Northern NSW was once covered in large areas of rainforest but very little remains. The resort is an opportunity to experience it closely and get to know it a little better, meet some of its characters, and get back in touch with the natural world from which we all originated.
The resort property is 16 hectares (approx. 30 acres) consisting mainly of wetlands with extensive stands of large ti-tree (melaleucas), stands of Bottlebrush, Banksias and littoral rainforest.
The rainforest is not as majestic as some of the mountain rainforest grown on clay soils, but is more of a jungle, very pretty nonetheless and a surprising variety of birdlife because of the varied habitat types. In this location you can easily see coastal, wetland and forest dwelling varieties.
This is a brief outline of some of the features of this fascinating ecology to try and help you better understand and appreciate this beautiful environment.
The ARAKWAL people are the recognised custodians of Byron Bay, a subgroup of the Bunjalung tribes of North east NSW.
Descendants of this tribe live in the area today and trace their lineage to Harry Bray who was the tribal elder at the turn of the century.
Harry lived with his wife Clara and several children, on the land where the resort is today, in a wood and bark GUNYAH which was a traditional native home. Harry worked for the local farmers and was well regarded.
His diet included many native foods which were abundant at the time, many plants and some fish and animals which are still found in the area today.
Snakes, fish, pippies, oysters, prawns, echidna and wallaby were supplemented by palm hearts, native yams, peanuts, figs, midginberries, as well as native herbs as remedies and medicines.
Clara died at the turn of the century and Harry lived till the 1920's when he was found dead by one of the farmers children and buried next to Clara.
The best time to see and hear the birds around the resort is early in the morning (the "Dawn Chorus").
Kookaburra: The Kookaburra is a common sight at the resort, and a common sound with its characteristic laughing call mostly heard in the evenings. The Kooka' is a classic Australian symbol. It is a member of the Kingfisher family and eats a variety of insects, frogs, lizards and even small snakes. >> Photo below right: Laughing kookaburra
Catbird: The Catbird is nothing special to look at, dull but satiny with a green tinge, its call is a cross between a cat meowing and a baby crying. It is a genuine rainforest species.
Bush Turkey: The Bush Turkey walks more than flies. It scratches around for insects and worms and builds a big mound of leaves to lay its eggs. Although they were eaten by early settlers, they don't have much meat on them so if you see one don't get any ideas about eating it. Not worth plucking.
Tawny Frogmouth: Looks like an owl and is nocturnal but is apparently not strictly an owl. Most likely to be noticed when rearing chicks which make a sort of spooky hissing noise and are very lazy and demanding like many children.
Bird List for Byron Bay Rainforest Resort.
Echidna: One of only 2 egg-laying marsupials, the Echidna or Spiny Ant-eater, is a rather shy and retiring individual that will burrow into the ground when approached. He digs holes in our paths and tracks and is not very cuddly but we like him anyway.
Wallaby: Mostly seen down the back of the property being chased by dogs (not our guests we hope!). Although common in Australia you would be lucky to see one here. They are very shy and can move very quickly.
Bats: Fruit bats are migratory but often visit us in the warmer months to gorge on fruiting palms and figs when they are not raiding the farmers precious orchards (and considered a pest as a result).
They are protected because of the crucial role they play in the pollination and propagation of native trees. We usually only get visited by a few dozen, but I have seen them in the skies over Grafton migrating in their millions from horizon to horizon. You can hear them at night chattering and squawking like monkeys.
Lizards: The Eastern water dragon is very common around the Reception area of the resort. Although they look ferocious all they want is a bit of banana.
The older ones grow a couple of foot long. They are inquisitive critters and can get fairly tame. We like them a lot and have them on the front of our brochure which is probably not such a good marketing move but lets people know we are a nature resort. >> Photo below right: Eastern water dragon
Snakes: Carpet Python - This is a beautiful patterned snake harmless to humans but frightening to people unused to snakes, particularly the large ones which can reach 8 foot, and we have skins to prove it, which they shed annually.
They generally move veeery slooowly. Don't be afraid of these ones. They eat pesky rodents more effectively than most cats and deter other snakes from hanging around. See them as a chance to overcome irrational phobia.
Green tree snake: This is a small snake, green with a yellow belly climbing trees and shrubs. Harmless to humans ... but look out frogs and insects!
Spiders: Big hairy spiders as big as your hand are quite common around the resort. Although they look nasty they are not dangerous. No-one has been bitten at the resort in our history, but don't poke them with your finger.
If Dad can't handle them, call a member of staff who will catch them with our bug-catcher and evict them. This is the Rainforest Resort not Disneyland.
Mosquitoes: Its hard to say anything good about mosquitoes. There are too many of them and they are annoying (and may carry Ross River Virus, which can be very debilitating to your health).
We use natural control methods to minimize mosquito numbers around the resort, and the numbers vary from season to season. For your own comfort, we advise you keep your screen doors shut, burn the mozzie coils we provide and wear a good repellent when out walking, particularly in the evenings.
Cane Toads: One of the ugliest creatures at the resort that is not a member of staff.
Introduced to Australia by our friends in the sugar cane industry they are one of the best examples of a biological stuff-up in our proud environmental history.
Don't touch them; no, they wont give you warts but they do have toxic glands under their double chin. Feel free to exterminate them, or use them for golf practise. Just remember their meaty carcasses do stink terribly.
Nature Notes originally written by Murray Carter.