Imagine a forest so dense you hardly see the sky. You are feeling thirsty and hot, it is humid, and all around you crawl animals you’d rather not encounter by surprise. Your job: build a railway line from the sea harbour of tropical Cairns all the way up to remote Kuranda village, hidden behind a valley, on top of wooded hills.
Building the countless tunnels and bridges takes you ages. You struggle with funding and lose some of your best men to snake bites, alcohol abuse or infections. Also, as a conservationist, you know how precious the forest and wonder how much damage travellers and visitors might do to it over the years.
Imagine someone would have told you back then that one day a pioneer would come up with the idea to build an air bridge that would connect Cairns with Kuranda, a cableway high above the ground, allowing you to glide over the treetops, instead of having to cut your way through the forest. What a relief it would have been!
Today, a ride from Kuranda to Cairns (or the other way round) onboard the Scenic Railway still forms part of most bucket lists for Cairns in Tropical North Queensland. The real star, however, is The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Not just for its spectacular views and adrenaline-filled glass-floor gondolas, but for its groundbreaking commitment to sustainability and conservation, which makes it one of Queensland’s undisputed leaders in sustainable tourism.
It is mid-August when Skyrail’s Marketing Manager, Marni Barnett, takes us on a ride we’ll never forget.
The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Experience
Over 7.5 kilometres, the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway carries you just meters above the dense tropical rainforest, part of picturesque Barron Gorge National Park. Thanks to this Cableway, millions of visitors can experience the rainforest without touching the ground. An experience including spectacular views of treetops, the panoramic landscapes of the Coral Sea, Cairns city, and the lush Cairns Highlands.
A veritable sustainable tourism leader, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has been committed to environmental best practice for many years. The company has won multiple awards for its sustainability commitment, both nationally and internationally.
Why are Australia’s Tropical Rainforests worth protecting?
First of all, Australia’s Tropical Rainforests are the oldest continually surviving tropical rainforests on Earth. Dating back more than one million years, they used to cover the entire Australian continent. Today, a tiny fraction is left along Queensland’s northeastern coast.
Because of their fascinating ecosystems, fauna and flora, Australia’s Tropical Rainforests have been in the international spotlight for many years, and on the World Heritage List since 1988. 65 per cent of Australia’s fern species can be found here, together with 30 per cent of the country’s orchid species, 60 per cent of its butterfly species and 40 per cent of its bird species, including the endangered Southern Cassowary, a tall flightless bird not found anywhere else.
Protecting this rich biodiversity while at the same time offering visitors a great experience is what Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is all about: an environmentally sensitive way to visit Barron Gorge National Park.
Which accreditation programs do you use to monitor sustainability performance?
After a 10 year benchmarking and certification programme, Skyrail was the first tourist attraction in the world to obtain EarthCheck‘s Certified Platinum rating.
From its very beginning, Skyrail Rainforest Cableway has been operating under the eco-certification scheme offered by Ecotourism Australia, a pioneer among the many labels which exist today.
Ecotourism Australia has made itself a name as a strong supporter of best practice in environmental conservation and a partner for innovative, market-leading products which provide guests with the opportunity to learn about, enjoy and experience the natural environment without destroying it.
As Climate Action Innovator (a program established by Ecotourism Australia), Cairns Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is also a proactive leader in reducing its carbon emissions. Rather than “just” offset through external parties or schemes, however, Skyrail is on a mission to achieve superior sustainable performance through best practice operations.
How important are research and education for Skyrail?
Running a sustainable tourism business isn’t just about minimizing negative impact and maximizing operational gains. Since responsible tourism is a game with many players, sustainability is all about sharing your knowledge, skills and financial benefits with others, in order to ensure rich, authentic experiences destination-wide.
Established in 2005, the Skyrail Rainforest Foundation raises and distributes funds to support tropical rainforest research and education projects. Our goal is to help manage and conserve Australia’s natural heritage for future generations.
Money raised by the Foundation goes to the Skyrail Rainforest Research Fund, whose administrating Committee includes representatives of organizations linked to environmental management, research, education and business.
Can you tell us more about your Sustainability Seminar?
The Sustainability Seminar takes 40-minutes, during which we provide groups with an understanding of sustainable tourism and how a tourism operator conducts its business to meet these principles.
As multiple sustainable tourism award winner and sustainable business leader, Skyrail is in a unique position to educate and inspire visiting tourism professionals and students about the benefits of sustainable practices.
What are your Nature and Rainforest Link activities all about?
Through our Nature Link and Rainforest Link projects, groups can learn about the cultural, historic and environmental importance of Australia’s World Heritage-listed Tropical Rainforests, as well as actively participate in rainforest regeneration, such as in the planting of Skyrail’s rainforest regeneration corridor.
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