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Let’s discover chocolate: is it really a fruit?

Chocolate lovers rejoice – the love of your life is a fruit! Well, that is according to Chris and Lynn Jahnke’s light-hearted theory.

“Chocolate is made from seeds of cocoa fruit, so in my mind, that clearly makes chocolate a fruit,” joked Chris.

“And are we not encouraged to eat more fruit?” he asked of the 24 people visiting a Charley’s Chocolate Factory tour in April 2018.

They all nodded in agreement and chuckled as if hoping his theory was actually true.

What is true is that chocolate is produced from cocoa beans, which come from the husked and ground seeds of Theobroma cocoa fruit.

But it’s the high fat and sugar content that lowers its reputation as a healthy food.

Obesity and high blood pressure are just two of the medical issues associated with its high consumption.

 

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Potential health benefits of dark chocolate

It’s not all bad news for lovers of the popular treat, however.

According to a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, eating dark chocolate may lower bad cholesterol, prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems.

I learnt this and many other fascinating facts about chocolate on a ‘Cocoa Tree to Chocolate Bar’ tour at Charley’s Chocolate Factory last week.

Owners Chris and Lynn are “walking encyclopaedias” on the subject.

They’ve become deeply entrenched in the industry since moving from Melbourne to rural Queensland and buying their 400 acres at Mission Beach.

“We first came to Queensland in 1994 to escape the cold winters,” Chris said.

“We loved it and kept coming back year after year during winter and eventually came across this property at Mt Edna.

“It was a banana farm back then. We bought the place but didn’t want to grow bananas so we removed them and set up to run beef cattle but there wasn’t enough land for a full-time venture.

“After a few years commuting between Melbourne and North Queensland, we sold our inner-city apartment and business and moved here permanently.

“We looked at growing other fruit crops from macadamias and mangoes to lychees but most took too many years to bear fruit and I’m a bit impatient!

“Then I watch an ABC Landline show on cocoa. I knew chocolate was made from cocoa and chocolate is ‘moderately’ popular!  The rest, as they say, is history.”

Today Chris and Lynn successfully grow cocoa on Mt Edna and turn it into award-winning chocolate.

They also take guests on regular tours of their nursery, plantation and factory at 388 Cassowary Drive, Mission Beach, North Queensland.

For more information and booking details phone 4068 5011, email ask@charleys.com.au or visit www.charleys.com.au

Ancient people were chocolate lovers too

Traces of cocoa have been found in drinking vessels carbon-dated to 3800 years ago, said Lynn.

“The earliest civilisation associated with the drink is the Olmecs of southern Mexico.

“It’s thought the Olmecs watched animals crack open the cocoa pods but they spat out the part that’s now used to make chocolate.

“What they wanted was the sweet, sticky lining that protects the seeds.

“The Olmecs opened the pods, extracted the seeds and left them to ferment. They then let them dry in the sun, then lit fires and roasted the beans.

“They cracked the beans open and extracted the nibs, which they pound into a powder-like substance to make a beautiful and nutritious drink.

“How did they know to do that 3800 years ago? They didn’t have the technology, food science, and chemistry as we do today. They just knew instinctively what to do.”

Lynn said that throughout most of its history, cocoa was a drink until English chocolate maker Joseph Frye made the first solid bar in 1847.

Today, 83 billion US dollars worth of chocolate are eaten worldwide every year and it takes five million tonnes of cocoa per year to make that much, said Chris Jahnke.

“Seventy per cent of those five million tonnes of cocoa is grown in West African countries such as Nigeria and Ghana.”

Statista figures show that in 2015 Switzerland had the highest per capita consumption of the treat worldwide at 8.8 kilograms in that year. China ranked the lowest at only 200 grams per capita.

Chris said more recent studies ranked Australia at No. 7 in the world, just behind the United States at No. 6.

“Cocoa is a tropical tree that’s fussy about where it’s grown,” he said.

