Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Melbourne online+Happy New Years Eve!

I keep on repeating to myself (as a European who's used to live in crowded areas) that the biggest difference between Europe and Down Under is the space. One can see it directly: in 80% of the cases the houses are on one floor with huge gardens in front and in the back .
Melbourne with its 4 millions inhabitants stretches over 50 km, which also gives the people plenty of space. The city has the river Yarra (the ValleyYarra is famous for its wineries) passing trough and the ocean coast too. The center area has plenty of old buildings (most of them in art nouveau) scattered between modern skyscrapers. Some cute old trams are kept as well. Thanks to our great French-Australian hosts we visited several (completely) different (from shick and modern till alternative or covered with graffiti walls) suburbs:
- Camberwell, Fitzroy, South Yarra, Hawthorn

- Southbank, the area with modern architecture and sculptures

- the colourful beach houses at Brighton beach

- Williamstown (the historical Melbourne Harbour)

The Indian and Greek minorities living here are quiet big down under. The other day we had delicious dinner at one Indian place. The seafood is great and sooo fresh too. I eat every day watermelons and mangoes (grown in Australian sun of course). Some days ago all 4 of us bought new hats at the Victoria Market in Melbourne. Here when the sun comes out (we did not have more than 30 degrees in Victoria), it feels like burning...

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas-time+news from Phillip Island:-)

After some days being busy with food-shopping, cooking and present-unwrapping (the Australian style and with Aude, Russell (a real Australian from Melbourne:) and his family), the tourist programme continued with a day at Philipp Island (140km away from Melbourne).

The Island is famous as a place full with Australian wildlife. We visited the Koala Conservation Center, where one can see the koalas in their real environment, sleeping on an eukalyptus tree. The highlight was a koala eating leaves (as all the ones we saw till now were actually asleep)...In the afternoon a boat took us to the Sealion rocks, where a colony of 6000 sealions relax in the sun or play in the water. One could smell them from a km before already...

The day finished with the Pinguin Parade (a colony of 60 000 pinguins lives on the island), which starts every evening after sunset when the pinguin parents come back from a day of fishing to feed their little ones. We saw the smallest pinguin species in the world (around 30cm) waddling from the sea to their babies, who lives in holes/houses within the sand.

If we look tired on the pic abovee, its because it was 11pm already:)

Weather has been really changeable. We had some sun, clouds, showers and again sunshine within less than 12 hours. The sun feels like a big burning machine even at 9am when there is no wind at all. Should be the difference between Europe and Australia and the thickness of the ozon layer here.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Sydney-part 2

During the second day here we met some further typical Australian fauna in Sydney Wildlife: echidna (looks like a hedgehog but with long nose), colourful butterflies, hungry lorikeets (from the parrot family)...

The visit of the Sydney Botanical Garden was really impressive. While wandering there, we saw a huge amount of sleeping bats, just hanging on the trees(they are called here flying foxes as their head looks like a fox).

Now we are in Melbourne and go shopping with Aude (the cousine of Nico) and Russel for the (pre-)Christmas dinner tonight;-)

Monday, 22 December 2008

G'day from Sydney!

Just got here 24 hours ago and I find the city already really cozy! This mixture of old (for Australian standards) and modern, big and at the same time not-overcrowded, nature and human-made beauties. Some buildings actually look like from the 1950ies. The weather today was a bit weird: nice sunny (max 25 degrees), but very windy, at one moment the sun was burning and some minutes after one was freezing because of the strong wind.

The sightseeing walk started at the Rocks (the oldest area of Sydney, first picture), where we stay in the oldest brewery/bar/hotel of the city, then a visit of the symbol of the city, the Opera House, later we took a ferry to Darling Harbour. In the center we enjoyed a Xmas concert and everyone was singing Xmas carols outside, next to a huge Christmas tree-it did help to get into the Christmas feeling as the temperatures dont allow it so much..

