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Wildlife : Taronga Western Plains Zoo

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Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located in Dubbo and features a beautiful range of animals, including many native to Africa.  You might wonder whether the climate in Dubbo is the same to that in Africa, and we certainly wondered that when we visited the zoo on a cold July day.  It turns out that the climate at the zoo is similar to where the animals would usually live, except our winters are a little longer.  To make the animals as comfortable as possible during the cooler months, the zoo has heaters installed in the enclosures to keep the animals warm. How lovely!

 

The Zoo

Opened in 1977, Taronga Western Plains Zoo was the first open plain zoo in Australia and started out with only 35 animals.  Over the years, the zoo has expanded to house over 1000 animals and is renowned for its breeding programs and conservation efforts. In fact, Taronga is not only a fantastic tourist attraction but a non-profit organisation!

 

The Taronga Western Plains Zoo covers three square kilometres of land and the 6km loop that weaves throughout the zoo can be explored on foot or in your car, but you can also hire bikes or electric carts.  It’s a unique setup – the fenceless enclosures and open plains make it seem more natural.

 

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The Animals

There are approximately 800 animals living at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.  There’s a strong focus on African animals, especially in breeding and conserving them, especially endangered ones.  There are various talks and feedings throughout the day, and they’re a great opportunity to learn about these beautiful animals.

 

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One of our favourite animals at the zoo were the hippopotamuses, especially the mother-daughter team.  The little calf was so cute following her mum around.  We also enjoyed the playful meerkats, friendly camels, jousting Barbary sheep, majestic elephants and fearsome tigers.  On an exclusive tour of the zoo, we also got to meet the fastest animal on the planet, the cheetah.  They can go from 0-100km in three seconds and the fastest speed recorded is 117km.  The cheetahs at Taronga were very playful and curious, but perhaps a little too big and wild to take home.

 

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Rhinos

We learnt a lot about rhinos at Taronga.  Rhinos are poached for their horns, because it’s believed that the horns have medicinal properties.  If only the poachers knew that scientific tests show that there are no health benefits within the horns.  The main component of the horn is the keratin, which is the same stuff that our hair and nails are made of.  Unfortunately, a few species of rhino have already been made extinct, including the western black rhino in 2011.

 

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Another interesting fact about rhinos is how they use their poo.  Rhinos create dung piles, or middens, not to be clean and tidy but to send messages.  The smell of their own poop can communicate age, sex, whether they’re ready to have babies or if they already have a bun in the oven, and it can also mark territory.  Visiting rhinos will sniff and shuffle through the poo before adding their own message to the pile.  Pee-yew!

 

The zoo has both black rhinos and white rhinos – black rhinos are solitary animals with a pointier mouth, while white rhinos are bigger, enjoy social interaction and have square lips.  They even have a gorgeous black rhino calf on display.  Dafari is his name and he was born in April 2015.

 

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While Taronga has only three black rhinos on display, altogether there are nine onsite for breeding purposes.  Taronga Zoo is set up to breed for several generations and any rhinos that arrive at the zoo are conditioned and trained so that animals don’t get spooked by the guests and various noises of the zoo.

 

Bongo

The bongo is one of the largest species of antelope and has been categorised as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  They’re auburn or chestnut brown in colour, and when they get wet, the oily pigment of their coat seems to run.  When they were hunted for their meat, if the hunter found that they were covered in this oily residue, they believed they’d get leprosy.  While this isn’t true, it’s not exactly advertised because bongos are near threatened and if this myth keeps them alive, then so be it.

 

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The Accommodation

Did you know that you can stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo?  There is a great selection of accommodation options, from camping, cabins and luxury safari lodges that overlook the savannah.

 

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The Billabong Camp is great for large groups and school excursions.  The bush camping experience includes a night in a canvas tent, meals and refreshments, admission to the Zoo for two days and a range of animal encounters and tours.

 

Zoofari Lodges started in 1995 and consist of 15 luxury tented lodges.  The Animal View lodges look out over the African Savannah and have an African-inspired décor.  Each lodge has an ensuite and mini bar facilities and exclusive tours of the zoo are included in the experience.  Guests also have access to a main house that features an African style restaurant, full bar with local and African wine, as well as a lounge and TV room.

 

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The Savannah Cabins are perfect for families.  All fifteen self-contained cabins can sleep up to 6 people and have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, air conditioning, a full kitchen, BBQs on the deck, free WiFi and Foxtel.

