Catching a sight of this elusive Jurassic bird cannot be missed and so, with this guide, I’ll show you where to find wild cassowaries in Australia.
The cassowary is unlike any other bird on planet earth. It is a prehistoric animal, having been around for millions of years, and is one of the last remaining links to the dinosaurs. With less than 4,000 cassowaries left in the wild, right here in Far North Queensland, catching a glimpse of this unique creature is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s one thing from my time in Australia that I am so so glad we didn’t miss.
You might be surprised to learn that the cassowary is one of the most dangerous creatures on earth too. This flightless bird tops out at almost 2 metres tall, can weigh around 70kg and have the most insane looking (and super powerful) middle toe. Male cassowaries are responsible for hatching the eggs and raising the juvenile cassowaries so you can be as sure as anything that they will protect their young in any way possible. Let’s just say that you don’t want that toe jabbing you in the chest.
Now, despite being such a large (though flightless) bird, you’d think you would have no trouble spotting a cassowary in the wild. They have a huge bone (casques) on top of their head, a bright cobalt blue neck and red throat wattle. Very distinctive. However, they’re very private animals and spend time deep in the forest foraging for fruit.
If spotting wild cassowaries in Australia is a ‘must-do’ for you, then you must head to the areas below in the morning to have the best chance of success. Talking about wildlife in Far North Queensland, I must add that the regions we’re talking about below are also prime saltwater crocodile locations and you do not want your paths to cross whatsoever. Probably best to always have your wits about you!
WHERE TO FIND WILD CASSOWARIES IN AUSTRALIA
Mission Beach / South Mission Beach
Mission Beach was the first place we stopped on our east coast road trip solely to spot a cassowary in the wild. This was said to be the prime cassowary spotting area especially considering the Big Cassowary (one of the many big things of Australia) stands proudly outside Woolies supermarket.
To be fair, we were entirely unprepared for our cassowary spotting mission here at Mission Beach. We got the timings all wrong and didn’t stop long enough to give finding a cassowary a chance. Whilst we didn’t spot any cassowaries, we had a lovely time wandering along the beach and through rainforest trails in the pouring rain.
Mission Beach however remains one of the best places to spot wild cassowaries in Australia and a great tip is to head to the South Mission Beach Transfer Station, an actual tip/dump, which means easy pickings for the foraging cassowary.
50km north of Mission Beach and just 11km south-east of Innisfail, you’ll find this secluded piece of paradise in Etty Bay. Less than 500 people live here but you can almost certainly spot wild cassowaries strolling up and down the pristine beach. Head to Etty Bay in the afternoon and you’ll most likely be in luck!
Stay | Etty Bay Caravan Park
Daintree Rainforest / Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation was the final destination on our 2,500+km road trip from Sydney; the furthest north we’d manage in Australia and one of the most spectacular places of all. Whilst there’s now an in-land tarmac road up to Cooktown, Cape Tribulation is where the coast road ends. Real adventurers with a 4×4 only past this point!
After symbolically crossing the Daintree River onboard a ferry ($39 return), you enter a remote region of the Daintree Rainforest. If you haven’t heard of the Daintree Rainforest yet, you will soon be infatuated with this region of the world. The rainforest is over 135 million years old which makes it the oldest rainforest in the world. Nope, despite what you’ve been taught to believe, the Amazon is not it – it’s only 55 million years old. Only.
Whilst I could probably write about the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation all day long, we’re here to talk about finding wild cassowaries in Australia. We stayed at the remote Noah Beach Camp Ground in thick rainforest just 50m from Noah Beach. Despite spending a lot of time walking through the rainforest and beaches around Noah Beach and Cape Tribulation, the only cassowaries we were seeing were on the road signs.
However, that’s when it all changed. Leaving the campground in the early morning to head back to Cairns, slightly disappointed, we noticed a car slowing down quite rapidly in front of us. All of a sudden, both the cassowary and it’s chick were there casually strutting across the road. I still remember the feeling now of pure joy finally spotting wild cassowaries in Australia. I managed to somehow grab my camera, that luckily had my telephoto lens on, and snapped some quick shots before the cassowary disappeared into the undergrowth. We stayed for a few more minutes catching slight glimpses of the large black body and cobalt blue neck of the cassowary before we moved on to enjoy the Great Barrier Reef Drive down through Port Douglas to Cairns.
Stay | Noah Beach Camping Area
Safety around Cassowaries
As I said above, cassowaries are extremely dangerous so please keep your distance! They are very powerful, fast and will do anything to protect their chicks. All you need to do is admire these incredible birds from afar, snap some photographs (a telephoto lens is always a good idea, the Fujifilm 55-200mm was my choice) and cherish forever the opportunity of a lifetime to see the prehistoric cassowary.
Places to Visit in Queensland, Australia
I’m sure that searching for wild cassowaries isn’t the only reason that you are visiting Far North Queensland. We visited this region towards the end of our road trip from Sydney to Cape Tribulation (before moving onwards to Uluru) and it was truly memorable; each and every day blew us away. If you’re looking for other places to visit in Queensland make sure you don’t miss the following:
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