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The Weather Network
Jun. 25, 2019 | Tuesday
Entertainment News
Nature’s lens with Owen Bjorgan: What do Niagara and this tiny area of Australia have in common?
Owen Bjorgan in Australia. (Owen Bjorgan/Supplied)

Greetings from Australia! I hope everyone has been soaking up their holidays and staying warm. Staying warm for me hasn’t been the issue whatsoever. Christmas in the Land Down Under might mean dust storms, cyclones, and 40 degree heat, but this isn’t the Australia you likely imagine. Perhaps you’re conjuring up images of red dirt, endless horizons, and stark rocky landscapes. That’s fair, as that is what the vast majority of this country looks like. I’m tucked into a little nook though, a Hidden Corner, in lush tropical north Queensland, and it is a lot like Niagara. Let me explain.

I had a major epiphany while in the midst of filming in Queensland. The same fundamental fact that I promote on my hiking tours reigns true in both Niagara Region and these rainforests. We have the Carolinian Forest, which is a life zone covering less than one per cent of Canada’s landmass, but it the most species rich area in the nation. Likewise, Queensland’s tropical rainforests also cover less than one per cent of Australia, but they harbor the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems the country can offer. Another noteworthy parallel is that both regions have heaps of tourists and their own baggage of environmental issues. This is why I make Hidden Corners nature documentaries, to promote the undeniable importance of these areas to both the local and outside world.

One major initiative that the Queensland government latched onto in the 1980s was to put the value of these rainforests on legislative paper, as if to say, “Hey, wait a minute, these forests are so precious and unique, that we have to slow down their destruction and practice better management immediately.” As a result, most relatively large swaths of habitat were locked up and protected for generations to come, usually in the form of national parks. This is the oldest rainforest on the planet-a living fossil record of plant life and ancient animal ancestors that still live here. It is a 400 million year old evolution factory that has ceased to shutdown, still pumping out new species from its valleys and mountain tops. I’ve had the sincere pleasure and privilege of exploring it, breathing in the primal air that steams from it.

Where do I possibly begin with stories that not many Lake Report readers could relate to? I got spooked by a giant wild boar who prevented me from getting to the summit of a mountain. There’s the six ft. tall southern cassowary, an upright bird with a blue and red head, who tried to steal the asparagus from our camp. There are rivers and beaches that look like the perfect postcard, but they are home to saltwater crocodiles and irukandji jellyfish, which is nature’s way of saying “don’t swim here, silly!” Every night I am visited by massive insects and the sweet sounds of rare tree frogs. It’s a jungle out there.

Exploring these wild places further fuels my passion to deliver memorable experiences on my hiking tours in Niagara. I can only hope that people visit places like NOTL and tropical north Queensland and walk away with a powerful sense of place on the global scale.

On that note, keep an eye out for hiking tours beginning May 2, 2019 onwards, and the Hidden Corners: Tropical North Queensland documentary this summer. Information on both the tours and films can be found on my Facebook page and Youtube channel, “Biophilic World.” Until next time, enjoy an especially cold Canadian beverage for me.