On the way back to our hotel, after arriving too late for the wildlife park and being refused the entrance to the 260 m because of too much wind :we could notice that Sydney is a big modern city with plenty of skyscrapers. Our feet are hurting right now after this all walking marathon:-) Some more sightseeing is planned for tomorrow before heading to Melbourne in the evening.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Movies from underwater

We are still waiting in Gladstone for our rescheduled flights to Sydney today: yesterday all flights in the afternoon were cancelled due to the bad weather(some storms and rain).
So some time to put 2 short movies from underwater online, check the links below:
->with the manta-rays:
->a funny swimming flatworm (like a snail without a house):
Its up to your PC and internet how quick it will load, so give it around 5 min...

Take nothing more than photos, leave nothing else than footprints...

Heron island (whose credo I citate above) should be called Turtle island, this was my decision after 2 days on the island:-) Right now around 120 turtle ladies come to the island after dark. Early in the morning one can view their tracks in the sand-resembling the tracks of a tractor. In total 2 kind of turtles come to nest here from late October till February every year: the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle.

Turtles come out of the water after sunset and dig a hole in the sand (usually under a tree), then they lay around 100 eggs at a depth of 80 cm (this procedure can take up to 4 hours). Once the hole is covered the turtle returns back to the sea. 2 weeks after she will come back for a new clutch of eggs. It is sad but only 1 out of 1000 eggs make it to maturity. The rest does not make it out of the egg or its eaten somewhere on the way...While walking on the beach one can find the eggs rests, eaten most of the time by the birds.

As there is a big difference between low and high tide, we were told to make a walk at 6 am to see some turtles on their way back to the sea. Between 6 and 7 am the day after we counted some 10 turtles, some looking like rocks in the water (waiting for the high tide to get out of the island reef), some stuck at the stone shore, two even still busy laying the eggs.

In the twenties turtles did not have an easy life: after the turtle-can factory closed, the island became famous as resort offering turtle riding!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Underwater report...

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef

Great Barrier Reef underwater

Its a huge aquarium down there (just finished 5 dives going down till 15m:-)...Great underwater gardens of corals in all possible shapes and in blue, green, red, yellow, pink colours. Just breathtaking!!! Plenty of tiny fishes swim around it and from time to time one can hear the parrot fishes eating on the corals. We were SOOOOOOOOO lucky to meet (twice) a couple of manta rays (pure vegetarians), really peaceful and majestic animals, around 3-4m. Even Santa Claus (from Sweden) dived today with us, see picture as a proof below:

Great Barrier Reef

During snorkeling from the beach of the Heron island on previous days we made some other great encounters: funny guitar rays, fast little sharks (around 1 m). The guitar ray looked friendly and opened and closed its eyes for a greeting The local sting rays (between 1 and 1,5m) were/ are soo good in hiding in the sand just after the shore line, that we almost stepped on them while going into the sea...

Ray Great Barrier Reef

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Great Barrier Reef: Heron Island

After a busy week in Western Australia and Perth (known also as the most remote capital in the world, being closer to Jakarta that to Sydney) the Great Barrier Reef, the longest coral reef in the world with its 2000 km length, was on schedule.

While landing in the industrial town Gladstone (around 85 km from the island and 50 km from the Reef), home of the biggest electricity power plant in Australia, still powered by coal, we were shocked by the ocean colour: so terribly grey and dirty. Then a pleasant helicopter flight (and a total of 9 hours on the way) took us to the hot, sticky and windy Heron island (located in the really southern part of the Great Barrier Reef).

"Did you see some turtles and manta rays from the heli? They look like some small dark dots from up there", was the first thing that Tracey, our welcome guide, told us once we stepped out. Unfortunately we were too busy contemplating the stunning view from up there.However, some hours later in the moonlight, around 300-400 m from our bungalow we spotted someone throwing sand in the air...It was a huge (around 1,5m long, between 150-200kg) green turtle laying eggs in a hole in the sand. From October to March every year sea turtles can be sighted in this region where they come to mate and nest. Some individuals may travel distances of over 3000km!

Heron Island is a small (43 acre) coral cay and a National Park since 1943. There are thousands of nesting birds on the island too. On the photo above is the baby one of a black noddy tern. Around 30 different bird species nest on the island and a 24-hour-live-concert is sometimes really loud...I was awaken several times in the first night by their unusual schreams.

