasenpusch, 2006) and Sipyloidea rentzi Brock & Hasenpusch, 2007.
Another area well worth seeing in northern Queensland are the Tablelands, a few hours drive northwest of Cairns.
There the climate is temperate and very fertile with many farms and agriculture with lots of vegetables and fruits cultivated here. The Lake Barrine area has many cristal clear lakes, which invite for a bath. During the night it can drop down to 12-15°C during the night in May.
A place in the Tablelands well worth visiting is Lake Barrine, which can be circled on a narrow footpath and whhilst sitting on a small bench just beside the lake, one can observe pelicans. During the night we could observe some nymphs of Onchestus rentzi (Brock & Hasenpusch, 2006), some Sipyloidea larryi (Hasenpusch & Brock, 2007) and a few more specimens of Sipyloidea rentzi Brock & Hasenpusch, 2007 here.
Other scenic lakes are Lake Morris (the water reservoir for Cairns), Lake Eacham (a swimming lake with a picnic place, not far from Lake Barrine) and the huge Lake Tinaroo.
Cape Tribulation /Danitree National Park
One day we drove to the Daintree National Park, which is about 2 hours out of Cairns. For being able to get futher into the direction of Cape York, we had to cross the Daintree River with a ferry. Our goal was Cape Tribulation - a small peninsular edged by white sand beaches and admist of tropical rain forest. One of Cape Tribulation's special features are the mangrove swamps forests along it's coast with lots of screw-palms (Pandanus spp., Pandanaceae). This unique habitat is home to abundant numbers of Megacrania batesii (Kirby, 1896). This species feeds is perfeclty adapted to this environment and is exclusively found in the crowns of the Pandanus plants where it is protected against predatirs by the sharp spines of the lancett-like leaves. Here we stayed overnight and at the Ferntree Rainforest Resort, a very idyllic 5-star resort in the rainforest. From the Mangrove Boardwalk which leads through the swamp-forest (a few hundred meters away from the resort) we observed numerous Megacrania batesii feeding on Pandanus leaves during the night. They seemed to feed like harvester-threshers and considerable damage on the Pandanus plants was more than obvious! If a Megacrania feels threatened, it is able to spray a milky-white defensive secretion towards the predator with great precision. The smell of this spray is remarkably peppermint-like why the Australians call this distinctive species "Peppermint Stick-Insect". One has also to be careful while being out in the swamp at night, as Cape Tribulation and it's sorrounding creeks are also home to many "salties" - salt water crocodiles.
The sandy route to Cape York can only be traveled on with an off-road vehicle and during the dry season.
Altogether we found relatively few phasmids during our 3-week stay in Queensland, which was certainly also related to the fact that it did not rain for even once during the entire 3 weeks!
Nonetheless, Queensland is well worth a trip because of it's high biodiversity and uniqueness if its rich and stunning fauna and flora.