Closure updates – Cyclone Jasper floods
T’was a wet, wild and windy Christmas…
Like many Far North Queensland residents who live and work in the beautiful remote village of Cape Tribulation on the Daintree Coast, Christmas 2023 was one that our Ocean Safari, Safari Lodge and Turtle Rock Café teams will long remember!
The pre-Christmas passing of Tropical Cyclone Jasper caused severe, widespread flooding and multiple road closures, essentially cutting off access to many townships in Tropical North Queensland. There are many stories of frustration and heartache, but there are even more stories which reflect the amazing community spirit of these already close-knit communities, including Ocean Safari’s very own.
Crossing just north of Cape Tribulation at Wujal Wujal, Tropical Cyclone Jasper made landfall on 13 December, but it was the subsequent rainfall that hit communities even harder, leashing an unexpected record-breaking flood event in Tropical North Queensland.
After the crossing of the cyclone, the initial focus for our team was cleaning up fallen trees and debris, with the hope of working towards a reopening prior to Christmas. This wasn’t meant to be, with over two and a half metres of rainfall continuing to cause havoc in the lead up to Christmas and causing communities to be completely cutoff and isolated.
For Ocean Safari, Safari Lodge and Turtle RockCafé, while sustaining impacts from the cyclone itself, including fallen trees and foliage, as well as damage to the generator shed and sewage treatment plant, the continued flooding washed away grounds, driveways and fences onsite.
The heavy rainfall also meant that the Daintree River flooded, the Daintree ferry subsequently closed and roads north of the river were unpassable.
As a community, especially given the time of year, the swift response in taking care of each other was profound. From volunteers to donations, infrastructure assistance to evacuations, and advocacy to encouragement, everyone’s local contributions were critical in every way and continue to be so.
Ocean Safari’s part in that response started in the days leading up to Christmas on 20 December, when we began by assisting 14 people, and two furry friends, with their relocation out of Cape Tribulation and Cow Bay to Port Douglas. Those evacuated were locals in need of medical aid or who were leaving for Christmas, as well as tourists who were isolated and displaced.
On the return trip, our team brought back valuable food supplies, medicine, prescriptions, and desperately needed fuel for the community, donated by the Douglas Shire Council and local Port Douglas and Mossman businesses, who assisted in coordinating, delivering and donating items on the invaluable supply run for the Cape Tribulation community.
By 22 December, our mission was to continue moving people out of Cape Tribulation and Cow Bay to Port Douglas to reunite them with family and friends in time for Christmas. Families and eight pets, along with stranded tourists, were transported to Port Douglas and Cairns and on the return boat trip, we again collected more donated food and Christmas presents for locally affected communities.
By Christmas Day, and with communities still isolated, our team continued doing what they could to offer support to those in need. Instead of Santa and his sleigh, they headed north to the township of Degarra on the Bloomfield River, near Wujal Wujal, to drop critical supplies, including small generators for household use, fresh food and water, as well as other essentials to help with the clean-up efforts. Most importantly, Christmas presents were also delivered to the children of this small remote township which bore the full force of Cyclone Jasper.
Over this time, our Ocean Safari team has also collected staff from the GBRMPA Tourism Reef Protection team from Port Douglas, to assist in critical preliminary surveys of beautiful Mackay Reef and to assess the impacts from Cyclone Jasper and the subsequent major flooding event the region experienced.
While operations have looked very differently over the past couple of weeks, and to this day, with the road to Cape Tribulation still closed and the clean-up ongoing, Ocean Safari, Safari Lodge and Turtle Rock Café all remain closed until further notice. With hopes of reopening in early March, the date is completely dependent on the road conditions and access.
One thing is clear. The stories and examples of community spirit in our small communities has never shone brighter before!
And while the new year now looks very different, with Cape Tribulation and other communities still isolated, the team at Ocean Safari, Safari Lodge and Turtle Rock Cafe look forward to reopening in 2024!
We want to take a moment to thank all of our amazing guests, loyal agents, industry partners, fellow tourism operators, Traditional Owners, and as always, our incredible team and of course our amazing community, who have made this year so special, particularly as we braved through December together!
From all of us here at Ocean Safari, Safari Lodge and Turtle Rock Cafe, we’d like to wish you a wonderful 2024!
We’ll sea you soon 💙💛