“It likes hot, humid conditions with lots of rain.

“Worldwide, cocoa grows most successfully within 15 degrees to the north and south of the Equator, provided the local conditions of high humidity and rainfall are also present.

“To grow cocoa in Australia, the best areas are in North Queensland near the coast between Tully and Mossman.”

Where is Charlie’s Chocolate Factory?

Mission Beach is located between Tully and Mossman.

At Charley’s Chocolate Factory, the plants are grown from seed and the chocolate is manufactured onsite.

Among their accolades, the business won the 2017 International Cocoa Award under the Cocoa of Excellence Program.

For more information visit www.charleys.com.au


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Anthropologist finds her groove making Comfort Bears

Unemployed anthropologist Vickie Hartland has found her groove up-cycling old jeans to create Comfort Bears for people around the globe.

“Making Comfort Bears is my accidental business,” Vickie said when I met up with her at the Cairns Esplanade Markets in June 2017.

“When found myself out of work, I made a bear for my grandson and put a picture on Facebook then suddenly got orders from all over the world.

“My first trade was an upholsterer. I haven’t done it for many years but I’ve gone back to my original skill set.”

jeansVickie said her Comfort Bears were often used as Grief Bears.

“People grieving the loss of loved ones have got something they can cuddle.

“When my brother died, his youngest son started sleepwalking and we’d find him curled up in a wardrobe or under his dad’s clothes until he got a Comfort Bear.

“For years after my sister lost her husband, she still had his pillow and uniform in a zip lock bag so she could still smell him.

“Another lady whose dad had passed away 10 years earlier still had all of his clothes until she got one of my bears and was able to let go.

Vickie said the Comfort Bears were also ideal for children with autism because they liked a sense of everything the same every day.

“While a child sleeps, you can pop the bear in the washing machine and dryer, then take it back into them and the child never knows it’s gone.”

Vickie’s handmade bears are created from old denim jeans to help keep them away from landfill.

“It’s ridiculous how many jeans end up as landfill,” she said.

“We don’t wear jeans all year round and every season people get new jeans and the old ones end up either in op shops or as landfill.”

 

Pure Spirit of adventure on the waves

For a landlubber more used to hoofing it across cow paddocks than sailing, when ‘Captain Awesome’ spoke of jibing, I thought he was into dancing.

You know, jiving! That’s the international ballroom dance style that originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1930s and was popular throughout the 1940s.

I must get my hearing checked because I soon discovered the word had a ‘b’ in the middle, not a ‘v’, and it meant putting the stern of a boat through the eye of the wind.

So on Sunday 18 June 2017, instead of sashaying across a dance floor, I was shimmying across the waves aboard Captain Awesome’s catamaran with two parallel hulls as shoes.

 

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Pure Spirit speed is not enough

The skipper’s 11-meter hand-built cat, Pure Spirit, was one of seven vessels to participate in the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail for June.

Being ballast-free and therefore lighter than monohulls, Pure Spirit was the fastest vessel on the day and scored the largest handicap, starting about 40 minutes after the first boat began.

It wasn’t long before we’d overtaken Endeavour but the other boats proved more elusive.

Nearing the finish line, it was all hands on deck (except mine as I was in charge of the camera) to trim a few precious minutes off our sail time.

Alas, the first position wasn’t to be this month, as announced at the post-sail presentation on the clubhouse deck as food and stories were shared.

Join the club’s  Sunday Fun Sails

The opportunity to join the club’s monthly Sunday Fun Sail is open to anyone with $10 in their pocket, even landlubbers like me who don’t know the difference between tacking and jibing. That is if space is available on any of the boats on the day.

You might be called upon to steer, trim or practice manoeuvres under the watchful eyes of seasoned sailors or you might simply enjoy a day out on the water as an onboard spectator.

It’s all part of the fun of learning about sailing while getting up close and personal with one of Australia’s most beautiful regions.

The experience might even inspire you to put aside some dollars and one day join the event or club as a boat owner.

