Kuku Yalanji Country: Where The Rainforest Meets The Reef

Daintree Rainforest & Cooya Beach, Queensland

By Welcome to Country

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Kuku Yalanji Country

Australia is home to over 250 unique and culturally diverse Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups. These are the oldest continuing cultures in the world. Explore the land and sea country of the Kuku Yalanji people, the only place where 2 world heritage sites come together. The Great Barrier Reef, which is the traditional Sea Country of over 70 unique language groups and the Daintree Rainforest.

Highlights from the Great Barrier Reef (2010) by Tourism AustraliaOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Video Gallery

Located in Tropical North Queensland, on the east coast of Australia, is a unique region and the only place in the world where two natural World Heritage Sites meet; Kaba Kada (the 'rainy place') known as the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef.

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef Showreel (2021) by Tourism and Events QueenslandOriginal Source: Tourism and Events Queensland Visual Gallery

The Rainforest region is the traditional lands of the Kuku Yalanji People and is called Kuku Yalanji Country. The Kuku Yalanji People are the knowledge holders of this Country, embodying the history, culture, ecology, stories and songlines of this unique region.

Spear fishing, walking on Country (2020) by Phil WarringOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

"My country, the Kuku Yalanji country is family, culture and identity. The trees of the rainforest, the rocks of the river beds and the reefs of the sea, were all formed by our Ancestors who continue to live in land, water and sky." - Juan Walker

Juan Walker (2018) by James FisherOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

Meet Juan Walker, a Kuku Yalanji man and a cultural guide, educating visitors to Country about the ecological and cultural significance of the Daintree Rainforest and Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu). Join Juan for an exploration of the land and culture of Kuku Yalanji Country.

Aerials of the Daintree, Kuku Yalanji Country (2019) by Jack NimbleOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Video Gallery

Kaba Kada, the 'rainy place'

Situated on Kuku Yalanji Country is one of the largest rainforests in Australia, the Daintree. At just over 1,200 square kilometres, the rainforest stretches from Mossman Gorge, north past Cape Tribulation to Bloomfield and west to the Great Divide. 

Daintree Rainforest (2017-11-01) by Melissa FindleyOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

The Daintree is over 180 million years old, making it the world’s oldest tropical rainforest. It's an environment which the Kuku Yalanji people have been living in harmony with for over 50,000 years and is a place of deep cultural and spiritual significance.

Mossman Gorge (2007-12-27) by Darren JewOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

The Daintree is one of the most ecologically diverse and complex ecosystems on earth. It is teeming with wildlife and is home to 30% of Australia's frog population, 65% of Australia’s butterflies and bats and around 12,000 different insect species.

Juan Walker (2018) by James FisherOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

Its plant diversity and structural complexity is unmatched in Australia and represents the origins of many of Australia’s flora. The Daintree's rich array of flora and fauna have provided a reliable source of food for the Kuku Yalanji People.

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef Showreel (2021) by Tourism and Events QueenslandOriginal Source: Tourism and Events Queensland Visual Gallery

The Great Barrier Reef

On the edge of the rainforest is the world's largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef whose Traditional Owners include over 70 language groups, each with their own distinct cultural identity. Located just off the coast of Queensland in the Coral Sea, this World Heritage Site can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms.

Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef Showreel (2021) by Tourism and Events QueenslandOriginal Source: Tourism and Events Queensland Visual Gallery

In Daintree, Juan knows the lush layers where Cassowaries roam. On Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu) - traditional fishing grounds - he knows how to dig for pipis in the sand and in the mangroves can even show you how to find and spear a mud crab. This knowledge of the land has been passed on through generations.

Tidal flats of Kuku Yalanji Country (2020) by Tourism AustraliaOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

The tidal region is a rich food source year round. It is home to a huge variety of fish, crabs, shellfish and crustaceans as well as bush foods and this variety creates an abundant natural food source. 

Kuku Yalanji Country shellfish (2019) by Tourism and Events QueenslandOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Image Gallery

“It’s one thing to learn about Aboriginal history through textbooks, sitting down in a classroom, but out on Country, it makes things a whole lot more real,” Juan says. “It’s a lot more hands-on – you can see how we know about bush medicine and bush tucker."

Join Juan and his family in the mangroves of Cooya Beach (Kuyu Kuyu) and explore its unique ecosystem and bush tucker.

Mangrove Walkabout with Juan Walker (2020) by Welcome to Country/Walkabout Cultural AdventuresOriginal Source: Welcome to Country: Walkabout Cultural Adventures

A traditional welcome, in language, to Kuku Yalanji Country.

Mangrove Walkabout with Juan Walker (2020) by Welcome to Country/Walkabout Cultural AdventuresOriginal Source: Welcome to Country: Walkabout Cultural Adventures

The red mangrove forest is a unique ecosystem where, "Everything here relies on each other. If one thing disappears, everything else is affected."

Mangrove Walkabout with Juan Walker (2020) by Welcome to Country/Walkabout Cultural AdventuresOriginal Source: Welcome to Country: Walkabout Cultural Adventures

Hiding in the mangroves is the Australian Mud Crab, which provide a source of food for the locals. 

Mangrove Walkabout with Juan Walker (2020) by Welcome to Country/Walkabout Cultural AdventuresOriginal Source: Welcome to Country: Walkabout Cultural Adventures

Also among the mangroves are a type of shellfish called Guillen. Also known as Mud Welts, Blue Bums or Kettle Shells, as they 'whistle' when cooked.

Aerials of the Daintree, Kuku Yalanji Country (2019) by Jack NimbleOriginal Source: Tourism Australia Video Gallery

Keep exploring Country

Kuku Yalanji is just one of over 260 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups across Australia. Continue your journey learning about Aboriginal culture with Welcome to Country.

Credits: Story

Created in collaboration with Juan Walker and Walkabout Cultural Adventures. Language used belongs to the Kuku Yalanji people.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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