 

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The Essentials

Taronga Western Plains Zoo is open from 9am to 4pm daily and entry includes two consecutive days to explore the zoo.  The Zoo Shop stocks some great souvenirs, from plush toys to stylish knick knacks for the home.  While you can bring in your own picnic lunch or BBQ gear, you can buy food at Bakhita’s Café at the Savannah Visitor Plaza and the Midway Kiosk (only on weekends).

 

If you would like a closer encounter with the animals, why not book yourself in for a tour.  Go for a guided morning walk behind the scenes or get a photo of yourself feeding the giraffes.  Bookings are essential.

 

Visit the zoo at Obley Rd in Dubbo, a five hour drive from Sydney.  Flights from Sydney to Dubbo are available through Qantas and Rex.  For more information about the zoo, please call 02 6881 1400 or visit their website.

 

You can also support their conservation efforts by making a donation at this website.

 

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Animal Attraction : Kuranda Wildlife Experience

Despite the rain, we drove the Troopy over the Macalister Range and arrived in Kuranda village for a very special day with the local wildlife.  The Kuranda Wildlife Experience is the ultimate ticket for animal lovers and is a fantastic way to meet unique, beautiful and interesting animals from Australia and around the world!

 

Kuranda Koala Gardens

Our first stop was the Kuranda Koala Gardens, but don’t be fooled by the name – they have much more than just those cute, cuddly balls of sleeping fur.  They had a variety of turtles, bearded dragons, kangaroos, pythons, and even freshwater crocodiles!

 

 

The first highlight was watching the wombats – the fussy female was paired with her second potential mate, who was on heat that morning.  We had never heard such a strange hissing/growling noise come from a wombat before!  She was resisting all advances and as she scurried away, the male wombat was hot on her heels.  Later that day, we mentioned it to one of the keepers and she said that the female brings it upon herself, because she often tries to get his attention, and then runs away!  What a tease!

 

The wombats at Kuranda Koala Gardens from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

The second highlight was feeding the swamp wallabies.  These creatures were absolutely adorable and very friendly.  As you offer food, their little paws reach up and hold onto your hand.

 

 

The third highlight was visiting the new glider enclosure at feeding time.  There are two varieties on display, the squirrel glider and mahogany glider.  Both are just as cute as the other, but their feeding habits are a little different.  While squirrel gliders prefer to munch of fresh fruit and vegetables with only a little sip of nectar, mahogany gliders prefer their sweet cocktail over fruit and veg.  Another interesting fact that we learnt was that mahogany gliders were thought to be extinct for over 100 years and were only rediscovered in 1989.

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Just before moving on to the next experience, we decided to cuddle a koala and get a souvenir photo.  Alternatively, if koalas aren’t your thing, you can hold a snake instead, but with our fabulous reptile experiences in Alice Springs and Darwin, we thought the koala was the right choice… although he doesn’t seem to understand what ‘happier and with your mouth open’ means.

 

http://www.koalagardens.com/

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Birdworld Kuranda

All feelings of anticipation and excitement were replaced with angst and trepidation when we were shown the “stolen property” tub on the reception desk at Birdworld Kuranda.  It was full of bracelets, buttons, ear rings, Barmah Hat badges and anything else small and shiny that the birds can pry off you with their burly beaks.   Juz promptly de-accessorised…

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Once we walked through the door we were presented with an aviary large enough to house trees, a small waterfall and a pond.  We walked out onto a platform at the top of the aviary and were greeted with the pleasant aromas of tropical fruit that had been served to the birds for breakfast.  There were three colourful macaws perched nearby, as well as a couple of Alexandrine Parrots and Eclectus parrots having a morning meal.

 

As we did a lap of the aviary, we got to know the inhabitants – there was a small aviary full of little finches, huddles of green-cheeked conures, a white-faced heron in the trees, streaks of colour as rainbow lorikeets sped past, a few mandarin ducks and black swans in the pond, and even an intimidating cassowary.  Despite their danger factor, these huge birds are endangered due to being hit by cars and the destruction of their habitat.

 

 

Once we returned to the platform, the Alexandrine Parrots set their sights on our poor, defenceless pen.  With a big red beak, the parrot effortless cracked the shaft and deformed the push button, and we knew that if Dave let go of the pen, it would never survive.  At this point, Juz spotted a juvenile fig parrot sitting on the wire of the fence surrounding the platform and gave it a brief rub on the back of its neck before a sharp peck said it was time to go.

