Breakfasting with birds and crocs in Port Douglas
DID you know a crocodile can live until it is 100 and keep growing for all of its long lifetime?
That little bit of knowledge - given with a smile at the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas - is enough to keep you awake at night should you be crazy enough to be, say, strolling, fishing or camping anywhere near their territory. But at the Wildlife Habitat you can view these huge and frightening beasts from the safety of a boardwalk with a reassuringly tall fence.
We visited the Wildlife Habitat not for the crocodiles but for Breakfast with the Birds, a Port Douglas institution (the crocs were a daunting add-on in the vast and lush grounds of the beautiful habitat).
Breakfast with the Birds is a delightful experience as long as you don't mind curious birds hopping on your plate, or for that matter, your head. We loved it.
Beneath a massive canopy in an astonishingly realistic wetlands environment, you sit down to eat your fill of tropical fruits, eggs, bacon, pastries...the lot, while a variety of birds fly, swoop, roam and even talk around you.
Colourful lorikeets, chatty parrots, somnolent owls all keep you company at breakfast. They do the same later in the day for Lunch with the Lorikeets.
It is easy to spend a day in this cool and tropical milieu, a place that immerses you in three different interactive environments (rainforest, wetlands, grasslands).
You mingle freely with the animals and birds - apart from the crocs and a couple of haughty cassowaries - on elevated boardwalks and footpaths.
Getting close and personal takes on new meaning as a kangaroo bounds by you at extraordinary speed, quacking ducks waddle up to you, multi-coloured lorikeets shriek at you, cautious turtles observe you, and those snooty cassowaries eye you with more than a little disdain.
There are endangered species too - Boyd's forest dragon and eclectus parrots - and it's a privilege to see them in such a natural setting.
The experience is all the more joyful if you have children with you. Their innocent rapture is infectious and you find yourself as excited as they are - maybe not so much for the photographs with a python draped around the neck or a baby croc in your arms, but definitely holding a koala.
We have a strong affection for Port Douglas, especially in the winter months. Our dream is to spend our retirement winters there.
At Reflections on Port Douglas, a small, boutique complex of just eight two-bedroom apartments, you are right in the heart of all the glitz of Macrossan St and just a few metres from the famous Four Mile Beach, yet you are secreted away in a luxuriant mini-hideaway..
Family-friendly and personal, the complex is owned and operated by Carmel, a long-time local who gives you all her attention and local knowledge.
With a beautifully equipped kitchen, spacious living area and fabulous undercover balcony nestled right amongst the tropical foliage, the apartments are perfect for a weekend or, better still, a long stay.
Unlike many of Port Douglas's big resorts with big prices to suit, Reflections of Port Douglas is affordable, and cooking for yourself (when you've had your fill of the myriad restaurants, clubs and bars in walking distance) makes a stay even more inexpensive.
We particularly loved the pool area, private and cool with its lush surrounds, and perfect if you have children (in our case, grandchildren) with its shallow area dipping over into the 15-metre heated pool. "So many children have learnt to swim in this pool," Carmel told us as our three-year-old built up his confidence in the shallow area.
We chatted to a family by the pool who were on their second visit and loved it for the family-friendly vibe, and the not-too-big-not-too-small size of the resort.
Then there is that famous beach just metres away, with its famous palms fringing the sand and its long sweep backed by gorgeous moody mountains.
Port Douglas in the winter is perfect and Reflections of Port Douglas is now our go-to place.
The writer was a guest of Wildlife Habitat and Reflections of Port Douglas.
IF YOU GO:
Reflections of Port Douglas
70 Macrossan St, Port Douglas.
07 4099 4555
Port Douglas Rd, Port Douglas.
07 4099 3235