Find out more about sailing

For more details on the Yorkeys Knob Boating Club’s Sunday Fun Sail, phone (07) 4055 7711 or email reception@ykbc.com.au.

Yorkeys Knob Boating Club is located at Yorkeys Knob, 18km northwest of Cairns and 42km southeast of Port Douglas.

 

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Discovery Festival: Rock Around The Croc

When the 2017 Discovery Festival at Cooktown kicked off, even the wildlife put on a stunning show to welcome the deluge of visitors.

Spotted on a bank of the Annan River just south of the town in Far North Queensland was Blackie, the five-metre male crocodile that rules the area.

The last time I visited Cooktown, locals said I’d catch of glimpse of Blackie but he was nowhere to be seen.

He didn’t even offer a few bubbles of water to suggest his snout was just below the surface.

This week, however, he was there in full view where I could see him from the safety of a high bank on the opposite side of the river.

Crocodile on a river bank

On a bank of the Annan River near Cooktown is Blackie, the five-metre male croc that is said to rule the area.

Organisers of this year’s festival also went above the average watermark with a full weekend of festivities in celebration of Captain James Cook’s landing in 1770.

Located at the mouth of the Endeavour River on the Cape York Peninsula, Cooktown is where James Cook beached his ship for repairs after sustaining serious damage on a nearby coral reef.

In 1873, the town was settled as a supply port for the goldfields along the Palmer River. It was known as Cook’s Town until 1874.

Located about 330 kilometres north of Cairns, Cooktown today has a population of about 2500. Numbers swell radically every June for the annual festival.

 

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Discovery Festival caters for all ages

The 2017 program was jam-packed with activities and events for all ages starting with a Mayor’s Maroon Community Ball on Friday night. The 1RAR Army Band provided the music and again entertained crowds in Anzac Park on Saturday.

Fire dancers, fireworks, buskers, paintball, markets, street parades, helicopter flights, harbour cruises, dancing, workshops, competitions, tours and a wet t-shirt competition were just some of the other highlights.

The festival culminated on Sunday with a costumed re-enactment of James Cook’s historic landing in Bicentennial Park where still in place is the rock to which His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour was tied in 1770.

A huge crowd gathered to watch the impressive show that preceded a ceremonial firing of a full-size cannon by a lucky spectator who won the opportunity in a ticket draw.

To discover more about the town’s festival, visit  http://www.cook.qld.gov.au/community/events/cooktown-discovery-festival

Cooktown Discovery Festival 2017

Cooktown Discovery Festival 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discover Cooktown in Far North Queensland

There’s no shortage of things to do at Cooktown where in 1770 James Cook landed after his ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

The old adage “Seen one rainforest, seen ém all” certainly doesn’t apply.

Exploring Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula was just a blip on my travel radar until last December.

I’d already seen plenty of rainforests so with many other exciting places beckoning, I figured if an opportunity arose to go to North Queensland I’d go but otherwise I wouldn’t make the effort.

An opportunity did arise, in fact, after relatives moved to Cooktown in late 2014.

An airline company was offering cheap flights from Brisbane to Cairns so that blip on my travel radar suddenly started beaming “visit me”.

I planned to make the trip before the 2016 wet season (January to March) but I’ve since learned the monsoon rains in summer renew wildlife in spectacular fashion.

Waterfalls are also in full flow so awesome photographic opportunities would have been greater than the month I chose, September 2015.

While Cooktown is accessible in a standard vehicle all year round, time was limited for my north Queensland jaunt so I took a 45-minute flight from Cairns with Hinterland Aviation.

Cooktown is steeped in history dating from ancient Indigenous times, Captain James Cook’s landing on the bank of the Endeavour River in 1770, and the Palmer River Gold Rush of the late 1800s.

The town is located 28 kilometres north of Cairns.

