When adventure photographer Reuben Nutt posted a photo of a waterfall we’d never seen before we had to know more. Tim caught up with Reuben about the wild mission to snap it.


You might’ve seen Reuben’s dreamy, saturated images popping out to you from your phone screen. Mysterious waterfalls, rock arches at sunrise and vibrant coral are all part of the repertoire. But what’s often less clear is the sheer effort it takes to reach some of these places.

I caught up with Reuben to talk about the mission and his philosophy around sharing photos of wild, hard-to-reach places.


TA: What inspired you to get out there? Were you searching around on Google Maps?

RN: Growing up in Port Douglas and spending most of my life in this area, I’ve always had a fascination with the mysteries in the mountains that surrounded us.

Modern mapping technology has allowed lots of these places to be seen from above, and after pouring over satellite and topographic maps, this was one of the falls that kept popping up on the radar. Finally Steven Dangaard and I sat down and made a plan to get to them.

A Never-Before Photographed Waterfall in the Daintree and the Mission To Get There, Reuben Nutt, Tropical North Queensland, Daintree, waterfall, wide angle, landscape

Bright as day on the map, but how to get there?

Have you done a mission like this before? How did this compare?

This one was four days with 2500m of total elevation gain. Steve and I have done a few big missions like this together, but individually we have hundreds of kilometres of off track experience. Finding a weather window is a difficult part of making these missions possible. The cloud-top, high altitude rainforest of the Wet Tropics [in Queensland] is famous for its high rainfall and constant cloud cover.

Read more: 10 Tips For Your First Off-Track Hike

We’d talked about this mission for years, due to its prominence on satellite imagery. We joked that it was the easiest to find, hardest to get to waterfall on the radar. I’ve done lots of previous missions where the reward is almost guaranteed after a bit of hard work.

This one was different as we were both prepared for failure, giving it about a 50/50 chance [that we’d] get there. Getting there turned out to just be the start, as the waterfall itself was the most remote part of the expedition, getting back up the mountain range proved to be the most strenuous part of the whole exercise.

To give you an idea of the slow progress that these trips entail: it took us a whole day to move 1.6km, climbing 700m vertically with 23kg+ bags on. It’s basically just a battle between making progress, finding enough water, and pushing through the endless wait-a-while*…

*Wait-a-while refers to a range of hanging vines with sharp barbs that can make progress extremely slow.

A Never-Before Photographed Waterfall in the Daintree and the Mission To Get There, Reuben Nutt, Tropical North Queensland, Daintree, waterfall, swimming hole, hiker

Drones and camera gear made for heavy packs in rough terrain

How do you know they’re the first photos of the waterfall?

Of course we don’t know for certain, and are open for that to change. However, we’ve talked to multiple generations of prolific hikers in that area (from the days of the Daintree Blockade in the early 1980s), and they haven’t been to the falls, nor knew anyone that went. Due to its remote location, and the multiple high-drop falls further downstream, it’s eluded the casual explorer, or logging and gold rushes.

I’m not a fan of the clickbait-y ‘never seen before’ attitude that some have on social media. Not only does it discount the tens of thousands of years of First Nations people transiting the area, 99% of the time someone else has already stumbled upon it.

Was there any trail at all or was it completely off track?

The first few hours of the first day were on track to give us access to the mountain. Everything else was off track, using ridgelines and creeks as our only guide.


What can you tell me about the Indigenous history of the region and the Traditional Owners?

The Traditional Owners of this land are the Eastern Kuku Yalanji people, and they’ve had an official handback of their land. As we do a lot of hiking in this area, we make sure that we aren’t impacting areas that hold particular cultural significance to the owners of the land we walk on. We’ve had conversations with rangers from QldParks and the Jabalbina Yalanji Aboriginal Corp to make sure we’re being as culturally sensitive as possible on our missions, it’s an evolving conversation but in the end it’s about respect and transparency.

Most of the sacred places you’re likely to come across will be signed, and respecting the Traditional Owners wishes when it comes to a designated women’s or men’s places is very important. There’s a place called the ‘Blue Pool’ in the Daintree and even though there’s signage everywhere there saying please don’t swim as it’s a special women’s place, Instagram is full every day with photos of people swimming. We still have a long way to go with respect sadly.


A Never-Before Photographed Waterfall in the Daintree and the Mission To Get There, Reuben Nutt, Tropical North Queensland, Daintree, waterfall, wide angle, landscape, lord of the rings forest

Daintree or Lord of the Rings? The rainforest here is ancient and cultural ties run deep


Can you get up to the top of the falls? That photo next to them is crazy!

We did get to the top of the falls after a fair bit of path finding (that photo makes it look deceivingly easy). The original plan was to continue upstream from these falls, however we had to change plans and not push further into the unknown.

A Never-Before Photographed Waterfall in the Daintree and the Mission To Get There, Reuben Nutt, Tropical North Queensland, Daintree, waterfall, swimming hole, close up

Human for scale

I know you’re not keen to share the location, what are your thoughts on this more broadly? As a photographer how do you decide whether you share a location?

This is something that I fully stand behind. I’ve definitely seen the negative impacts that social media can have on these places. The major reason I don’t share the location of these places, however, is due to safety. It would be irresponsible of me to share the full trail for someone to blindly follow, given how much time we put into research and recces.

Even if all of our technology failed on the hike, we could still navigate due to our knowledge of the area and a fool-proof compass, as we aren’t reliant on a trail being there or emergency services to save us if we get too puffed.

I’ve absolutely been harassed on social media for this decision, however it’s important that people aren’t lulled into a false sense of security that a formed trail can sometimes provide. These are wild places and should be respected as such.

The hope is that my photos spark a sense of wonder at what’s still out there, and why these places, and the flora and fauna that call them home, need to be protected.