General News

3 May, 2022

Devil’s Thumb Summit Closing To Visitors

A Tropical North Queensland tour operator has ceased offering the famous Devil’s Thumb hike to support the wishes of Traditional Owners, who will soon begin the process of restricting visitor access to the 1,000m-high peak north of Port Douglas.

Devil’s Thumb in the Daintree Rainforest
Devil’s Thumb in the Daintree Rainforest

Back Country Bliss owner Jason Heffernan said he had been granted a National Park permit in March 2018, allowing his company to offer guided full-day tours of the Manjal Jimalji Trail to its peak in the Daintree National Park.

“I was the first operator to apply for a permit for the Manjal Jimalji Trail and had to wait 40 days for Queensland Parks to check with the Traditional Owners for any objections due to cultural significance to obtain the permit,” Mr Heffernan said. 

“Four years later, I have just discovered the Eastern Yalanji people are seeking to protect the site by installing a Restricted Access Area around the Devil’s Thumb at the top of the trail, which would prevent hikers from the thrill of being on top of that rock. 

“I have spoken with Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation, and knowing the Eastern Yalanji peoples’ wishes, I do not feel it is right for the tour to continue. 

“As a former guide at Uluru, I was trained in cultural protocols, and I respect the site’s cultural significance to the Eastern Yalanji people. 

“Accessing the rock at the top of Manjal Jimalji is the payoff for the challenging 10-hour hike, so it is not worth operating the tour without it.” 

The Grade 4 hiking trail is recommended for experienced, fit hikers with a 10.6km return trail traversing spectacular rainforest featuring mountain tea tree coral fern and views of Port Douglas from the lookout. 

Mr Heffernan said he has been keen to train an Eastern Kuku Yalanji guide and had a 23- yearold Indigenous guide from outside the region starting this month. 

“Back Country Bliss’s first Indigenous trainee guide will begin on April 27, training at the Mossman Gorge Centre one day a week and working four days a week as a guide on our Mossman Gorge Adventure Day, which includes river drift snorkelling,” he said. 

Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corporation Chair Michelle Friday said Manjal Jimalji is a sacred site and can only be accessed with the permission of key Elders who must accompany the visitors. 

“Eastern Yalanji people want to share their sacred country and culture with visitors but appreciating this culture also means protecting sacred places such as the Devil’s Thumb,” Ms Friday said. 

“The Eastern Yalanji people are keen to work with the tourism industry to share their beautiful country with visitors and welcome tourism operators who want to tread on our land and our sacred places with respect. 

“Jabalbina has received funding to promote partnerships with the existing tourism industry over the coming years, and Eastern Yalanji Elders want to see tourism in their country be successful by building partnerships with the existing industry. 

“The Elders acknowledge the respect Back Country Bliss has for their country and are keen to explore other routes with Jason,” she said.


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