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olivedz May 27th, 2004 11:26 AM

Trek North vs. David Armbrust Tour?
We are trying to decide between a David Armbrust tour of the rainforest or the Trek North tour of Cape Tribulation. I have read great things about both in various forums here. Does anyone have an opinion on which is the better tour to do if we can only do one??

Judy_in_Calgary May 27th, 2004 02:48 PM

We did the Trek North day trip to Cape Trib, and were more than satisfied with it.

We didn't do much advanced planning. We looked at the day trip brochures in the reception area of our hotel, chose one that appealed to us, and the receptionist made the reservation for us.

Since I've come here to Fodors, I've heard about David Armbrust's day tours. I suspect David's tours are better than Trek North's if for no other reason than the guide to guest ratio. David takes 4 passengers. If I recall correctly, there were about 10 of us on the Trek North tour.

The deciding factor may be the price difference. David's full day tour is A$225 per person, while Trek North's is A$139.

The people who have been on David's tour rave about it, and say it was well worth the price. I would say if you can afford David's tour, go for it.

If David's tour sounds steep for your budget, and you settle for Trek North's offering, do not for one minute expect to get a lousy tour. We did not find Trek North's group size unwieldy. It still was a small enough group that it was easy and comfortable to interact with our fellow passengers and with our guide. Our driver / guide was very friendly and professional.

A separate guide took us in a boat down the Daintree River. He was a marine biologist, and he gave us marvellous insights into the wildlife that we saw and into the tropical rainforest and mangrove swamp ecosystems.

While we were floating down the river, our regular guide was driving the 4x4 vehicle to meet us at our destination.

One of the advantages of David's tour, if I understand his website correctly, is that it includes not only the rainforest but also some terrain further into the interior, where the landscape is drier, and one gets some sense of the "Outback." I think it would be rather interesting to experience the difference between the two environments.

In previous posts you were talking about spending a night at Cape Trib. I don't know if you're still planning to do that. If so, I'm not altogether sure if Trek North's Cape Trib tour is the right one for you, in that it might be a bit repetitive.

In addition to praising the above mentioned tours, Cairns Fodorite, Pat Woolford, also has good things to say about Pete Baxendell's Heritage & Interpretive Tours.

Just the other day another Fodorite returning from Oz made complimentary remarks about yet another rainforest tour about which I had not heard previously.

So I think there are a number of rainforest tour operators who deliver a quality product.

pat_woolford May 27th, 2004 07:12 PM

olivedz - Judy's correct - if you're staying Cape Tribulation, the Trek North trip, which picks up in Cairns region and Port Douglas, would be somewhat repetitive as you'll be passing through the same scenery with the trip as you would have seen just getting to Cape Trib.(there's only one road). If you're interested in native nocturnal wildlife (most of our wildlife is nocturnal, you need a trip which takes you to a higher elevation than the coast - have a look at Wait A While's Daintree Trip which takes in Mt Lewis in Daintree. For birdwatching, Del Richards at Fine Feather tours gives expert guidance and he picks up in Port Douglas/Mossman/Julatten - he can also arrange "hook up" transport from Cairns. Del really is an expert - I often have birdwatchers from US and UK stay - Del's reputation has preceded him and they know Del is the man for the area.

KatieP May 28th, 2004 12:03 AM

Having a real love for the rainforest, we looked into this before taking our tour.
All the operators mentioned are great and have a grand reputation.
If staying in Port douglas try Tonys' Tropical Tours. We found this tour fantastic. Maximum 6 people. Cost $140.00 Most operators offer pretty much the same thing, what we found great about Tony's is that they go to a World Hearitage Listed private property, away from crowds, have a look at their website If you're staying at Cape Tribulation try Masons website these people are true locals.

cguest88 May 28th, 2004 06:36 AM

I have a question on the need to be in such a small group. I really don't see the difference in going in a group of from 4-10 people. Anything beyond that I understand the need to limit the size In all honesty, I like to meet people while I travel and in such a small group of 4 people implies I am travelling with only those people I came with. Also in a group of 8-10 people someone is going to ask question that I might not thought of but would like to know the answer.

Any other reason to go in a group of 4 people.

olivedz May 28th, 2004 06:47 AM

Thanks for the recommendations. We might, indeed, spend a night in Cape Tribulation, so it sounds like Trek North is probably not the best tour for us. I like the idea of Tony's Tropical Tours, and the price is more reasonable than the full-day Armbrust tour. We are less into seeing solely birds and more into the overall experience, so the bird watching trips seem a little less appealing. Will we have a similar experience with Tony's Tours as we will with Armbrust tours? Can't quite figure out why the Armbrust tour is so much more expensive...

