Brack: Queensland is a big wonderland of biodiversity

GLASS HOUSE MOUNTAINS, Queensland | The cackling from some kind of tropical bird just before dawn was so loud that I jumped up in bed. It sounded like a nightmare come to life.

But this state on the northeastern side of Australia is anything but a bad dream. It’s a huge paradise filled with so much biodiversity that you can’t believe your eyes.

Two hours north of Brisbane by plane is the Daintree Rainforest, a protected park thought to be 130 million years old. It’s the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. There are more than 400 species of native mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and snakes. Trees and vines tower 200 feet in layers from the forest floor in this fragile ecosystem filled with more than 12,000 kinds of insects and 3,000 species of plants.

Just miles away offshore is a slice of the Great Barrier Reef, which has bountiful corals, fish and loads of other marine life. Off the coast of Port Douglas, we snorkeled and saw everything from Nemo fish — clownfish — darting in anemones to reef sharks, angelfish and green sea turtles. Waters in this northerly area of ​​the reef, which stretches 1,400 miles, apparently are still warm enough to continue to sustain abundant marine life. But remember how huge the reef is. It has 133,000 square miles of coral, which would fill the state of Texas.

The rainforest and reef are ecological sanctuaries. Both are world heritage sites. And both are threatened by climate change, with half of the reef’s corals bleached and killed in recent years. To see one of these natural wonders is thrilling. To enjoy both in two days was, as Australians say a lot, “awesome.”

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