Invisible Animals in the Oldest Rainforest in the World
Neil's family moved here 25 years ago, when the property was compulsorily purchased to create the Wet Tropics World Heritage area. They took up the challenge to run a privately-owned reserve, to live a simple life, with no hope of ever being able to commercialise the land.
Neil chose to live here, study the forest and share his knowledge for love, not money. He and his wife got married beneath a canopy of umbrella palms and 400 year old trees about 500m from his house. His children grow up here, without TV or internet ... the forest just immediately surrounding their home is so rich, they could never hope to see it all in a lifetime, yet there understanding of the country's natural and cultural significance is so strong, there are parts of his land none of them has ever visited.
Neil has used his wonder and appreciation of the forest to build 25 years of knowledge of the most cryptic of animals - he has a particular fascination with tiny camouflaged spiders, so sophisticated, they will blow your mind: the strange stick spiders, lichen spiders and the unlikely-sounding bird-dropping spider.
Asked how long it took him to discover these weird and wonderful arachnids, Neil smiles and exclaims "about 25 years". The Australian actor Sam Neil, star of Jurassic Park, first introduced him to the concept of a bird-dropping spider. It was some time later he found the first one. It now forms the 'piece de resistance' of his tour ... and a real hit with everyone from adults to small kids.
The Daintree hides its secrets from anyone but those who care to take the time to discover them. Most visitors rush in and out, missing out on seeing everything that, for the assistance of someone like Neil, would be plain to see right in front of their face.
Truth be told, at least a night or two should be spent in the Daintree, enough time to see a Boyd's Forest Dragon, a Cassowary and a lichen spider ... to get off the beaten track and look into the forest, not through it. Across the road from Neil's, Carmen runs the modest but luxurious Cockatoo Hill Retreat, with views over the mountains and ocean. As night falls, the ferry stops running and the daytime sounds of the forest are replaced with the soft chirruping of crickets, there is the realisation that you have become part of one of the oldest and richest rainforests in the world.