jck4 May 28th, 2004 08:32 AM

We did both David Armbrust's and Tony's tropical tour last month. David's tour was a FFFFAAAARRRR better experence. Tony's was OK, but greatly overshadowed by our day with David. Let me preface this by saying we were staying at the Silky Oaks Lodge, a bit out of town, so Tony's tours didn't pick us up for the part of the tour where we went to Mossman Gorge. On Tony's tour we were picked upat 11am, listened to different stories about the area, drove up to the Daintree River for a one hour cruise. Didn't see a single croc. Did see a python, the weather was nice, nice to be on the river, saw a rare heron, but an entirely forgettable experience. From there we drove further north (the whole day involved alot of driving), stopped for lunch (good, but not as good as the meal home cooked by David's wife and the fresh fish grilled in the woods by David). After lunch, a hike in the rainforest (redundant information from what we received on David's tour) for about 30-45 minutes. Then more driving up to Cape Tribulation, involving the car ferry across the river. Once we got to the cape, we had 10 minutes to run out to the beach and back. We did stop at the homemade icecream shop on the way back which was nice. David's day was much more serene, 90-120 minutes walking through the rainforest (his private land) filled with a plethora of birds, pademelons (a small kangaroo), musky rat kangaroos. The animals know him and come up to him so you get to see them up close and see his special relationship with them. You stop for tea after a while to watch the wildlife around you, then drive up to a remote mountain for fish/rices/salad at the convergence of two streams.
From there you drive over to the great divide, to see the drier landscape, different birds. Our whole day with him was around 9 hours. Both tours had small groups, but the Tony's guide sounded like he was giving a canned speech and with David it was more conversational and intimate. Olive, the best thing you can do is just do alot of research on this board of different tours and people's opinions then decide what you think you would like better.

Judy_in_Calgary May 28th, 2004 09:16 AM

>>>>>>Any other reason to go in a group of 4 people.<<<<<<

Yes, there is a reason to go in a group of 4 people, IMO.

The reason hinges on whether or not you are very curious about nature. If you are, there is a big difference between 4 people and 10 people.

I've lived in Canada for a long time, but I grew up in the African bush. My dad was a farmer. He didn't take people on guided bush walks for money, but he used to take friends visiting from the city. Usually he used to take 1 or 2 people with him. I have no recollection of his taking more than 3 people at a time. Ten people would have been unthinkable.

If a tracker / guide is pointing out spoor (animals' prints on the ground) and other signs in the natural environment, the size of the group makes a big difference.

Sometimes it also makes a difference whether the guide is the owner of the tour company or an employee. This is not always the case, as employees sometimes make exceptionally good guides. However, I think the chances are somewhat better that an owner / operator, such as David Armbrust, would put more of his heart and soul into his tour than an employee would.

I went on Trek North's tour, and enjoyed it very much. Our driver /guide was very friendly and polite, and I couldn't fault his behaviour. Yet there was something, which I would find difficult to define, which still made me feel he was an employee.

The fellow who took us down the Daintree River as part of Trek North's tour was a different story. He was a marine biologist, and one could just tell he was in love with the local environment. Yes, we were lucky enough to see crocodiles, snakes, herons, and other birds (due, in no small part, to our guide's good eyes), but I think I would have found his explanation of the ecosystem fascinating even if we hadn't seen any reptiles.

David Armbrust's tour probably would be too expensive for our travel budget. Trek North's tour was great, it was more affordable, and I have no hesitation in recommending it. But I'm not going to kid myself that Trek North's tour was the same as David Armbrust's.

The quality of one's guide often is a matter of luck. The guide at the Sydney Opera House was a man who was passionate about opera. His feelings about opera oozed out of every pore of his body. It added greatly to the quality of the tour he gave my group (and it was a large group!).

After that I went on a cruise of Sydney Harbour. The woman who provided the commentary recited it as if she had done so a gazillion times before and was burdened by the prospect of having to do so a gazillion more times before she could escape from her job. Fortunately the harbour was so stupendous that the guide failed to prevent my enjoyment of it.

pat_woolford May 28th, 2004 03:14 PM

I do know the owner of Trek North (local Aussie) and your driver/guide would not have been he. The owner takes great care in selecting well trained, knowledgable, personable staff and would be the first to admit a guiding job is not for him. Staff that don't meet his high expectations don't last. Apart from Cape Tribulation trip, Trek North does every permutation of Scenic Train/Skyrail/Tjakupai/Cairns Tropical Zoo at all hours of the day; another Daintree trip and a Tableland trip so there's quite a few vehicles and driver/guides on the road at once.

yasim May 28th, 2004 09:45 PM

Hi olivedz
We also did a Rainforest Tour while in Port Douglas.
We chose Tony's Tropical Tours, because it came highly recommended by all the tourist information centres in town as well as the accommodation.
I must say that it was the highlight of our trip. We had Tony as our guide and it wasn't straight out of a textbook. All of us on board had different questions to ask and he replied to each and everyone very professionally while adding his Ausstralian sense of humour. A great day...The property they go to is a must to see and the price was certainly attractive.
In fairness to David Armbrust Tour, it was also recommended, but the reason we did not chose it, is that we were told that Davids Tour only touches a part of the Daintree Rainforest and then concentrates on the the Forest areas of Mt lewis whereas we wanted to go to Cape Tribulation and further.I remember one person telling us that David had half day tours.Might be worth looking into if you wish to go on David's and don't want to spend too much.
I truly think it depends on what you are looking for.
We picked up many brochures and were told that they were all good, just some are better than others.In the end you may have to read them all and decide.

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