Wearing his Savannah Guide cowboy hat and boots, Bram Collins looks like he has stepped out of a Dundee movie when he shows visitors around the longest lava tubes in the world.
The Undara Experience Chairman, whose cattle farming family discovered the Undara lava tubes, is proof there is more to Tropical North Queensland than its two iconic World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics rainforest.
The outback is just a couple of hours’ drive from Cairns’ international airport and it is brimming with exotic treasures like the lava tube remnants of a volcanic eruption some 190,000 years ago which hide patches of rainforest and are rich with wildlife.
“I was about seven years old when I discovered I had 164km of lava tubes snaking through my backyard,” Bram says.
“I thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. Until you stand there and see the size and think how long these tubes have been there, you just can’t explain it, it’s beautiful.”
While Richard “Djundjurru” Bing can dance like the Aboriginal characters in Crocodile Dundee, his home is the Wet Tropics rainforest of Kuranda where the Djabugay people having been “shaking a leg” for tens of thousands of years.
Djundjurru, which means short-nosed bandicoot, grew up learning about bush foods under the guidance of his late grandmother Maggie “Nyawarri” Donahue who was Queen of the Djabugay people.
“I would go with the uncles fishing and hunting and they would teach me to look for the tracks of a goanna, the trail of a snake and the droppings of the kangaroo,” he says.
As a youngster he and his cousins used to busk around Kuranda so it was a natural progression for Djundjurru to become a performer and guide at Tjapukai, an Aboriginal cultural park in the foothills of the Kuranda range.
“I love doing this every day – it’s about teaching people our culture.” www.tjapukai.com.au
Meet more Tropical North Queensland characters:
Co-founder of the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, Jennie Gilbert, is a zoologist who goes to work each day by boat to Fitzroy Island off Cairns. A team of volunteers nurse sick turtles until they can be released on the Great Barrier Reef. Jennie’s fascination with turtles began when she helped hatch turtle eggs found on a beach in Tropical North Queensland.
As a child Sam Charlton spent 18 idyllic months living on Bedarra Island alongside renowned Australian artist Noel Wood.
In between exploring his home on foot and by kayak, Sam would listen to Noel’s stories about Bedarra’s history and environment.
Almost 30 years later Sam and his wife Kerri-Ann purchased the resort after it was devastated by Cyclone Yasi and he used the knowledge gleaned from his childhood to build an exclusive and sustainable resort.