David Attenborough’s extraordinary visit

Special encounter with a very rare species…….

Surrounding Mungumby Lodge is a magnificent collection of botanical landscapes & ecosystems of tropical rainforest, mangroves, animals, birds, which, possibly excels those anywhere else on the Australian continent. Evolution over millions of years are on display within the Rainforest, Outback and Great Barrier Reef coastline and Islands on this frontier of Queensland’s Far North.

Fifty million years ago when the earth and surrounding Coral Sea was being re-oxygenated (as revealed in the documentary “First Life”) the Peripatus (Velvet Worm, picture above) left the ocean to reside in the wet rainforest undergrowth and still lives there today. Re walk the footsteps of James Cook and Joseph Banks or marvel at the botanic delights that attracted Sir David Attenborough by visiting the same locations which surround this fascinating frontier region of Australia’s Tropical Far North Queensland.

This extraordinary Tropical Far North Queensland region continues to attract interesting and very discerning travellers seeking personal encounters with nature, amongst ancient landscapes with a wealth of cultural, historical and environs which host a complex range of symbiotic relationships. Sir David Attenborough a well seasoned traveller who has experienced this region on more than one occasion, advised publicly on the Jonathon Ross chat show, that Far North Queensland was one of his favourite places in the world.

Sir David Attenborough on set at Mungumby Lodge

Filming of “First Life” took eight years and covered several continents. In Australia they used three Australian locations with the majority of time being spent in Tropical Far North Queensland, at Mungumby Lodge located just before the village of Cooktown in the northern tropical wold heritage rainforests. Mungumby Lodge was selected by Atlantic Productions team due to their ability to access three separate Eco-system’s from one base. The main criterion was to film Velvet Worms, Termites, Centipedes, and Millipedes on location as they are endemic to the regions ancient Rainforest and Outback. Over five days in the Mungumby Valley, Helenvale (Ancient Rainforest) Laura (Termites and outback) and south to Rossville (Rainforest Wetlands) were appropriate locations chosen.

For guests staying at Mungumby Lodge they are able to follow in the foot steps of Sir David & the film crew as an independent self drive, and experience the regions where they filmed. The region is rich not only flora & fauna, but also in history, cultural and diverse range of scenery that will satisfy all.

Atlantic Productions hired a Mungumby guide for three days to ensure smooth location access, connection with knowledgeable locals, informative local experience, and privacy as well as on location catering. Armed with 30 years of local experience this became a job to remember for Hamish & the Mungumby team.

At Mungumby Lodge there are numerous rainforest walks that follow the Mungumby Creek where, at two separate locations, the film crew and Sir David filmed.  There is an abundance of nature and fauna on the doorstep which makes the Lodge so attractive to nature lovers. The five days the film crew visited offered a huge insight into what is involved in making a film segment. Patience was always the order of the day however Sir David did comment on the fact that when he first started making films, due to the primitive technology, what now takes hours, used to take days! The set up of a location alone could take hours.  Whilst filming on the lodge grounds a jib-boom was used to make the most of the Mungumby Creek, rainforest and vegetation, to pan over the area before finishing on Sir David who would be narrating for the segment. Set up took about 6 hours for a 2 minute narration!

 At Laura, in addition to the termites and Savannah landscape there is well renowned Quinkan and Regional Cultural Centre, acknowledged as a world-class interpretation Centre. The Quinkan Country contains one of the largest and most colourful bodies of pre-historic Aboriginal rock art paintings in the world. The town is also host to the bi-annual Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival, one of the most spectacular cultural events on the Cape York Peninsula. The next festival will be held in June 2019 and will once again be an explosion of traditional dancing and displays.  “After a day of filming the termites out from Laura the sky had been a dramatic play of colour due to the annual landscape burning of traditional Aboriginal Lands. Once dark, the team packed up and headed back to Mungumby Lodge, the convoy of 4×4’s headed into the Valley of the Quinkan’s the surrounding sandstone escarpments were lined like a pearl necklace of embers and small fires on the hill tops which gave the impression of a ancient welcome to a very special person by the Quinkan Spirits” said Hamish.

 For guests that travel the stunning rainforest coastal route taking in Cape Tribulation onto the Bloomfield Track (4WD only) they will experience where “Rainforest meets Reef” and pass through quaint townships such as Rossville, Ayton and Bloomfield.

One of the most memorable experiences after a night shoot at Rossville, filming the finding of an ancient worm, the Peripatus (Velvet Worm). Hamish had been invited to participate in the sequence with Sir David, armed with his usual insect finding tools of trade they wander through the forest and creek beds in search of rotting logs hosting the insects and animals the feature of the film. On sunset the film crew and directors left the set to film the stars and sunset outside the rainforest. On his own with Sir David on sunset relaxing in a dry creek bed deep in the rainforest, Hamish took the opportunity to ask Sir David all the questions that he had wanted to know about Sir David’s long spanning career. One hour later the crew returned to shoot the sequence for the Peripatus in the deep dark of the rainforest night. After several shoots the wrap up signal was announced, Hamish asked everybody to turn around to witness a spectacular dance of the fireflies, which on this warm balmy evening filled the void between the towering canopy above and the forest floor.

Sir David Attenborough on set for the Peripatus scene

Due to Mungumby Lodge being small, intimate and family owned & operated, it meant that the film crew had exclusive attention throughout their stay. (And what all guests of Mungumby Lodge receive and what makes a stay so personal.) Dining is also a key component for guests and although there were very early starts and late nights for the film crew, the “kitchen” was able to produce wonderfully fresh home cooked delights to fit in with their schedule. With the fabulous restaurant setting overlooking the Rainforest canopy and Mungumby Creek, dinner was always a highlight, with stories of the days shoot and one of Sir David’s many past experiences that he has had over the years of making documentaries. However in between filming Sir David still managed to spend time at his bungalow, relaxing with a book, or watching the birds and wildlife conduct their daily routines in the well maintained tropical gardens.

“One can spend their whole life working with nature or in the Eco tourism industry without such a great opportunity” advised Hamish Haslop, Managing Director of Mungumby Lodge. “Sir David has been one of a handful of presenters we have always greatly admired and gained inspiration from. Over years of watching Attenborough’s documentaries and presentations he brings common sense into the complex nature that surrounds us. He is a master of the English language and the Joseph Banks of the 21st Century  enabling millions of people to fully comprehend the unique relationships that operate in nature” said Hamish.

Sir David arrived at Mungumby Lodge with a team of equals, that were all unique in their abilities and achievements in making these types of documentaries possible.

  Truly, a personal encounter!