 

On our way out, we got to meet Cobbler the Cockatoo and then swung past the Troopy for a new pen before hitting up our next destination.

 

http://www.birdworldkuranda.com/

 

Kuranda Wildlife Experience

 

Australian Butterfly Sanctuary

Established in 1985, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary works to increase butterfly numbers by protecting the offspring.  In the wild, only 1 or 2% of eggs laid survive to adulthood while at the Sanctuary, their success rate is 60-80%.

 

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There are 8 species of butterfly in the aviary, as well as the Hercules moth – the world’s largest moth.  All of them are native rainforest species which is why the aviary has been designed to replicate their habitat.  With 1500 beautiful butterflies, including the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly and the big Cairns Birdwing with its bright green and yellow colours, it was easy to stop and become mesmerised by the quiet fluttering of colour all around.

 

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There are several stations around the aviary that function as both a feeding platform and a place to lay eggs.  Each station has a few dishes that are filled with a special nectar formula and topped with a white lid to attract the butterflies.  They used to put honey in the dishes before they realised that the honey was fermenting in the heat and causing the butterflies to get drunk!  The stations also have particular plant clippings which act as hosts for the butterfly eggs.  Each butterfly has a particular plant they lay their eggs on to ensure the survival of their caterpillars, and having these particular plants at designated stations makes collecting the butterfly eggs much easier.

 

The eggs are taken to the laboratory where they are cared for until the caterpillar hatches, grows up and turns into a butterfly.  Depending on the species, the caterpillar munches for around 20-30 days before they transform into a chrysalis (cocoon) and stew for between 10 and 30 days, before a butterfly emerges and is released into the main aviary to live a short life that lasts between 10 days and a few months.  The more they flutter, the shorter they live – that’s why some of our photos are a bit blurry – butterflies don’t live long and have to get sh*t done!

 

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http://www.australianbutterflies.com/

 

 

Our Kuranda Wildlife Experience was absolutely magical.  We got to see a wide range of animals, from mammals and reptiles to insects and arachnids.  Each experience was interactive as we got up close and personal to koalas, wallabies, parrots and lacewing butterflies.  We even got to meet some fellow Melbournians – Rob and Belinda – who were visiting Cairns on holiday.

 

Tickets for the Kuranda Wildlife Experience are $46 dollars for adults, $23 for children.  They can be purchased from any of the three attractions.

 

 

Alice Springs Show

NT Events : The Alice Springs Show

Alice Springs Show

 

We were lucky enough to be in town for the 55th Annual Alice Springs Show, a two day event that gives the community a cracking good time.  It showcases everything from carnival games, rides, dagwood dogs and fairy floss to prize birds, horses and bulls.

 

We attended both days of the show to soak up the festival atmosphere.  Dave’s former colleagues from back in Darwin were stall holders so it was great to see them as well.

 

Alice Springs Show

 

On the first day, we did a full lap of the showgrounds.  We had a nice chat with the folks at the Your Brain Matters stall and the local ABC radio stall.  We also saw plenty of prize chickens, massive bulls and cute baby animals at the petting zoo.  We made our way past all the happy kids on the rides and the colourful carnival games before heading home.

 

We went back the following night to see the showgrounds lit up in all the colours of the rainbow.  After munching on a dagwood dog and checking out the rides, we grabbed a seat overlooking the oval to watch fireworks with the MacDonnell Ranges in the distance.

 

Alice Springs Show

 

 

Kakadu National Park

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 1

Kakadu National Park

 

We said goodbye to Darwin after an 11 month stay and headed to our first destination – Kakadu National Park.  We were really excited to see the waterfalls and billabongs and couldn’t wait to get our boots dirty on a few hikes.

 

The name Kakadu comes from the Aboriginal floodplain language of Gagadju.  The Rainbow Serpent, a very important creation being for the Bininj Mungguy people, created most of the landscape, forming habitats and controlling the life cycles of plants and animals.

 

Kakadu was internationally recognised as a World Heritage area in 1981 for its rock art galleries and archaeological sites, and at nearly 20,000 hectares, it is the largest national park in Australia and second largest park in the world.  The traditional owners, the Bininj Mungguy, have been living in Kakadu for more than 50,000 years and are possibly the oldest living culture on earth.  The rock within the park could also be the world’s oldest rock, dating back 2,500 million years!

