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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is more than just a place to meet some local animals – it’s a sanctuary and rehabilitation facility for injured wildlife, as well as an education centre for the public and for future animal handlers who want to care for these beautiful creatures.

 

The Park

The sanctuary started around 30 years ago when a family began to raise and take care of injured and orphaned animals. It turned into a wildlife park where people could pay to see the animals. Bonorong’s turning point was when ownership changed over to the hands of Greg Irons. He changed the focus of the park from a money making venture to a place where animals can be rehabilitated, people can be educated, and whatever else he can achieve in between.

 

Bonorong became a park where injured animals can recover, where orphaned animals can grow up safely, and where disabled animals can live out the rest of their days. They run a 24 hour rescue service and receive up to 30 calls per day. They offer an internship for animal handling, which has been a great initiative because until recently, there was only one person in Tasmania with experience in seabird rehabilitation.

 

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A recent project that the sanctuary has been working on is establishing an animal hospital. After jumping through the necessary bureaucratic hoops, it’s nearly ready to be built but they’re still relying on donations and visitors to the park to make it happen.

 

General entry gives you access to all the animals in the park, including the stars of the show – the Tasmanian Devils. Bonorong also offer public and private tours, as well as a feeding frenzy tour and night tour – which would be great because a lot of the animals at the sanctuary are nocturnal.

 

 

The Animals

There are all sorts of unique Aussie animals at Bonorong.  we got to meet a 100 year old cockatoo named Fred, who received a birthday letter from Buckingham Palace with their best wishes.

 

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We also got acquainted with one of the success stories of the sanctuary – Fisher the bare-nosed wombat. He was rescued from an untimely death when his mother, who was infected with a parasite that disrupted her balance, had fallen into a dam and could not get out. While she was not able to be saved, Fisher was rescued from her pouch – and look at him today! Bonorong have released 10 wombats back into the wild over the last 6 years.

 

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As well as all the cute kangaroos lounging around the sanctuary, there are also koalas and galahs, bettongs and quolls, emus and echidnas, blue-tongue lizards and snakes. But what we were really there to see were the little devils.

 

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Tasmanian Devils

The animal we were anticipating to see the most was the Tasmanian Devil and we are so happy that our first encounter was at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

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Tassie Devils are about the size of a small dog and are mainly black with a white strip across their hind legs and chest. Females can grow up to 7kg while males can be up to 10kg, and they live for about 4-5 years in the wild. Their scientific name Sarcophilus harrisii, means Harris’s meat lover, named after the guy who first published a description of the Tassie Devil in 1807.

 

Because their legs are a bit short and stumpy, they don’t move particularly fast and can only run as fast as a chicken. While they can manage to catch small animals like frogs and lizards, they’re great scavengers and rely on their sharp teeth that can chew through bones. They also have powerful feet and claws, perfect for digging a den where they hang out for the most of the day.

 

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Contrary to their reputation, they are timid and shy. In fact, when rangers check on them in the wild, the Devils freeze or play dead. The name Tasmanian Devil name comes from the settlers, who were mortified by the sounds that came from the forest at night. Back then, they were also named Beelzebub’s pup or “satanic meatlover”.

 

We got to meet Prince, a Tassie Devil that was born in the park. He’s about 5 years old and he loves treats (aka wallaby morsels). Lucky for him, wallabies are considered a pest in Tasmania so he’s never short on treats!

 

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The population of wallabies has exploded in Tasmania, particularly because their main predator, the thylacine, has been extinct for over 80 years. Also, farmers have inadvertently provided them with an easy supply of food so they never go hungry. To control the population, farmers are encouraged to cull a quota of wallabies, but the other unintended method of control is by road kill. After all, Tasmania is the road kill capital of the world!

 

Unfortunately, the population of Tasmanian Devils is not booming. There’s a constant uphill battle to ensure that this endangered species does not become extinct. They have battled a fatal facial tumour, but just as the disease was beginning to come under control, a new strain has appeared. This contagious tumour is spread when the Devils bite each other, whether it be playfully or aggressively.

 

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The Essentials

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Brighton, about 30 minutes north of Hobart.

 

They’re open every day from 9am to 5pm and an adult ticket is $26 and includes a free wildlife tour and complimentary kangaroo food, so you can easily break the ice with some of the resident macropods.

