The land before our time

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

The land before our time

  |   Articles, UNESCO   |   17 Comments

This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Gondwana Rainforests, Australia

A couple of hundred million years ago, the world was divided into just two supercontinents. One of them, Gondwana, was made up of what are now Australia, South America, Africa, India and Antarctica.

It was the land of the reptiles – a period when dinosaurs roamed the world. And roam the world they could because the sea borders we know didn’t exist. Animals and plants were able to travel much further distances and, in a climate that scientists believe was hotter than today, life thrived.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

It’s hard to imagine what Gondwana would have been like… but we can get some clues. And those clues are right here in Australia.

In an area that stretches from northern New South Wales over the border into Queensland is a collection of natural reserves called the Gondwana Rainforests. They get their name from this incredible supercontinent that once existed because they are what remains of the land before our time. This is what Gondwana would have looked like. This was the home of the dinosaurs.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

The temperature drops as you go into the rainforests. There’s a moisture in the air. Today is quite overcast and wet anyway, but I imagine it’s always a bit like this. The tall trees – growing high and losing themselves in the foliage of others – block much of the light; a mist hangs between their trunks; the green plants sprouting from the ground seem alive with a watchful consciousness. In fact, the whole forest seems more cognisant than it should be. It’s as though it knows you’re here and your fate is in its hands.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

When light does break through, it streams down like the water of a fall. In the distance you can hear the sound of actual waterfalls and of rain dripping along its path of leaves, but you wonder whether it’s the rays making the sounds as well. It’s all connected here – and has been for hundreds of millions of years.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

Dorrigo National Park, NSW, Australia

The Gondwana Rainforests are made up of fifty different reserves inland from Australia’s eastern coast. From the northernmost to the southernmost is about 600 kilometres and in total the official areas covers about 3,700km2. The most popular of the reserves – the one where I am today – is the Dorrigo National Park.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

The Dorrigo National Park is popular partly because it is a perfect example of the ancient rainforests but also because it’s easily accessible from coastal holiday towns like Coffs Harbour. It takes about 90 minutes to drive from the beach, through small villages like Bellingen and rural bush. The final road up the hill towards the entrance to the park gives you a taste of what is to come with ancient trees creating a tunnel in parts and then occasionally opening up for a wide view across an army of trunks.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

At the visitors centre at the entrance to the park is a skywalk that takes you out above the forest so you can see the extent of its reach. The faint sounds of animals drift up from below but they are protected under the green canopy. To get a closer look, you need to take one of the several tracks that lead you to different parts of the rainforest. The walk to the waterfalls is one of the most popular.

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

dorrigo national park, nsw, australia, gondwana rainforests, world heritage

Much like my recent trip to the Blue Mountains near Sydney, this is a natural World Heritage Site that has been within grasp for most of my life – but one I had never thought of visiting. Australia is a big country and it is not easy just to pop out and see these places in a day. Still, I’m surprised I had not even heard of it before. There’s so much to explore in this great country but this is a pretty good start.

You can find out more information here about Dorrigo National Park

UNESCO world heritage siteThis is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For more info click here.
You can see all the UNESCO World Heritage Sites I’ve visited here.

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17 Comments
  • Claire @ ZigZag On Earth | Feb 7, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Beautiful pictures! I think you really capture the atmosphere of the place.
    I really love Australia and its amazing nature!
    Claire @ ZigZag On Earth recently posted..The Aquarium battle: Sydney vs ManlyMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      The nature here is just so varied, isn’t it? It’s easy to forget that the country is so big that you can go from the beach to the snow to the desert. Oh, and of courses these rainforests! And the atmosphere was just beautiful.

  • Dorrigo National Park, New South Wales, Austral... | Feb 7, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    […] The rainforests in this part of the world are just how scientists believe the supercontinent Gondwana would have looked – in a time when dinosaurs ruled! (Amazing… RT @michaelturtle: Ever wondered what the world looked like during the dinosaurs?  […]

  • Devlin @ Marginal Boundaries | Feb 8, 2014 at 4:05 am

    Really great shots, that place definitely gives off a more prehistoric vibe. Btw any idea if those berries are edible?
    Devlin @ Marginal Boundaries recently posted..Mexico: A Culture of EntrepreneursMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:11 pm

      Ha – I have no idea about the berries. I certainly wasn’t going to try them and find out. My guess, though, would be that they are not edible. Things in the wild that look tasty are generally not :)

  • Dan | Feb 8, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    Wow this looks incredible. So close as well, I’ll definitely have to check it out.
    Dan recently posted..A Guide To Medieval Cherven In BulgariaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      Where are you guys based? I didn’t realise you were so close to here! It would make a good daytrip if you’re not too far away… such a beautiful place!

  • Frank | Feb 9, 2014 at 3:17 am

    Wow, that place seems otherworldly … definitely breaks up the stereotype that Ozzie is just one big red desert!
    Frank recently posted..Best Time To Visit Jaco, Costa RicaMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      I can assure you it’s not just one big desert. In fact, I think in all the years I lived in Australia, I never actually went to any desert. Up north there are heaps of rainforests like this and they’re so beautiful. This one in particular seems really prehistoric!

  • Mary @ Green Global Travel | Feb 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    What a beautiful experience. It looks very lush and lively. I love the intro into this post. Thanks for sharing!
    Mary @ Green Global Travel recently posted..5 Great Green Initiatives in GermanyMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      Put in on the list, Mary. You guys would love it there!! :)

  • Rod Austin | Feb 10, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    These photos are surreal!

    • Michael Turtle | Feb 17, 2014 at 11:55 am

      Being there is surreal too! With the mist and the light rain, it really did feel like stepping back into prehistoric days!

      • Rod Austin | Feb 19, 2014 at 3:05 pm

        Coming from Montana, I’m used to seeing mountains and forests and valleys–some of the most surreal that people will find. But I still find excitement in seeing these things in other settings. It’s beautiful, just plain awesome! Thanks for sharing, btw.

        • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 7:46 am

          It really is a stunning place. But now you’ve got me wanting to go to Montana to check out the scenery there too!

  • Jennifer | Mar 14, 2014 at 11:04 am

    So lush and green. I love that pop of the red berries in the forest. Any dangerous Aussie critters we have to worry about encountering here?
    Jennifer recently posted..The Berlin Street Art SceneMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 6:21 am

      The worst ones that I came across when I was there were the leeches. Not ‘dangerous’ as such but bloody annoying. I got at least half a dozen on me during the walk (but I was wearing flip flops so it’s probably my own fault!!)

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