 

There are approximately 280 species of birds residing in the national park, which is around a third of all bird species in Australia, as well as 2,000 varieties of plants that have been used by the local aboriginals for food and medicine.  Crocodiles, or ginga, live within the park and while they are trying to increase the population since the hunting days in the 1960s, Crocodile Management Zones focus on relocating crocodiles so that the area is safe for visitors.

 

DAY 1

Bark Hut Inn

After a long drive along the highway, we stopped at the Bark Hut Inn for a beer.  Lucky for us, they had NT Draught on tap and they were particularly proud of the fact.  The Bark Hut Inn is essentially a historical pub that offers accommodation, food and fuel before hitting the national park.  It’s also the last stop for alcohol before Kakadu.

 

The place looks fairly ancient with all the dusty wood and animal heads mounted on the walls but it was erected in the 1970s.  There are some old Toyota wrecks dotted around the establishment with plaques providing information on what they were used for.  One of them had a specially designed bulbar with a platform for a person to stand on while they tried to lasso wild buffalo!  Outside, you can check out the enclosed emus and buffalo while inside, they have a pet snake and turtle.

 

 

After a schooner and a wander around the place, we continued to the Kakadu Information Bay at the entrance of the park.  We planned to sleep at Two Mile Creek but the gates were closed so we returned to the information bay for the night.

 

DAY 2

Mamukala

Our first stop for the morning was the Mamukala wetlands.  There were beautiful pink lilies, a few ducks on the water and the sound of magpie geese in the distance.  The water seemed to go on forever and the view was really lovely.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Visitor Centre

The lady at the information centre was friendly and informative but it wasn’t all good news for us – a lot of the attractions were closed due to impassable river crossings or they hadn’t been cleared of crocodiles.  Apparently, the start of the Dry Season is not the best time of the year to come.  Even though the weather is great, you still have to wait until June for evething to open.  What this meant for us is that we missed out on Ubirr, Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Gunlom.  Poopy…

 

Jabiru - Kakadu National Park

 

Jabiru

Jabiru is a small and simple town with a small shopping complex that consists of a supermarket that sells everything, a Westpac branch, post office, newsagency, a café and council offices.  The Kakadu Bakery is around the corner and sells pies stuffed with buffalo, roo or croc, and there is a lake at the edge of town with a playground and BBQs.

 

The Crocodile Hotel is also in Jabiru – an enormous building shaped like a crocodile, and phone reception is available with all networks.

 

Crocodile Hotel - Kakadu National Park

 

Malabanjbanjdju

Our first camp spot in Kakadu, and we were inundated with mozzies.  We shouldn’t have been surprised considering that the site is next to a lagoon, but at least it was quiet and the birdlife was lovely.

 

The Malabanjbanjdju camping area has heaps of space, drop toilets, picnic benches and fire places and is $5 per person per night.

 

DAY 3

Gubara

We had a bit of a rusty start – forgetting our hats, and being completely disorganised for our first hike in a long time.  We completed a lovely 3km walk through grassland and great scenery to cross a bridge and arrive at a fork in the road.  One clearly leads to the pools, which were clear and cool and more than welcome for a quick refreshing wash.  Tiny frogs and St Andrews Cross spiders were clearly visible in the area but we were conscious that there could be freshwater crocodiles as well.  As we rested by the waterhole, a monitor lizard sunned himself on a rock.

 

We returned to the fork in the road and followed the unmarked path to shaded waterfall.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Nawurlandja

This lookout took us up a long rocky ramp to a beautiful view of the escarpment.  This is one of our favourite lookouts and reminded us of Cave Hill in Western Australia.

 

 

Nourlangie (Burrunggui)

The Anbangbang gallery is a popular location that exhibits Aboriginal rock art. It’s an easy 1.5km loop with wheelchair access in some parts and includes a lookout.  The Nourlangie region consists of two areas.  Burrunggui is the name for the higher parts and Anbangbang is the name of the lower areas. The rock shelters in the Nourlangie area have been used by Aboriginal people for the last 20,000 years.