 

For more details, check out their website http://bonorong.com.au/

 

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Undara

Natural Wonders : Undara Volcanic National Park

Undara

 

About 190,000 years ago, when Australia was a lot different to what it is now, there was an eruption.  Not a violent, ‘Dante’s Peak’ eruption.  The ground grumbled, dark smoke and steam billowed from a crack in the rocky terrain, and molten rock from below the earth’s crust oozed from the fissure.  When Undara erupted, it left its mark on the land and today, we can get a glimpse into the tremendous enormity of volcanos.

 

Located along the Savannah Way, Undara Experience is a remarkable opportunity to explore Australia’s natural geological wonders and experience true hospitality in a brilliant outback environment. 

 

The Collins family were the first white settlers in the area and have owned the property since 1862. It wasn’t until 1987 when fourth generation member Gerry Collins submitted an application to showcase the lava tubes while still maintaining sustainability and environmental consciousness.  In partnership with the regional and state governments, Undara Volcanic National Park was gazetted and tours of the caves were to be provided via the Collins family lodge.

 

The birth of the Undara Experience followed in 1990 when the Collins family acquired the old railway carriages. They were used during the early 1900s and once they were decommissioned, the Queensland Government was planning to scrap them.  When Gerry caught wind of this news, he negotiated a deal and took them of the government’s hands, refurbished them, and set them amongst the trees.  They now have a new life, providing a unique style of accommodation and an eccentric atmosphere to the bar and bistro.

 

The Lava Tubes

Undara means “long way” in the local Aboriginal dialect, referring to the distance that the lava flowed from Undara volcano 190,000 years ago, and today, 164 craters can be found in the national park.  The only way to see the lava tubes is by guided tour, and we were stoked to go on the Archway Explorer tour with 20 other lucky explorers.  We learnt a lot about the geology of the surrounding area, from the pink granite boulders that are 350-400 million years old, to the vesicular basalt that has bubbles in it caused by gases from the last volcanic eruption, about 190,000 years ago.

 

We descended into a valley that was green and lush compared to the savannah scrub above, and strolled along boardwalks until we got to our first set of lava tubes.  These valleys were created by sections of the lava tubes that had collapsed and are now vegetated with semi-evergreen vine thicket.

 

The lava tubes are a result of the eruption of the Undara volcano.  It was a shield volcano about 340m wide, and the eruption was a non-violent event, more like a pot on the stove boiling over.  The lava flowed out of the volcano along water courses at about 900m per hour – the outsides of the lava cooled while the centre stayed fluid and kept flowing.  The lava tubes extend about 160km from the volcano, making the lava tubes at Undara the longest flow from a single volcano in the world.

 

So far, 69 tubes have been found in Undara Volcanic National Park.  Tours allow the public access to eight of them, as the others are not safe for humans due to their extremely high levels of CO2.  The Archway Explorer tour was so interesting that before we knew it, time was up and we were back on the bus and heading back to the resort.  Other tours include the Active Explorer, Volcano Valley and Wildlife at Sunset, which gives guests the opportunity to see the wildlife that visits the tubes at dusk.

 

Undara

 

The Resort

Accommodation varies from fully air-conditioned Pioneer Huts, restored Railway Carriages, Swag Tents and Safari Shelters, or you can bring your own tent or caravan and set up in one of the powered or unpowered sites.  Facilities include a guest laundry at $2 per load, fuel and Wi-Fi access.  Wallabies and kangaroos wander around the park, some with joeys hanging out of their pouches.

 

Undara

 

 

Activities around the resort include meals at the Fettlers Iron Pot Bistro (watch out for the thieving kookaburras), a nightcap of their delicious Undara Lava Tawny at the Saloon Car, self-guided walks that explore the surrounding bush, or a lazy afternoon by the pool.  In the evenings from 8pm, there are also various campfire activities.  We sat and listened to readings from great Aussie poets, like Banjo Patterson while treating ourselves to their delicious signature chocolate volcano dessert.

 

Undara

 

One of our favourite activities was the Bush Breakfast.  We had just returned from a sunrise hike around Kalkani Crater and our tummies were grumbling. A path through the bush brought us to a clearing with the most wonderful smells.  There were two campfires – one for bush tea and coffee, the other for toasting your own bread.  There were also sausages, eggs and bacon on the BBQ, with beans and vegie ratatouille on the side.  A table was set up with all the breakfast staples – juice, milk, soy, four kinds of cereal, butter and vegemite, and a wide variety of fruit – with tin cups and plates and log stumps for tables.  We feasted, and did not need to eat again until dinnertime.