 

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Top 11 things to do at Cooktown in pictures

Things to do at Cooktown - trees

1. Visit the botanic gardens.

Things to do at Cooktown - crocodile

2. Go crocodile spotting. The best time is during the dry season (July to December) on a low tide when they come out of the water to sun themselves on the river banks. Beware of venturing near the water on beaches and riverbanks where crocs view humans as prey.

Things to do in Cooktown - man at a waterfall

3. Visit the Trevathan Falls just south of Cooktown off the Mulligan Highway.

 

Things to do in Cooktown - river scene

4. Enjoy spectacular views of Cooktown, the Endeavour River and the Great Barrier Reef from the Grassy Hill Lookout and Lighthouse.

 

Things to do in Cooktown - Cherry Tree Bay

5. Hike from the Grassy Hill Road to Cheery Tree Bay, Cooktown’s most secluded beach fringed by rainforest and large rock formations.

Things to do at Cooktown - visit Black Mountain

6. Visit the mysterious Black Mountains 25km south of Cooktown on the Mulligan Highway. The mountains of grey granite boulders are culturally significant for the Kuku Yalanji people and tales abound of people, horses and cattle disappearing, never to be seen again.

 

Things to do at Cooktown - visit the Lions Den Hotel

7. Have a beer in the Lion’s Den Hotel, built in 1875 on the banks of the Little Annan River. Surrounded by mango trees and rainforests, the historic hotel built of timber and iron is famous for its quirky interior.

 

 

Things to do at Cooktown - river scene

8. Take a sunset cruise along the Endeavour River.

Things to do at Cooktown - museum

9. Visit the James Cook Museum, located in the restored Sisters of Mercy convent school building, where artefacts from Captain James Cook’s ship Endeavour and diary extracts are housed. The museum also holds Indigenous Australian and Chinese displays.

Things to do at Cooktown - art gallery

10. See Indigenous Australian art, pottery and jewellery at the Wujal Wujal professional gallery near the Bloomfield River.

Things to do at Cooktown - fountain

11. Take a walking tour of the town to see the water fountain, Elizabeth Guzsely Gallery, history centres, Milbi (story) Wall, a statue of Mick the Miner and the interactive Musical Ship. James Cook’s tributes include a statue, cannon and monument marking the spot where Cook beached his Endeavour in 1770. Markets are on Saturday mornings near the bowls club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Discovering New Norcia

If tourist brochures suggest staying at Margaret River you can bet hubby will want to book at Yallingup, a stone’s throw up the road.

Doing the tourist thing or mingling with crowds is not his idea of a relaxing holiday so when we visited the southwest corner of Western Australia recently, he went to great lengths to find out-of-the-way places to stay.

There was one he missed, however. New Norcia. When I discovered the ultimate retreat  – a Spanish monastery – was just a mere 132km northeast of Perth, he couldn’t argue that it was the perfect place to stay, peaceful and charming with a fascinating history and unique architecture.

Just because Australia was leading in the fourth day’s play of the second Test with Sri Lanka and the monastery guesthouse was void of radio and television, it wasn’t reasoned enough (for me) to pass up the opportunity to spend our last night of holidays experiencing the lifestyle of Benedictine monks.

Besides, hubby could always slip outside to hear the latest scores on our hired car’s radio or hike up the hill to the New Norcia Hotel – a former palace built in 1927 for Queen Isabella of Spain, who never made the intended trip because it was too far.

Dom Christopher Power, head of Friends of New Norcia, said the tiny town was established in 1846 by Spanish monks who came to work with the Aboriginal people.

“With its large extravagant buildings, olive trees and church bells, the town is like a piece of old Spain in the middle of the Australian bush,” he said.

“In addition to 65 buildings, the town also houses a large art and artefact collection, a library of 75,000 books and a comprehensive archive dating back to the monastery’s foundation.

“The current community of 11 monks live a simple, prayerful life following the Rule of St Benedict and make hospitality their special care.”

