How it all began
Cape Trib Farm has been pioneering tropical and exotic fruits in Australia for the past 40 years.
During the 1970’s Colin and Dawn Gray began their quest to seek out little known exotic tropical fruits and propagate them commercially in Far North Queensland. Their quest saw them identifying and purchasing suitable land at Cape Tribulation to plant tropical fruit orchards (coastal fringing rainforest), travelling extensively throughout South East Asia, importing quality seeds and plant material whilst navigating strict Australian quarantine restrictions, and experimenting with a range of grafting and propagation techniques.
The farm at Cape Trib was bought as a disused cattle property. It was tough starting out. Guinea grass was 6 foot high and paddocks were littered with rusty barbed wire fences and abandoned squatter camps. Preparing the paddocks for planting was an arduous and painstaking task. Colin, Dawn and their four children began the regeneration process and experimented with an array of rare tropical fruit trees.
Their quest was hampered by natural disasters such as direct hits from cyclones, phytophthora, and pests, as well as the hardships of developing a commercial orchard in an area with no services (eg no power, water or telecommunications). Power came from a trusty Lister generator which thumped away for three hours each night, after which lighting was limited to kerosene lamps and candles; one read books or played games for entertainment as there was no TV (perhaps this part was no hardship!); house water came from a spring, the intake of which often had to be cleared to ensure supply.
From just before the Daintree Ferry through to Cape Trib the unsealed road was extremely rough, with just one bridge between the ferry and the farm; wet seasons brought landslides on the ranges and uncrossable flooded creeks, making access impossible for weeks at a time. Communication with the outside world only occurred through the Royal Flying Doctor radio at Mason’s Shop and the weekly mail service.
Then once fully established, the most notable event of all was Cyclone Rona in February 1999 which went straight through the property and decimated the orchard. Colin’s paddock of 500 beloved durians was 90% destroyed, large swathes of rambutans trees lay twisted amongst a carpet of unripe fruit rotting on the ground, soursops were bowled over from the roots – it made a sad sight.
Down but not out, the Grays rebuilt the orchard over following years, with a major push into developing rambutan, mangosteen and breadfruit crops, complemented by a diversification into tourism accommodation and the building of five cabins set amongst the orchard.
In an early diversification enterprise, the Gray family ran the original Fruit Tastings from the early 1980s through to the 1990s as a means of imparting their knowledge and educating travellers on the exciting fruit available in the tropics; however, they took a breather when the commercial crops began to demand more of their time. For a period of 20 or so years, near neighbours Digby and Alison Gotts took up the fruit tasting mantel. When the Gotts sold their property in 2014, Cape Trib Farm resumed Fruit Tasting tours in early 2015.