 

At the lookout, there’s a fork in the path to begin the Barrk walking trail.  Barrk means male black wallaroo and the walking track is a 12km circular loop that includes walking through bushland, gullies, and climbing rocky ridges to see various galleries along the way.  It’s an area that Ludwig Leichhardt passed through in 1845 and this history is reflected in the artwork.  We did a short stint of the Barrk walk to a small creek to refresh ourselves.

 

 

Mirrai Lookout

This was a very steep 2km climb to a lookout structure that was partially obscured by trees.  Signs at the top pointed out landmarks in the distance.  We stayed long enough to catch our breath before returning to the Troopy.

 

Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre

This was a quick stop to check out what was on offer.  There was an interesting exhibition inside about the aboriginals who live in this country, as well as a souvenir shop, kiosk and toilets.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

We learnt how they cooked wallaroos, and that they thought flying foxes apparently taste good.  We also learnt about the buffalo farming industry, message sticks and different types of spears.

 

As we continued south west along the highway, we crossed Jim Jim Creek and saw a crocodile in the water below!

 

Gungurul

We camped at Gungurul and did the lookout walk at sunset.  It’s a fair climb to the top with great views all the way around.  Juz’s keen eye spotted a cute little legless lizard catching the last few rays of sunlight on a rock.

 

 

The Gungurul camping area has limited spaces, with drop toilets, picnic chairs and fire places and is $5 per person per night.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 2

Won't give up without a fight - Noonamah Rodeo

Experience : Noonamah Rodeo

Noonamah Rodeo - YEEHA!

It’s a cowboy thing – the hats, the chaps, the jeans and the shirts… and let’s not forget the stars of the show, the bulls and horses.  Rodeo is a competitive sport that tests the skill of the cowboy.  The word comes from the Spanish language and means “to round up”.  A typical event will include bronco and bull riding, and possibly calf roping, steer wrestling, goat tying and mutton bustling.

 

The Noonamah Rodeo runs during the dry season in Darwin and we were lucky enough to catch the last one.  The line to get in was huge but the ladies at the door powered through and before we knew it, we were in the thick of it.  The place was packed and about 90% were wearing a checker shirt and jeans with a cowboy hat.

 

 

We found a spot to sit and waited for the action.  In the central area, a rider was preparing for his turn.  The gate opens and a monstrous animal charges out, kicking and bucking.  Some riders fall within milliseconds while others hold on and become heroes.  After the bout, rodeo clowns (aka bullfighters) would round the animal up.  After a few rounds of bucking broncos and kicking bulls, kids got their time to shine as they got shook about on teeny tiny ponies that looked like they were running on Energiser batteries.  The half-time show was some motorbike action.  The riders got some amazing air and showed off their fancy stunts for the crowd’s pleasure.

 

Noonamah Rodeo – 26th October 2013 from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

 

Dave watched with anticipation, waiting to see someone get hurt.  And they did.  One cowboy got bucked off near the corner of the arena and went down hard.  A rodeo clown rushed in to protect him, but the bull was cornered and got aggressive.  It charged over them and trampled the clown right in the middle of his back.  The cowboy got up and painfully limped away, but the clown’s face was bleeding and he had to be carried off on a stretcher.

 

We had some time to walk around as well.  Dave got some chicken drumsticks and chips for $8, which was a good deal, and a can of Jack Daniels and Dry for $10, which wasn’t a good deal.  After about 2 hours, we felt we had seen enough and went home.

 

 

Juz’s Opinion

We paid our $27 to get in, found a patch of grass to sit on and waited for the action to start.  As soon as that first animal came out bucking its brains out, whatever facial expression I had turned into a pouty frown.

 

Everyone is cheering and clapping while this poor animal is being put through something it doesn’t want to do.  Regardless of whether the rider scored a point or fell off within half a second, the commentator encouraged the crowd to cheer… but for what? Riding an animal that doesn’t want to be ridden?  I just don’t understand why bull-riding is so great.  Is it a penis thing?  While the rider is risking serious injury, the poor animal is also at risk and is encouraged to buck by tying a flank strap around its sensitive parts.

 

I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen enough rodeos…

 

 

Straya Animals!

FOREIGNER FAQ

Australia can be a pretty confusing place if you don’t understand the lingo or the law.  We hope this post will help international visitors navigate around what you can and can’t do, and what you shouldn’t do.  If you have any questions that you would like to have answered, send them through and we’ll put an answer together as soon as we can.