After booking by phone, checking into the guesthouse was refreshingly easy. No swipe of our credit card, no request for photo identification or car registration details, just a warm welcome from a charming gentleman who showed us where to tick off our name in the register book and took us to our room.

According to hearsay, the rooms were supposed to be “sparse” but we found our twin-share room with ensuite (no doubles available) to be just as comfortable as any average motel room (minus television and radio) and akin to a bed and breakfast with a shared kitchen, dining room, lounge and reading room.

 

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Security, what security?

As for security, our host simply said: “This is a monastery and we’re in the country”.

Guests of all faiths were welcome and the $75 per person “donation” for the night included three home-style meals including an impressive banquet lunch the next day which unfortunately we had to pass up as our plans meant being back in Perth by 2 pm.

While under instructions not to speak to unless spoken to, the monks wandered freely through the dining room and kitchen as we soaked up the home-style atmosphere, clearing our tables and washing the dishes after dinner.

Among the 12 guests were a “contemporary Spanish artist” who was looking for inspiration and a university lecturer from Perth who was on her fifth stay.

Every second month the lecturer leaves her family behind to escape the “rat race” and indulge in the peace and tranquillity of New Norcia. On previous visits, she used the time to write her PhD. Without mobile phone coverage in the area, she could not be contacted except for emergencies.

Guests were invited to meet a monk at 10.30 am but again our schedule didn’t allow it.

Spiritual experience at New Norcia

For spiritual experience guests were also welcome to join the monks for the daily celebration of Mass in the Abbey Church and prayers in the Monastery Chapel.

Only men can eat with the monks but they shouldn’t expect any conversation, other than prayer reading. Hubby passed on that opportunity.

Checking out of the guesthouse was easier than our arrival. After making our beds with freshly supplied linen, we picked up an envelope from the reception desk to seal our cash donation and place it in a box.

Dom Power said the Friends of New Norcia received no regular funding from the Catholic Church or state and federal governments but with the help of guesthouse donations, in 2003, the 19th Century reading room was restored and furnished for monastery guests.

In 2004 the town’s education centre was refurbished and the following year, the roofs and ceilings of the old St Ildephonsus classroom were replaced to provide space for the expanding library.

Last year, donations contributed to the Aboriginal Mission Cottages Project, which includes the restoration of the last remaining mission cottage on the site.

Our stay at the monastery in Australia’s only monastic town was a wonderfully unique experience … and the other half didn’t feel too disadvantaged by reading books instead of watching cricket on TV. Australia was as good as home and dry anyway.

New Norcia - church

New Norcia - historic building

New Norcia - graveyard

New Norcia - church roof and cross

 

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Mammoth cave - Marri Forest

Marri Forest near the Mammoth Cave entrance.

Pristine chambers beneath the earth

Mammoth Cave, a 15-minute drive south of Margaret River, is a natural time capsule and home to ancient fossil remains of extinct animals.

Nearby are Lake Cave and Jewel Cave but we chose Mammoth Cave because of its audio self-guiding system, which allows visitors to travel through the fascinating underworld at their own pace.

Directly below CaveWorks lies Lake Cave, a stunning, pristine chamber deep beneath the earth. Inside the cave, a tranquil lake reflects delicate formations that take your breath away. Visitors descend a staircase, gazing up at towering karri trees from a primeval lost world, before entering one of the most beautiful caves in Western Australia.

Jewel Cave seems to defy nature and dwarf those who enter its lofty chambers.
This spectacular recess with its intricate decorations and sheer magnitude is home to one of the longest straw stalactites to be found in any tourist cave in the world.

 

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Giant trees mask a fascinating underworld

Giant trees, Karri and Marri, dominate the forest around Mammoth Cave. Karri grows through the valley and on the far hillside, while more open forest consists mainly of Marri.

The Marri belongs to a group of trees known as “bloodwoods” because of the resin which oozes from gashes in its rough, fibrous bark.

In the late summer, when little else is in bloom, local vignerons pray for a heavy Marri flowering to entice the birds away from ripening grapes.

