2019 has just started and you’re probably thinking about the things you can do this year. If you’re up for a cultural and wildlife adventure, Cairns, Australia is the best place to be. Raquel Bacay talks about the recent “Familiarisation Trip to Cairns” – organised by SilkAir and supported by MasterCard – where she toured around a rainforest and encountered the beautiful Djabugay people in the wet tropics of northern Australia.
Djabugay, also known as Tjapukai people, is a group of Aboriginal people from the rainforests of Cairns, Australia. The rainforest tribe from the wet tropics of northern Australia have their own language and pass on their culture from generation to generation. But while learning about Aboriginal culture and history is part of the Australian curriculum, there is definitely no better way to understand the indigenous peoples by personally visiting them and learning their traditions first hand.
During a recent trip to Cairns, I was fortunate to see the Djabugay and have the chance to take part in their remarkable culture.
Barry Weare, director of operations of COOEE Traveler, said that the Djabugay contribute so much to Australian tourism and in the preservation of culture.
Although they call themselves indigenous, Djabugay people don’t live in the bush. In fact, some of them have already moved to cities and other places. They can also speak English.
But even with the changes their tribe have been subjected to as time passes, the Djabugay remain true to their roots. They still hold dances that show their culture; they imitate sounds of animals to tell their stories. The Djabugay women have their own dances, and don’t perform together with men.
The dance performances also show how they survive – like hunting for food in the rainforest. For instance, Djabugay catch bees, but they don’t kill them. Instead, they free them again and will then follow the bees to their beehives.
The dancers use the didgeridoo musical instrument (sometimes described as a natural wooden trumpet or drone pipe) and two wooden boomerangs during their performances in wedding and other special ceremonies in the tribe. However, women are not allowed to use the didgeridoo.
The didgeridoo is played in different styles depending on the purpose of the dance: “Biba Myon” to welcome visitors, “Ngukum” to show how to hunt and to keep mosquitos away, “Gurrunga” to warn of possible tribe invasions, “Pamagirri” as silent snake dance, “Muguy” to find the makur tree and take the sweet-tasting center part of the tree for the entire tribe to share, “Bundara” to show hunting skills by mimicking the actions and sounds of animals, “Marloo” as kangaroo dance, and “Warran-Jarra” to demonstrate different styles of dance.
Most of the tribe’s visitors have learned the Warran-Jarra by joining traditional performances drawn from Pamagirri Dance Troupe.
The group also showcase their theory about creation, which is associated with the sacred places within their territory – Story Places and Story Waters. There was no need for someone to write their own holy book as the Djabugay believe that their land is their holy book and their law is centered on making sure the world is properly taken care of. In fact, the tribe follows the principle “we belong to the land and we follow it”.
According to Alfred, one of the dancers of Djabugay, the tribe worships the serpent and does not follow a religion. Their people are still practicing hunting for food and income.
As our team continued our trip to the rainforest of Cairns, Environment Supervisor of Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Michael Gailler and Digital and Sales Marketing Officer Sarah Latham gave the team a deeper discourse on how the rainforest of Queensland serves the entire nation.
“The uniqueness of rainforest in Queensland is a world heritage, and it is called the wet tropics. It’s one of the leftovers during ancient time when the dinosaurs were still around. That’s why it is a precious forest for science. There’re a lot of plants and animals left that still look like they come from the ancient time,” Gailler said.
The visitors can go around the park by going through the Skyrail, a cableway crossing from one terminal to another, so that there is no disturbance on the forest floor. There are four terminals or stations that visitors can start from. The Skyrail is about 550 meters from sea level and 80 meters high from the highest mountain in the rainforest. The entire cableway journey will take 45 minutes at a distance of about 7.5 kilometers.
What’s more amazing about going through the cable way is the fact that you’re higher than anything else and you have the entirety of the rainforest for your eyes. You’ll see 1,000-year-old trees that are as high as 30 to 50 meters. The land is spectacular and there are strange animals like cassowary, snakes and tree-climbing kangaroos that your eyes may feast as you get into the cable and cross the rainforest up on the air. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway follows strict safety rules, so guests can sit at ease and enjoy the splendid beauty of Cairns from above.
The city also prides itself on another park called Rainforeststation Nature Park in Kuranda, a little village in the rainforest. The world-famous park started its operations in 1976, with visitors riding on the army ducks driven by an experienced Duck Captain, who will identify and explain the plants and wildlife the army duck passes by. The historical amphibious six-wheel-drive vehicles (which were used during World War II) can carry up to 30 passengers for a 45-minute rainforest tour, which ends with a splash into the magnificent lake for a cruise, with more sighting of wildlife.
Ready for a cultural and wildlife adventure? Visit Cairns, Australia.