 

Aussie Slang

Update your vocabulary with some words of vague origin that are used by Aussies during general speech.  Of course, you may have to get used to the accent and that our laid-back attitude seeps into the way we talk.  A simple sentence can come out sounding like a series of grunts and slurs or a really long word, so the two options you have if you don’t have any clue what was just said to you is to either smile, nod and leave, or keep saying “you’re gonna have to say that again in English because I don’t understand you” until a conversation ensues.

 

Check out our Aussie slang post here.

 

Straya Animals!

 

Free Camping

The most valuable resource you can purchase is a Camps Australia book.  Not only is it a great road directory of Australia, but it also marks off petrol stations, landmarks and places where you can stay overnight.

 

Some of the places are barren rest areas in the middle of no-where, others are sheltered camp spots with picnic facilities and toilets.  Some are in homesteads and remote stations, others are in caravan parks.  The book will tell you whether you need to pay a fee to enter or camp, and it also provides a contact number, just in case you want to call ahead and find out what the fee will be for the night.

 

We purchased one of these brilliant books in Mount Gambier and it has paid for itself over and over again.  We’ve gone through the thing and highlighted all the free camps for quick reference, but there have been a few paid places that we’ve stayed at, purely because they only charge $5 per person for the night.

 

Get your copy here http://www.campsaustraliawide.com/

 

Cobboboonee camping

 

Cheap Supermarkets

Fresh produce prices vary from state to state but you will generally find that the cheapest supermarkets are the major ones (Coles or Woolworths).  Some towns only have IGAs but it’s still worth going in and having a look for some deals.

 

Almost every supermarket you enter will have a clearance section, where you can get stuff like moisturiser and sunscreen, old holiday stock and packet mix foodstuffs super cheap.  The dairy and bakery sections will also have reduced stock like a whole loaf of bread for $1.50 or a 500g tub of yoghurt for $3, while discounted meat is usually marked off with a special clearance sticker.  These reduced products are often very close to their “use-by” date, so make sure you have enough time to eat everything you buy before it gets gross.

 

Half a roast chicken on special for $2 - SCORE!

 

Cheap Petrol

With the fluctuations of petrol prices, it pays to do some research.  More often than not, prices will be lower in larger towns along the coast than smaller towns.  For diesel, the average price is around $1.50 a litre in the cities. We saw the price get up to about $2 a litre on the Nullarbor in South Australia and over $2.35 in the Kimberley.

 

Lots of supermarkets have discount programs with petrol stations.  Coles is connected to Shell, Woolworths is connected to Caltex, and in smaller towns, the independent grocery stores may be connected with the local petrol station.  To get a discount voucher for your petrol, you’ll need to spend around $30 on groceries and your voucher will be a barcode at the bottom of the docket.  Give this to the console operator at the petrol station to get around 4 cents off per litre.

 

Dangerous Wildlife

It is not a secret that Australia is covered with animals that will peck, bite, sting and eat you.  Here is a very brief guide to those animals, but we suggest you do some further research if you are seriously concerned about meeting one of these critters.

 

Crocodiles

There are two kinds of crocodiles in Australia along the northern coast.  Freshwater crocodiles grow to about 1-2 metres in length and tend to just want to chill out.  It doesn’t matter how relaxed they look, leave them alone because they still have a mouth full of sharp teeth.

 

Saltwater crocodiles are found in rivers, estuaries and on beaches and can grow well beyond 2 metres in length.  These guys are aggressive and love eating humans.  A general rule to remember is – if there’s barramundi, there’s crocs, but there are usually signs near water that tell you if crocs are about.  Don’t eat or clean fish near the water’s edge and camp well away from rivers, estuaries and pools.  You don’t want to end up like one of those wildebeest in those documentaries that get dragged and twisted into the water.

 

Spiders

If you want to get close enough to a spider to touch it, then you’re nuts.  Just leave ALL OF THEM alone!  White tails are scavenger spiders that can cause your flesh to rot from the bacteria on their fangs, while funnel webs are seriously venomous and can chase a human just to bite them!  WATCH OUT AND STAY AWAY!

 

 

Snakes

Some are not a threat to humans while others will not hesitate to inject you with a lethal dose of venom if you make them feel threatened.  To avoid any confusion, respect and stay away from all snakes.