 

 

Undara

 

The Essentials

Undara Experience is located 40km east of Mount Surprise, and the road in is fully sealed, so it’s easily accessible by car and caravan.  We cannot express how impressive the Undara Experience is.  We could have easily spent a week going on the tours and guided walks, playing pool in the Saloon Car or just relaxing by the pool.

 

To have your own Undara Experience, book now by calling 1800 990 992.  For more information, visit their website at undara.com.au

 

Please be aware of wildlife on the way into Undara. The road in is nicknamed Kangaroo Alley, and we actually clipped the backside of a kangaroo on the way back from Kalkani. We’re happy to say that it continued to bounce away but would have copped a nasty bruise on its backside.

 

Undara

 

Flames of the Forest

Experience : Flames of the Forest, Port Douglas QLD

Flames of the Forest

For a truly magical and romantic experience in Port Douglas, you can’t go past the Flames of the Forest.  We were lucky enough to be treated to such an exquisite night by Juz’s sister during our birthday celebrations in September.  The event was a total secret to Juz – and when Cyn told her to put a nice dress on and a bus arrived to pick the four of us up – Juz was getting pretty excited.

 

We entered the forest and about 5 minutes later, the road was on fire.  The bus driver stopped and told us that it was time to get off.  A path lined by kerosene lanterns led us to a clearing in the forest.  A marquee had been set up, with beautiful jellyfish-like chandeliers, tables and candles, and a singer on stage playing Somewhere Over The Rainbow on her ukulele.

 

 

We sat down and noticed how many knives and forks there were – it looked like it was gonna be a gastronomical night!  Drinks were also plentiful, with two ladies walking around with wine all night.

 

Flames of the Forest

 

The first course was kangaroo carpaccio with rocket and parmesan cheese, drizzled with truffle oil and balsamic glaze – YUM!

 

The second course was the winner – smoked crocodile rillettes (sort of like paté) with crispy ciabatta crackers and a dill salsa verde, as well as crab tortellini in a fennel cream sauce.  Both of these were served on the same plate and both were ABSOLUTELY AMAZEBALLSTASTIC!

 

Next up was trout with some beans and white sauce – not so amazeballstastic, but all was redeemed with the next course – tender beef cheeks with potato and baby vegetables.

 

Dessert was divine – black sapote (chocolate pudding fruit) pave with orange blossom cream, raspberry sauce and a crispy nut toffee on top.  SO GOOD!

 

 

We had a quick boogie on the dance floor before the bus was back to whisk us away from the beautiful dreamscape and to our beds in the hostel.  Thank you so much Cyn and Matty for taking us to such a beautiful place.

 

Flames of the Forest

 
Book your magical experience at TripAdvisor

 

Frogs love the Kimberley

Experience : The Kimberley – Part 2

About halfway along the Gibb River Road is a turnoff that heads north to Mitchell Falls.  If you are well prepared for the trip, do it – the drive might be long but the hike to the falls is worth it.

 

Mitchell Plateau

Located in the Northern Kimberley, the Mitchell Plateau is home to the Mitchell River National Park, which covers about 115,000 hectares of rugged wilderness.  The road in is more rough than the western end of the Gibb River Road, with lots of sharp, rocky bits, river crossings and muddy tracks with big red puddles.

 

We saw a few dingoes that looked more like wild dogs and passed forests of livistona palms which really added some great character to the landscape.

 

 

Miners Pool

Our first stop along the Gibb River-Kalumburu Road, Miners Pool is a great place to stop and rest.  The camping area is equipped with oil barrel toilets and camping fees are payable at the Drysdale Homestead.

 

Drysdale Homestead

We needed to top up on fuel and water so we pulled into Drysdale H/S.  As expected, fuel prices were through the roof – even more expensive than the Nullarbor – petrol was about $2.40 p/L while diesel was $2.35 p/L.  The store wasn’t much different, with flour going at $6 a kilo and a box of shapes was just over $5.

 

Drinking water was free though, and we filled up every vessel we could.  There is also a beer garden and food outlet, and the people that we met were really friendly.

 

 

Lawley Lookout

In between the King Edward River and the Mitchell Falls National Park is a rest stop that overlooks a valley filled with livistona palms.  It’s a great view and worth stopping to take a look and stretch your legs before you continue on towards Mitchell Falls.

