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An ancient volcanic landscape, now a living Gondwanan rainforest

When the warm rays of the morning sun rise over Australia, the first place they light up is Mount Warning in northern New South Wales. Known by the local Aboriginal people as Wollumbin, which means cloud catcher, Mount Warning and its caldera were formed more than 20 million years ago after a massive eruption caused the walls of this now extinct volcano to collapse, The towering, cone-shaped peak of the mountain dominates Australia’s Green Cauldron, which stretches from Byron Bay to Queensland’s Gold Coast, and west towards the Great Dividing Range.

Captain James Cook gave the mountain its ominous name after his ship almost ran aground on the nearby reefs. He wanted to warn other 18th century mariners against sailing too close to this unchartered coast. But for the people of the Bundjalung nation, who have long lived and hunted within its shadow, Wollumbin holds great cultural significance. Its forests have provided a plentiful supply of food, medicines and materials for generations of Bundjalung people. To this day, Wollumbin remains a sacred place of clan lore, initiation and spiritual education.

In Aboriginal legend, Wollumbin was a giant bird, speared by a warrior. That fatal spear is still visible as a point on the summit. Other legends say fighting warriors cause the lightning and thunder often observed on the mountain. The traditional laws of the Bundjalung people state that only certain people can ascend Mount Warning. In respect of these laws, visitors are not encouraged to climb. But those who do want to ascend Mount Warning face a steep nine kilometre return journey that takes up to five hours to complete.

Botanists, geologists and ecologists praise this mountain and its national parks for their biodiversity. The area provides a habitat for more than 200 rare and endangered plant and animal species. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the high-pitched wail of the green catbird, the amazing mimicry of Albert’s Lyrebird and the call of the whip-birds, which reverberates like a whip crack through the rainforest.