Riding rapids a cool relief in the tropics

Melissa Iaria
Mossman River in far north Queensland is stunning stretch of water, running 30km to the Coral Sea

"The best of anywhere is where the water is," says our tour guide, Glen, as we into wriggle into our thick, unflattering wetsuits.

Glen's right. We need only to look up from the banks of the pristine Mossman river in far north Queensland, surrounded by towering ancient rainforest, to see it is a sight to behold.

It's a hot, humid afternoon for a refreshing dive into these fast-moving waters as the sun beams through the green canopy.

We each get a big river sled followed by a crash course on how to ride the rapids, avoiding rocks and branches as we go.

It can be a perilous sail, but thankfully one danger we can avoid in these tropical parts is crocodiles - at 20C, the water is too cool for them.

We hurl ourselves on our boards and away we go, steered by the currents and enduring the occasional tumble before our first stop on our river snorkelling tour.

There is a lot to see with this stunning stretch of water, running 30km to the Coral Sea, home to more than 30 fish species as well as lizards, rare birds, water dragons, turtles and even platypuses.

We spot schools of fish and an eel. "It's like a freshwater aquarium," says Will, another of our guides, on the three-hour adventure.

The Mossman River lies south of the Daintree region and is set on the Cape York Peninsula, about one-and-a-half hours north of Cairns.

The crystal-clear water is filtered by the giant trees on its banks, and Will says it's some of the cleanest natural water imaginable.

"The river runs through granite mountains and water than runs over granite tastes sweet. It's beautiful water," he says.

If one isn't game to drink it, there's always the passionate fruits we find bobbing in the shallows.

We scoop out the luscious flesh with our fingers and marvel at its fragrant sweetness.

For our Back Country Bliss Adventure tour guides, Glenn and Will, it's just another unorthodox day at the office.

Will's a former schoolteacher but calls this "my classroom now".

The duo attests to spending more time on the river than anybody and rattle off their knowledge of its history, flora and fauna with an infectious enthusiasm.

The rapids offer an exciting rush but when the water calms, it's peaceful just to float by and absorb the smells and beauty of the rainforest.

We lie on our backs and watch the spectacular blue Ulysses butterflies - the symbol of north Queensland - flutter past.

When our adventure ends, we feel relaxed and revitalised and peel off our wetsuits. Glen nails it one more time: "It's like being born again."

We munch on a cookie, bid our hosts goodbye and reflect on an enjoyable way to cool off in the tropics.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Port Douglas is an hour's drive along the ocean-hugging Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns. Cairns is a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Melbourne, three hours from Sydney and two-and-a-half hours from Brisbane.

Port Douglas is just less than 70km from Cairns Airport and transfers are easily accessible. For airport transfers and transport around Port Douglas, check out Visit Port Douglas and Daintree, visitportdouglasdaintree.com.

STAYING THERE: The Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort offers an ideal base in Port Douglas, boasting five-star luxury and 295 guestrooms. It's the only beachfront property to the Four Mile Beach and it's set amid tropical gardens, lagoon pools, an 18-hole golf course and private swim-out balconies in some rooms. Prices start from about AUD$350 a night.

PLAYING THERE: Port Douglas is the only place in the world that has two World Heritage-listed places, with the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest at Daintree and Cape Tribulation. You can trek through rainforest, snorkel the reef, enjoy the sands of Four Mile Beach and check out Mossman Gorge's crystal-clear creeks.

For further activities, check out visitportdouglasdaintree.com.

* The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism Port Douglas & Daintree.