 

Mitchell Falls (Punamii-inpuu)

Located within the Mitchell River National Park.  Entry fees apply but if you have a WA Parks Pass you’re all sorted.

 

The 8km walk to the falls proved to be a great day out.  Some parts of the track were rocky and difficult while other parts are level and easy.  There were heaps of flowers along the way, as well as lizards and frogs.  Make sure you wear your togs because there are heaps of waterholes for a nice swim.  The area is sacred to the Wunambal people, please respect the area and approach waterholes quietly and courteously.

 

 

Little Merten Falls – This was the first water feature of the day, and even though it’s called Little Merten Falls, it’s a long drop down into the waterhole.  We saw a goanna basking in the sun, and climbed down behind the waterfall to check out an Aboriginal art gallery with a few Bradshaw style drawings.  We stopped here on our way back to camp to cool off under the spray.

 

Big Merten Falls When we arrived, we could see why this was called the Big Merten Falls.  The drop down in the gorge was at least 100 metres and it was daunting to look down.  We crossed the river via stepping stones at the top of the waterfall.

 

Big Merten Falls

 

Mitchell Falls – Wow – so much water, power and noise!  The hike was definitely worth the view as the Mitchell River cascades 150 metres down into the gorge.  The water in the river is drinkable so we sat down, had lunch and rehydrated before heading back to camp.

 

 

Camping

It’s $7 per adult per night to camp, and the facilities include Jumanji drop toilets, fire pits and generator/no-generator zones.  Ultimately, it didn’t really matter whether you were camped next to a generator or not, it was bloody noisy all day because of the helicopter operation next to the campsites that flew tourists over the Mitchell Falls.

 

The campfire curfew was between 4pm and 8am, which is just enough time to make dinner and breakfast!  While we were cooking up some faux fried rice, we got some camping neighbours and they turned out to be a great couple.  Andrea and James (aka Fox & Lamb) were holidaying for 2 weeks in their Lambcruiser and were on their way back home.  We sat around the fire, chatted and sucked cans well into the night, shared stories and had some great laughs.  It was totes awesomeballs to meet these guys – absolute tits!

 

The Lamb

 

Surveyor Pool

After spending the night at Mitchell Falls, we headed north to Surveyor Pool in the morning.  Access to the pool is via a 4WD track with 2-3 metre tall grass on either side, plus a short walk to the river.

 

It was like an oasis – the river tumbled down into a beautiful pool surrounded by pandanus and livistona palms.  We only saw one saltwater croc – and that was enough to confirm that we weren’t going to climb down into the gorge.  We stayed on top of the falls and had a refreshing dip in the shallow rapids.

 

 

Eastern Kimberley

The scenery in the east of the Kimberley is really picturesque. In the distance and at the side of the road, there were fantastic rocky outcrops, escarpments and mountains.  Once we got back on the Gibb River Road, the scenery became more striking but the road became shittier.  We were now a few days into our Kimberley adventure and we were definitely grateful for all our recovery gear, but felt silly that we didn’t properly stock up on supplies.

 

Eastern Kimberley

 

Take care of your vehicle

Don’t go during the Wet Season between September and April.  The roads are often closed or impassable and if you get stuck, it’ll cost you big time. The Dry Season is best – and if you go at the start of the season there will be more greenery and water.

 

Check with locals about the road conditions and always be prepared with spare tyres, a tyre repair kit, and even a snorkel to get you over the river crossings.  Petrol vehicles need not apply.

 

Stock up!

We did a shocking job of stocking up before entering the remote Kimberley.  Sure, there are stores within the homesteads where you can buy essential items, but we couldn’t justify playing $6 for a kilo of flour when we could have prepared better and got it for only $1.

 

Good things to stockpile include WATER, crackers, peanut butter, rice, tinned tuna, carrots, potatoes, canned vegetables and meals.  If you want to make damper, you’ll also need flour, butter and milk or milk powder.

 

 

Emma Gorge 

As soon as we got there, we wanted to leave.  Emma Gorge is occupied by a big, fancy pants resort with green grass, a gift shop, restaurant and stylish accommodation.  Plus, we had to pay $10 each just to be there.  We declined and left.

 

The Grotto

When you reach the end of the Gibb River Road, turn north at the Great Northern Highway and head towards Wyndham.  The Grotto is about 15kms up the road and is a shaded waterhole within a gorge.  There are 140 manmade steps down into the gorge and it’s a nice place to cool off.

