As the late afternoon sun faded behind scrub-covered hills, I climbed from the rocky slabs and tidal pools up onto a hanging glade of green grasses and herbs. Staring at me from atop the glade was a motionless grey kangaroo and his doe. Our mutual surprise relaxed into a friendly acceptance, as we sat together under creeping dusk, accompanied by distant rumbles and rushes of the grey-blue sea.
Earlier, I had walked the half hour track through Iluka Nature Reserve’s littoral rainforest, the only coastal rainforest in New South Wales. Shielded from oceanic weather by sand dunes and tall, salt-resistant, trees, the delicate forest has existed here for millennia. This home to unique coastal flora also harbors wombats, echidnas, koalas, wallabies and kangaroos. The area is also one of the few locations where rare coastal emus live. Walking through shadowy, humid forests before emerging at the ocean, one experiences a range of environments and atmospheres unique to this tiny reserve of 135-hectares (330-acres).
Substantially more of this rainforest existed before 1788, but considerable logging has occurred since so-called “settlement”.
Fortunately, in the 1970’s, concerned locals banded together to protect what was left of this remarkable environment. Today, with the help of dedicated volunteers, the ecosystem is recovering from the harsh effects of logging and introduced plants, and feral dogs and cats who prey upon the native fauna.
Acknowledgment is given to the naming of the national park here, as “Bundjalung”, and the Nature reserve as “Iluka”. While Bundjalung is the name of the original peoples of the region, Iluka is derived from a local Aboriginal word that means “near the sea”.
From rainforest, to rocky outcrops and the vast sea and sky, the Iluka Nature Reserve is worthy of continued protection as one of Australia’s sacred temples within which everyone can feel nourished and heart-connected. Visit with love and respect.