When you think of the word ‘Everglade’ most people think of the Everglades of Florida. Images of Hillbillies hunting from hovercrafts, giant Anacondas and Alligators come to mind, but there is so much more to this type of aquatic wonderland. An Everglade is a tropical wetland, filled with incredibly unique ecosystems and plays host to any number of rare, weird and of course wondering plant and wildlife. In the Great Sandy National Park of the Sunshine Coast is something truly unique, Australia’s one and only tropical wetland, its own Everglade. The Noosa Everglades.
Making your way through the Noosa River, heading north, through the Cooroibah and Cootharabah lakes you’ll start to see the Everglades forming around you. The best way to explore the area is by boat, be that canoe, kayak or guided cruise boat. The Everglades’ water system is renown as some of the best kayaking waters in Australia, with its calm, mirrored waters, exquisite animal and plant life, boasting the presence of one of the rarest and most majestic of water dwelling creatures – the Dugong. The Dugong is an incredibly gentle creature, tending to shy away from encroaching humans and tour groups, but if you’re quiet and lucky enough, you may just get a glimpse of this heavily endangered species of aquatic mammal.
There is so much to explore in this amazing, expansive wetland ecosystem, with rivers, lakes and creeks aplenty to keep you exploring for days. It can be a daunting task in theory, but for those looking for some structure to their exploration, the Noosa Everglades Discovery Group has a number of tour options available, guided and otherwise.
The first option is the half-day river cruise with barbeque lunch and morning tea provided. This is by far the most relaxing of options. Simply kick back and enjoy a relaxing ride down the Noosa River, exploring the everglade, albeit a compressed exploration. Setting off from the harbour, you start to wind your way through the lakes and rivers connected to the Noosa River, headed for the Everglades. There isn’t much to see on this leg of the trip, mostly just boaties chugging around and having a ball on the water, and if you’re lucky a pod of inland dolphins will pop their heads up to say hello. Once reaching the Everglades however you’ll never be short of interesting visuals around you, it’s like an aquatic safari. Personally I took the opportunity to snap a few shots of the more interesting of the flora and fauna, including an awesome series that followed the path of a dragonfly as it landed on the surface of the water, his feet not breaking the surface tension of the water due to his incredibly lightweight self, fluttering his wings before what appeared to be a rather dramatic rush from underneath, an explosion of water and waves and he was gone. I went back through my photos and noticed I had managed to capture the aquatic beast of the depths gobbling up my insect friend from below. As an amateur photographer there, I was never short of subjects to photograph, from a breathtaking view of the sun, peaking through the maze of branches and roots spiralling around each other among the mangroves, shafts of light breaking through tiny cracks and backlighting the many hidden flowers and mangrove butterflies within. Needless to say, this half day trip served to do little more than wet my appetite for this beautiful place and at its conclusion I knew I’d return.
I recently bought a Kayak, which has put the idea in my head of exploring the Everglades a little more extensively, preferably of my own accord. Luckily there are options available with the discovery group for just such an adventure. I’m now in the process of planning and booking into one of their three day, two nights journeys, camping within the park. After the initial boat trip to the staffed camping ground on the banks of the river and setting up your camp, you are free to roam and explore the waters at your leisure. For those without a paddle the organisation does provide loaner canoes and all associated equipment. After a little more practice, I look forward to exploring the water ways of this hidden gem myself, camera in hand.
For more information on the Noosa Everglades Discovery Group and their offers, please visit their website.