 

Cane Toads

These introduced bastards are wreaking havoc on our ecosystems.  An adult cane toad is chunky, about 10-15cm in length with a bony head, poisonous glands behind the ears, dry, bumpy skin of grey, yellow or olive brown and a pale belly.  At the moment, they are found in Northern Territory and Queensland and we don’t want them spreading anywhere else.  Check your car and luggage for stowaways.

 

Marine animals

Jellyfish are an issue, especially the Box Jellyfish, which is one of the most lethal animals in the world.  They are usually found along the coast and have long stingers that administer painful venom.  You can put vinegar on the affected area and remove the tentacles with a towel, but seek medical attention immediately!

 

Other marine animals include the Blue-Ringed Octopus, a pretty little thing that is actually the most toxic sea creature in the world.  It has a powerful nerve toxin in its salivary glands that can paralyse you in 10 minutes and kill you in 30 minutes.  Stonefish are masters of camouflage and are gagging for you to step on them so they can give you a nasty sting.  Stories stay that the pain is so excruciating that the only thing that will stop the pain is amputation…

 

The other obvious marine animal to look out for is the shark.  Just watch JAWS before you arrive in Australia and you’ll get your education.

 

Fishing Permits

Each state has their own laws about fishing.  Some require you to purchase a fishing license while others allow fishing in the ocean but not in rivers and estuaries.  Perhaps you’re allowed to catch this fish but not that fish, or you might be allowed to catch a 13cm blue swimmer crab in South Australia but a 12.7cm crab in Western Australia.

 

Make sure you check the laws at information centres before you end up with a fine.  You can get free stickers that give you the acceptable lengths of each fish that you can catch in the state, and there are identification booklets available to let you know what’s good to eat and what’s poisonous.  Just Google ‘fishing licence Australia’ to get you started…

 

Fishing on Busselton Jetty during a sunset 

 

Quarantine & Exclusion Zones

Quarantine zones are mainly about stuff that you can and can’t bring in and out of the country, but did you know that there are exclusion zones within Australia?  If you’re planning on doing a road trip, make sure you’re aware of these zones.  The last thing you want is to be fully stocked with fruits and vegetables, honey and nuts, and drive past a sign that tells you that you need to put all of that into the bin before going any further.

 

A big checkpoint is Border Village on the Nullarbor.  We were aware of the restrictions and made sure that we had no fresh fruits of vegetables, nuts or honey.  When we got to the check point, a guy with a clipboard searched our vehicle and found adzuki beans in our grains box.  They were confiscated and we were allowed to proceed.

 

The reason for quarantine zones is so that pests like the notorious fruit fly or other little bugs, weeds or diseases don’t get brought into uninfected areas and wreak havoc.  Read up on interstate quarantine here: http://www.quarantinedomestic.gov.au/index.php

 

Bush Fires

Australia’s aridity leaves it susceptible to bush fires that either spring up naturally due to the intense heat, accidentally from a discarded cigarette butt or campfires, or intentionally by an arsonist.

 

Bush fires are serious business and can move really fast, burning everything in its path.  If you hear about a bushfire in the area, talk to locals, listen to the news and make sure you’re not driving to your doom.

 

Darwin 2013-07-01 236

 

Aboriginal Communities

There are many aboriginal communities throughout Australia – some are open and welcome visitors, while some are closed and prefer to be left alone.  It’s important to be respectful and make contact with the community via the appropriate channels before you go to visit.  You may be required to explain why you want to visit and how long you want to stay.

 

Getting Work

Working while you travel is a great way to fund your adventure, and there are a couple of things that you might want to consider. The first thing you’re gonna have to do is get a tax file number.  If you don’t, you could get taxed at a really high amount, thus leading to less money in your pocket.  Get a TFN at www.ato.gov.au.

 

If you’re visiting Australia, you’ll also need a Working Visa that you can get from the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.  Go to www.immi.gov.au for information and advice.

 

Once you’ve sorted yourself out, you can check out farm and harvesting jobs, or office and hospitality jobs. If you want to pour beers in a pub, you’ll probably need a Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate (RSA), and if you have any particular qualification, you can search for relevant jobs on www.seek.com.au.

 

Renting/Buying a car

Buying a car in Australia isn’t as easy as going to the milkbar and buying an ice cream.  You need to have a valid license and get a roadworthy certificate, car registration and possibly car insurance.

