On our drive out of the Margaret River Region (south of Perth) we drove east along the Southern Ocean coast through Denmark, Western Australia, towards Albany, where our ship had docked after sailing south along the Indian Ocean from Perth and then east in the Southern Ocean. Our destination along the way was the “Tree Top Walk” among the indigenous red tingle trees in the so-called “Valley of the Giants” just west of Denmark (Australia). The sign greeting us there noted: “The Noongar Aboriginal people of the South West [Australia] welcome you to the Valley of the Giants and the Wilderness Discovery Center. Please respect and care for our traditional lands.”
You’re probably wondering, what are the “Giants”? Known to live for over 400 years, red tingle trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii) are unique to a small area around Walpole and Nornalup [around Denmark]. They are characterized by their huge buttressed bases that can have a circumference of up to 20 meters (66 feet)! Some of the larger trees have hollowed out bases caused by insect and fungal attack and then fire burning out the dead wood. The buttress provides stability to these shallow rooted trees.
The common name, “tingle”, is believed to be derived from the Noongar word for these trees. Other types of tingle trees are the yellow tingle and Rates tingle.
The Tree Top Walk is a 600 meter (1,969 foot) loop along a raised, suspended walkway reaching up to 40 meters (131 feet) above the ground. It was built to protect the tingle trees and their sensitive root systems and to allow visitors to experience the tingle forest from high above the forest floor. The tassel flower (Leucopogon verticillatus) and the sword grass (Lepidosperma effusum) provided the inspiration for the design of the Tree Top Walk. The supporting pylons are specially designed to blend with the surrounding forest, while the spans are reminiscent of the shape of the sword grass leaf.
The Tree Top Walk was fabricated off site, transported in sections and bolted together on the forest floor. The spans were hoisted into position between the pylons using winches and jacks. Every attempt was made to minimize the impact of the construction. The Tree Top Walk opened to the first visitors in August 1996.
Growing up to 75 meters (246 feet) tall and up to 20 meters (66 feet) in girth, red tingles are recognized by their large, often hollowed out bases. They only grow in a small area around the Valley of the Giants. The trees need over a meter (39 inches) of rain every year to thrive
After descending from the Tree Top Walk back to the Discovery Center, we took another hike – this time on terra firma – on the Ancient Empire Walk, amongst the red tingles. Here we saw a number of large hollows in the tree bases; notwithstanding the removal of so much of the base, the trees were quite tall and thriving.