The Daintree Rainforest Observatory (DRO) is a field station nestled in lowland wet tropics rainforest at the base of Mount Sorrow.  From our location it is only minutes to access upland rainforest, fringing reefs, mangrove habitats and the Great Barrier Reef.  The DRO is the only field station in Australia operating a rainforest canopy crane, and is one of only five long-term ecological monitoring sites in Australia. Facilities include a huge lecture theatre, indoor and outdoor laboratories, accommodation and a commercial kitchen.

Aerial view of facilities

At the Daintree Rainforest Observatory we have accommodation available for a maximum of 50 guests. All accommodation is of a dormitory style, with bunks in rooms for 4 people or 6 people.  All bedding is supplied, but you will need to bring your own towel unless you wish to use hire towels (towel hire needs to be organized at least two weeks in advance of visit).  Please note that our remote location means that we are completely off-grid, therefore guests should keep in mind that power and water are limited resources and should be used conservatively. All buildings and rooms are accessible with ramps.


Student Accommodation

The Student Accommodation consists of 40 beds housed in 2 separate buildings.  Each building has two separate wings of 10 beds arranged in rooms for 4 people and 6 people.


The Student Accommodation is serviced by the communal amenities block.  A coin operated laundry (accepts $1 and $2 coins) is available upon request during daylight hours.


There is a communal commercial kitchen available to day guests and those staying in the Student Accommodation. The kitchen is fully equipped including: fridges, freezers, ovens, saucepans, crockery and cutlery, common small appliances, and two BBQs.  Adjacent to this is an outdoor eating area that seats up to 50 people.

Research Accommodation

The Researcher Accommodation consists of 10 beds (one room with 4 beds and one room with six beds joined by a connecting door) and is fully self-contained with a full sized kitchen and a separate toilet and shower.

DRO Canopy Crane

The forest canopy is the point at which the atmosphere meets the biosphere.  It is where photosynthetic processes take place and, not surprisingly, where most biotic interactions occur. Perhaps as much as half of all biodiversity on Earth is to be found in tropical rainforests, and a large proportion of this biodiversity is located in the canopy itself.

First trialled by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, the use of industrial cranes in tropical forests has opened up the canopy to exploration by scientists in the same way that the deep-sea submersible has provided access to the ocean floor. With the installation of a canopy crane in the rainforest at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory, Australia now has a unique national research facility capable of providing vital information on the processes occurring in the rainforest and the responses of this ecosystem to human induced climate change.

Canopy crane and rainbowCrane gondola and moon

Our canopy crane is a Liebherr 91EC freestanding construction tower crane.  It is 47 metres tall, and has a radius of 55 metres.  With this span the crane provides comprehensive access to 1 hectare of rainforest.  It was the first canopy crane to be installed in the southern hemisphere, and is the only canopy crane located in Australian rainforest.

Our canopy crane is operated under the same Australian Standards and Codes of Practice as all tower cranes in Australia.  It also meets the requirements of the Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WH&SQ) Tower Crane Code of Practice 2017.  Our fall arrest equipment meets the Industrial Fall-Arrest Systems and Devices Australian Standard AS 1891.1-2007.  Our work box meets the Australian Standard AS 1418.17-1996 Part 17 Design and Construction of Workboxes. Our workbox is a J6312 constructed by East West Engineering and has built in lanyard attachment points, the design is registered with WH&SQ.

If you are wishing to conduct cutting edge research in the rainforest canopy, or to experience a world heritage habitat from a unique perspective, our canopy crane is available to researchers and teaching groups for hire.  Please contact the Daintree Rainforest Observatory staff to discuss the possibility of booking our canopy crane. All users of the crane must be 16 years old or above.

Lecture Theatre

Lecture theatre

Our stylish lecture theatre can be set up to suit many applications.  As a lecture theatre the room has seating for 80, a powerful projector and large screen, and built-in speakers.  However it can just as easily be converted into a classroom using the supplied tables and chairs, or a multipurpose room for activities that need a large indoor space.

Indoor Laboratory

man looking at insect collection

Our indoor laboratory is air-conditioned and well equipped including the following items: a fume hood, drying oven, water bath, stereo microscopes, compound microscopes, fridge, freezer, and a comprehensive endemic herbarium and insect collection.

Outdoor Laboratory

The outdoor laboratory features stainless steel bench tops, large sinks, and two drying ovens.  The space is perfect for messy work, or research involving heavy equipment, or large objects.

Outdoor lab

Field Laboratory

In the heart of the crane plot sits a small open-air laboratory with benches, seats and 204V power.

Open Laboratory

Crane Plot

The one hectare of rainforest underneath the arc of the crane is referred to as the Crane Plot.  It is the heart of the research activities at the Daintree Rainforest Observatory.  Each tree with a DBH (diameter at breast height) of greater than 10cm receives a unique ID number, is identified to species and forms part of the trees regularly surveyed for DBH and height.  This core data is available to researchers upon request.

Crane plot instrumentsResearcher with instruments in crane plot

Drought Experiment

In a world first, we have a rainout shelter (or rainfall exclusion shelter) installed underneath the canopy crane.  This allows comparative experiments between trees on the control side of the Crane Plot, with those on the Drought side, with crane access to all levels of the strata.  If you are interested in researching the potential effects of climate change, we have the perfect environment already set-up and waiting for you to begin your experiments.

Within the Crane Plot a comprehensive network of sensors has been installed (soil moisture pits, sap flow sensors, and temperature and relative humidity probes).  Servicing the sensors is a 12v/24v power system which can be used to power additional scientific instruments.  Please contact Daintree Rainforest Observatory staff if you would like to take advantage of this resource.

Droughting experiment


If your area of interest is water quality and fresh water invertebrates, we have a small stream-fed pond on the property.  Please note that like all wetlands this resource may dry out during drought conditions.



Hydrologists are welcome to take advantage of our weir for studies on water composition and flow.

Student in the water at weir

Revegetation Plot

Our revegetation plot consists of approximately 1200 trees and is just over 10 years old.  All trees in the plot have a unique ID number and have been identified to species level.  This plot provides a great opportunity to compare artificial and natural habitats.

Revegetation plot

Camera Network

Currently we have 9 video cameras constantly recording footage.  If you are interested in seeing what happens inside a striped possum den, around a scrub turkey mound, or on an osprey nest, please contact our staff.

Striped possumOsprey