Mammoth Stream collects drainage from the swampy low-lying area to the east known as Nindup Plain. It flows westward towards the sea but there meets a limestone barrier known as the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge.

Its tannin-stained, acid water finds weaknesses in the limestone which is dissolved enabling the stream to flow through the ridge.

The magnificent Mammoth Cave has been formed by this stream and by the later collapse of the surrounding rock.

Karri grows up to 90 metres high. The main belt of karri forest grows from Nannup to Manjimup to the Frankland River, then east to Denmark and Torbay, near Albany.

Karri has a long straight trunk with smooth bark that is shed each year. The outer bark changes colour as it matures, so the trunks are multi-coloured in shades of pink, orange, grey and white. Karri produces white flowers in spring.

Mammoth Cave

Mammoth Cave

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Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse welcomes our soldiers home

Cape Leeuwin - Lighthouse

Tears welled as I imagined how the young soldiers must have felt when the light from Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse came into view as they returned from Gallipoli following the tragic World War I campaign.

Standing at the top of the 50-metre tall lighthouse on Australia’s most south-western point, tour guide Rob told us how the Leeuwin light, with a range of about 40km, was the last sight of Australia the soldiers saw as they sailed away from loved ones, not knowing what lay ahead of them or if they would return.

“The light was also the first thing the survivors saw and the smell of eucalyptus was the first thing they smelt as they came home,” Bob said. “You can imagine how welcoming that must have been.”

Albany, Western Australia’s oldest settlement, was the port where the first Australian troops left for Gallipoli.

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was a must-see on our trip to Western Australia. Hubby and I arrived for the first tour of the day at 9 am and at just $12 each, were lucky enough to have Bob’s undivided attention while sleepy heads had to share him on the remaining hourly tours of the day.

Bob, a walking encyclopedia on the history of Cape Leeuwin, spoke of many shipwrecks and the Spanish, French and Dutch explorers who had touched Western Australian soil long before Captain James Cook created history on the east coast of our country.

Cape Leeuwin was named by Matthew Flinders in 1801, taking the name of the adjoining area which had been called Leeuwin’s Land by the Dutch navigators when Leeuwin (The Lioness) rounded the cape in 1622.

The cape is also where the Great Southern and Indian oceans merge. From the top of the lighthouse, we could see the two swells with waves crashing in opposite directions over an outcrop of rocks just offshore.

Easily accessible via Augusta, the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse precinct includes a visitor centre, shop and cafe where we enjoyed a cappuccino overlooking Flinders Bay.

 

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Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse tour in pictures

Feature photo (top): Indian Ocean, left, Great Southern Ocean, right.
 
Cape Leeuwin - lady at sign postCape Leeuwin - Lighthouse scene

Cape Leeuwin - Water Wheel

Cape Leeuwin Water Wheel

 

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Walk among the tingle trees

If only trees could talk. Imagine the tales the ancient giant tingle trees in the Walpole-Nornalup National Park could tell.

King Charles I of England, who ruled from 1625 to 1649, was a pup about the time many of the gigantic tingle trees in the Valley of the Giants took root.

European settlers would have walked among the growing tingles while pioneering the southwest corner of Western Australia.

Four hundred years later, the trees stand about 60-metres tall, silently watching as mums, dads, children and grandparents take in bird’s eye views from the famous Tree Top Walk.

The suspended steel walkways, linked with circular platforms, form a 600-metre one-way loop that takes viewers into the forest canopy, about 40 metres above the ground.

The red tingle is one of the biggest trees in WA, measuring up to 16 metres around the base. They have relatively small root systems so develop large buttresses to support themselves.

Descending from the Tree Top Walk, a path leads to the Ancient Empire Walk where the forest understorey can be explored.

 

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Giant Tingle Trees - couple on a bridge

Giant Tingle Trees - Bridge

Giant Tingle Trees - giant tree trunk

Giant Tingle Tree Trunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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