 

As with some of the other things mentioned already, licensing, registration and roadworthiness differs from state to state.  If you can get a car with registration, then you’re winning, but you need to make sure that the registration is renewed once it runs out, which is usually once a year.  Suss out all the details with the Department of Transport for the state that you plan to visit.

 

If you’re considering renting a car, there are plenty of options for you.  There are companies which offer cars, campervans, mobile homes, and even 4WDs.  Consider the places and things you want to see, and choose your vehicle accordingly.

 

Troopy on the beach!

 

Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

Experience : Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

Located about 20km south of Geraldton is a privately owned wildlife park with a variety of agendas.  While it provides a wonderful experience to all animal lovers, it is also a sanctuary for injured animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated, and a place to educate people and raise awareness about wildlife conservation.

 

Tin animals at the front of Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park

 

The Park

Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park has been around since the 1970s but it was handed over to Michelle and Jo in 2008.  Since then, they have made a lot of changes to the park to accommodate school groups and educational demonstrations about wildlife conservation and reptile awareness, as well as constructing new enclosures for the animals that live at the park.

 

 

Within the park is a gnome village, which is sure to delight, and the Easter Island heads add a kooky element to the landscape.  There is also has a picnic area with BBQ facilities and colourful playground, which is perfect if you want to celebrate your child’s birthday, and the gift shop has a variety of mementos to take home with you.

 

The Animals

All the animals in the park have been hand raised and have either lived there for a really long time or are new residents.  The oldest animal we saw was a cocky called Wacker who was born in 1945!

 

 

As we strolled around the park, we encountered crocodiles and pythons, sheep and goats, emus and an ostrich, parakeets and cockatoos, dingoes and kangaroos, and a flock of guinea fowl.  The kids loved the talking galah and feeding the kangaroos, and they were fascinated by the silver pheasant, sparrow hawk and the tawny frogmouth, that silently followed the kids as they moved around the cage.

 

The park also offers the opportunity to meet the animals and have your picture taken patting a dingo or cuddling a snake.

 

 

The Conservation

Michelle and Jo are deeply passionate about animal rescue and conservation and use the wildlife park as a sanctuary to rehabilitate rescued animals that have either been injured or abandoned.  They have an average of 10 animals a month that are brought in due to injury – snakes, lizards, echidnas and bats – they even get called out to assist with injured seals.

 

The most common animal that is brought in due to injury are kangaroos.  In most cases, the mother has been killed while crossing the road or shot while the joey is still in its pouch.  They rescue and raise over 25 joeys a year before they are released back into the wild.

 

Sadly, some animals cannot be released back into the wild and are deemed derelict.  In these cases, they need to be re-homed or euthanised, and this is where the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park steps in.  If the animal is of a young age and will not be stressed in a captive environment, then the park will take them in and give them the opportunity to live a fulfilling life in a safe environment.  The tawny frogmouth that we met in the park is a derelict juvenile and it looked quite at home in the park.

 

 

Birds that have been abandoned by their parents or have fallen out of the nest are also brought in so they can live the rest of their lives in safety. In the case of Priscilla the African Ostrich – she came from an ostrich farm that closed down and she probably wouldn’t be around today if it wasn’t for Michelle and Jo.

 

Michelle and Jo are also involved with the National Dingo Preservation and Recovery Program, an initiative based in Victoria that aims to create a database of DNA-tested dingoes for the purpose of breeding.  Dingoes are being hunted and have very little protection so it’s important that we do something to ensure that they don’t get wiped out like the Tasmanian Tiger.  They also support the Ochre Project, which aims to raise awareness about dingo preservation and ban the use of 1080 poison baits in Australia.

 

Michelle is also a licensed reptile remover and has been called to move many venomous snakes, including a 1.3 metre monitor lizard. Because the Greenough Wildlife and Bird Park is an animal rescue refuge, if you find an injured animal, you can call 08 99261171 at any time.  If they are unable to take the animal in, they will help you with advice.

 

The Essentials

The Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park is located on Company Road in Greenough.  The Park is open every day from 10am -5pm, and is closed only two days of the year – Christmas Day and New Years Day.

 

 

Entry is at the great price of $9 for adults and $6 for kids, and a bag of feed for the animals is $1 each. Discounts for group bookings are available and callouts with the animals for special events can be arranged.  They also have a huge photo op board at the front of the park.

 

Phone: 08 9926 1171

Website: http://www.wildlifeandbirdpark.com.au/