Words by Jacqueline Long


No matter where you start your adventure on the water, whether it be wakeboarding, kitesurfing, SUP or onboard an Epic Reef and Island Tours, if you intend to weave watersports into your holiday then you simply cannot go past Windswell and Brett Wright.  A long term local, and self-professed water lover himself, Brett’s boundless energy, appreciation of marine life and his willingness to share his knowledge will ensure you have the best day out.

On a recent visit, Brett challenged us to try a new experience, a stand-up paddle board tour under the shady rainforest canopy of the Mossman River. Guaranteed to be a seclusive experience away from the crowds, we loved the sustainable appeal of this tour. Described as bushwalking through ancient rainforest, leaving only a footprint and with promises of a dip in the crystal cool waters of Kuku Yalanji country, it sounded like the perfect way to spend the afternoon.

Having hired a car to make the most out of the Great Barrier Reef Drive to Port Douglas from the airport, we took the short 10-minute drive north from Port to meet up with our fellow SUPers. (You can also organise a pickup from your accommodation if you prefer). All accounted for, swimmers adorned, Brett and his guides had our equipment ready to go and we were off to immerse ourselves in nature


Arriving a few minutes later at our river destination, the guides sprang into action and we were each passed a paddle board to settle ourselves on to. Not new to SUP we lulled around soaking up the environment, immediately noticing the hive of birdlife activity under the canopy and a Ulysses butterfly passing by overhead, as if on cue. Stunning.  For those who were new to SUP, a short lesson on the beach, some handy tips and a little bit of practice and it wasn't long before everyone felt comfortable on these big, stable boards to venture upstream and deeper into this magical world.

Now I say, upstream but with water barely knee deep, steadily flowing and these easy to navigate boards, the going was hardly tough. It felt healthy, after all you were exercising - tick! - but it was also therapeutic, soaking up the unfamiliar sounds of the rainforest, with only a soft ripple of your paddle to compete as it made contact with the river below. Just magical.  

Every so often we would make a stop for the guides to highlight points of interest, such as wildlife or exotic plants that we would otherwise have missed.  A particular favourite was a giant avatar tree covered in plants growing upon more plants (epiphytes). It created a canopy that fully wrapped you up in the shade of the jungle. It was like a scene out of Jurassic Park.

So many secluded swimming holes were found along the way too. No rush, time never on your mind, perfect to cool off but also switch off! And one of my personal favourites was the visit to our rainforest day spa.  Sitting on our boards, we used small handfuls of the granite sand to gently exfoliate our skin, before taking clay from the banks to apply a cleansing clay mask …  or alternatively, for fun, the kids used it as tribal paint before we all rinsed off, soaking in the river - both options so easy and natural, instilling a feeling of pure rejuvenation

Then in true spa style and perfectly timed Brett offered us a platter of delicious tropical fruit using only a paddle as his platter.  Unaware we were even hungry, it was a welcome snack and seemed the perfect accompaniment as it continued to saturate the senses.  I would definitely be recommending this day spa!

A short distance onward, a huge rope sat swaying in the light breeze over our passage.  The sunrays poking through the tree lined avenue tempted even the most faint hearted. A highlight for the kids, the adults took the time to soak up some rays, laying on our now paddle beds watching the action, chatting with the guides about the importance of the wet tropic habitat surrounding us. We were learning more about the local indigenous community and the natural custodians of this special place. 

Our final paddle took us past what appeared to be sky high stands of bamboo before we reached our final swimming hole for the day and our point of return. When we were ready to head back, Brett quipped, “Now we’ve invented a new extreme sport, it’s called lay down paddle boarding!” 

Well, I’ve got to hand it to him, you must try it and it's a real leveller!  No standing or paddling required, simply lying on your bed looking up at the canopy, soaking up the ancient rainforest.  At some point on the way home, the group fell silent, each in awe of this experience - letting go, a heavenly feeling as you put your trust in mother nature to guide you safely back downstream.  

Magical, blissful, educational, refreshing and eco-conscious. We enjoyed quality time with the family, and it was downright heaps of fun.  Arriving back at our pickup point, we all agreed we had just experienced one of the coolest activities ever.   

We will definitely be back and, in our opinion, it should be added to the “must do experience” list for anyone holidaying up north.