Before investigating all of the places I could take my Chicagoan mother on her first ever visit to Australia, I had never heard of the Mamu Tropical Skywalk. It turns out that this well-kept secret is a relatively recent addition to Far North Queensland, being constructed from 2007 to 2008. We found out about this tropical paradise through Paronella Park of which Mark and Judy Evans are also the managers and operators. It so happens that the Mamu Tropical Skywalk offers the rare opportunity to walk on the canopy by means of an environmentally sustainable walkway of recycled plastic and galvanized steel.
So we set off on a misty and “scattered-showers” kind of day, which didn’t damper our trip in the least bit. Upon our arrival, we were enthusiastically greeted at the entrance and warmly received by Rosanne at the front desk where we were given an 8-page flora and fauna guide, informing us of the 40 different plant species found along the trail. The track begins with a stroll through the forest where we were able to spot numbers labelling the plants in our guide. The one that stuck out in my mom’s mind the most was #38, the blue quandong, which I informed her that it is what cassowaries love to eat, and I learned from the guide that its pitted stones were once used as counters in Chinese checkers.
One of the highlights of the track includes a cantilever, which is 40 metres long and 20 metres high. Don’t worry about its strength as it has been designed to carry the weight of 6-7 small cars and can withstand a cyclone. Be sure to spot the river gorge below and take a selfie!
The final reward for completing the 350 metre walk and ultimately taking 100 steps up the tower is a breathtaking view 37 metres above ground at the Tower. The spectacular sight offers a stunning vision of Mount Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest mountain at 1,611 metres, as well as endless panoramas of this World Heritage landscape.
The audio guide is a must, not only informing listeners about the skywalk structure itself, but also recounting the tragic history of this region. We learned that the first European to pass through this area was Christie Palmerston in 1882. Encroaching on indigenous territory, he met the Aboriginal dwellers of this rainforest called the Ma:mu people, which is the namesake of this skywalk. Palmerston himself even asserted how he wasn’t reluctant to shoot them. We also came to understand that the murdering of Aboriginals was only one part of the atrocities committed, with loggers arriving in 1874. Timber was a booming business and created affluence in the region, but it wasn’t an infinite resource as the invaders had initially believed. By the 1880s, nearly all of the cedar of the forest had been cut down. Murdering and pillaging have been a part of Australia’s history and I think that while sightseeing around this remarkable country, it is important to learn from past horrors to comprehend its current challenges.
Fortunately, attitudes towards rainforests eventually changed, seen as places to enjoy the outdoors and sight-see, resulting in the first national park in the region in 1941. Thanks to the audio guide I discovered that the Wet Tropics were given World Heritage status in 1998, effectively shutting down the logging industry here. Also, while walking along the skywalk, one of the first things we noticed were the panels about the Ma:mu people along the Forest Walk, making it easy to see the connection between the traditional custodians and the land. The Ma:Mu people furnished photos, words and art that signify essential facets of their culture to create the informational panels, which we greatly appreciated and were glad to see.
The return walk was 2.5 km and took us about an hour to walk at a slow enough pace to admire all the beauty around us and to take in the information of the audio guide. The Ma:mu tropical skywalk is a perfect marriage of nature and education, exploring the outdoors while learning about local flora and fauna, the region’s history, and its people. If you want to find out more about Mamu Skywalk, visit http://mamutropicalskywalk.com.au/.
Nina, CCEB Teacher