A guided reef walk during low tide on Sunday afternoon showed some of the tiny sea/reef inhabitants.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Rottnest island adventure...

A bit exhausted after a great mountain-biking tour for around 6 hours on the Rottnest island today. The ferry took us there for exactly 30 minutes and even if the temperature was 22 degrees it was nice sunny and warm while biking uphill (now i understand why I love biking in Holland:)

The cutest inhabitants on the island are the quokkas. In 1696, while exploring the island, the Dutch William de Vlamingh (indeed the Dutch were everywhere!) took mistakenly the animals Quokkas (a mix between a small kangaroo and a squirrel) for a giant rats. This gave the name of the island: Rottnest meaning the rats nest...

We spotted next to several friendly and cute quokkas, plenty of skinks (typical lizard for this area) and some sea lions (during their afternoon siesta swim).

Tomorrow 2 flights (Perth-Brisbane and Brisbane-Gladstone) plus a helicopter-flight (all together 7 hours) will take us to the other side of Australia, the south of the Great Barrier Reef. Might be offline for 7-8 days as I am not sure if there will be Internet on the island.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Live from under the water surface

The highlight of today is the visit to the underwater observatory. It is always amazing to see how marine life/nature can create a whole new ecosystem on the artificially added jetty piles. One has to keep in mind though that it takes between 5-10 years before the piles start to look as beautifully as the ones on the pics below. Once the fauna is there, the fishes come too. I saw some fishes I have never seen before.

Tonight we drove back to Perth, for tomorrow the plan is to visit the Rottnest Island (30 min by ferry from the city). Last night while walking in Busselton, some funny animals crossed our road. They were so kind to pose for a picture (while having as snack the flowers of the neigbour). Later we were told that we have spotted the famous possum, nocturnal mammal protected in this part of the country. So much about wildlife all around:-)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Great Southern...or south of Perth:)

busstop_Western Australia


It kind of cooled down a bit-temperatures are between 15 and 20 degrees, but sun is almost always there, even if we got some rain the last 2 days. First part of the trip south was drive via Rockingam (where the pic of the cool busstop comes from) and Bunberry to Busselton. In this relaxed sea-town the most famous thing is the Busselton Jetty and its underwater observatory ( can have a look too via the online web-cam) here visitors go 8 m underwater and watch the sea inhabitans without getting wet (this visit is on the schedule for tomorrow:-)

One realises the size of the continent (which is actually bigger than Europe) by starting to drive around. Yesterdays drive was around 250 km south from Perth, todays around 550 km down to the Great Southern visiting the Giant Tree Walk. The Walpole National Parc has an impressive forest with huge tingle trees (eucalyptus trees) that can get up to 35-70 m high. There is a 60 m high bridge at the top of trees. It is a bit shaky walk up there but the view was excellent.

giant tree walk

Christmas deco-the Aussie style

It is indeed the other end of the world. One realises this also while watching the Christmas decoration here. Not only is Santa Claus in flip-flops, but his assistants are the locals...the kangaroos instead of the reindeers:)

After a drive to the South of Perth we stayed in the cute sea-town Busselton last night. On the way I enjoyed the colours of the sea and great seafood in Rockingam and the funny decoration above in Bunberry.
Jana from Busselton:)

Monday, 8 December 2008

Namburg National Parc, in the Pinnacle desert...

Today the weather was a bit cloudy, so we headed to the Namburg National Parc, around 260 km north of Perth. It was a drive of a bit more than 3 hours, but was really worth it. Before arriving at the parc, we made a stop in the tiny fisherman village Cervantes, where we did not see don quijote but had some fresh crayfish and I found a cute old car:-)

The Parc is famous for its Pinnacle Desert (funny limestone formations in a sand ground, One can walk through and the view is amazing, we even met several cockatoos (a colourful cousin of the parrot). On the road back to Perth some wild kangaroos were jumping around us next to road, and we really felt close to the wildlife of Western Australia.