 

During the Wet Season, there is a gush of water that pours down into the gorge.  It was a little dry when we were there so the water was murky and stagnant, but it was still a nice place to be.  Plus, the water can be up to 175m deep.

 

 

Warmun (Turkey Creek)

The roadhouse is a great place to stop and shop for groceries or a decent steak sandwich, and there is a nifty mechanic in town in case you need any spare parts for your 4WD.  Warmun is one of the Kimberley’s largest communities with a population of over 400.  Please be respectful – Warmun is a closed aboriginal community.

 

The Bungle Bungles

A relatively new discovery in the Kimberley, the Bungle Bungles and Purnululu National Park are definitely worth the 2 hour drive along the 50km dirt road.  Check out our post on the Bungle Bungles here.

 

Reflections - The Bungle Bungles

Sunrise during our Yangie Island hike

Camping : Coffin Bay National Park

A great national park with a variety of landscapes, from high sand dunes and rocky cliffs to serene bays and limestone pavements.  A sealed road will take you as far as Avoid Bay and the Yangie Bay camping area, but if you plan to go any further, make sure you have a trusty 4WD and keep an eye on the tides.

 

There are about six campgrounds in the park.  We stayed at Yangie Bay and watched the full moon rise over the still bay.  Campsites were separated by thick bushes and drop toilets are available in the carpark.

 

 

Fishing is a popular activity in the park at Almonta Beach and Sensation Beach, while there are plenty of walking trails of various difficulties.  We did the Yangie Island Hike, which is supposed to be a 5km return trip, but it was actually 8km.  It passes the Yangie Lookout, which was beautiful at sunrise, and leads to a beach near Yangie Island.  There are plenty of kangaroos to bump into on the way, as well as the odd emu.

 

Point Avoid was also nice to visit.  The coastal views were grand and overlook Price Island and Golden Island. Don’t avoid Point Avoid (unless you’re in a ship)!

 

Entry and camping fees apply.  Permits are available at the self-registration station at the park entrance, or you can get an Annual or Holiday Pass from the Visitor Information Centre at Port Lincoln.

 

A pretty-eyed kangaroo holds on for a nibble

Wildlife : The Kangaroo

Dave gets a hug from a kangaroo

Name: Kangaroo

Scientific Classification: kangaroos comes from the Macropodidae family, meaning ‘large foot’, and the largest species are from the Macropus genus.

Alternative Names: the word kangaroo comes from the Aboriginal Guugu Yimithirr word gangurru, but was recorded as ‘kangooroo’ by Captain James Cook in 1770 while his ship was breached on the banks of the Endeavour River.  The urban myth is that they originally thought that ‘kangooroo’ meant ‘I don’t understand you’, because that’s what the locals said when Cook asked what a kangaroo was.

Location: they are found all over the country.

 

Fast Facts:

  • Male kangaroos are called bucks, boomers or old men while females are called does, flyers or jills.  Groups of kangaroos are called mobs or troops.
  • There are four speices of kangaroo – the red kangaroo is the largest and cover the open plains, the eastern and western greys prefer forests and scrub around the southern side of Australia, and the antilopine kangaroo lives in the far northern regions of queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.  There are also about 50 subspecies of closely-related macropods.
  • Kangaroos feature on the Australian coat of arms and on the 50c and $1 coins.
  • They are marsupials, which means their babies are reared in a pouch.
  • Kangaroo meat is low in fat, high in protein and is an excellent source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  You can purchase kangaroo meat from the shops in steak, sausage and ground meat form, and it makes a great alternative to beef.
  • Kangaroos are the only large animals that use hopping to get around and they can reach speeds of up to 70km per hour.
  • Kangaroos are good swimmers and will ofen use waterways to escape predators.  If the predator follows them into the water, the kangaroo may use its forepaws to hold the predator’s head underwater until it drowns.  Swimming is the only time that they can move their legs independantly.
  • They are strict herbivores, grazing on grasses and shrubs, and have similar stomachs to cows and sheep.
  • Kangaroos mate every year, gestation lasts for 33 days and at birth, the little joey is hairless, blind and only a few centimeters long.  It climbs through it’s mum’s thick fur to find the pouch, where it stays to drink milk and grow for about six months before it starts to feel safe to poke it’s head out of the pouch.  When it can’t fit in the pouch anymore – after about 235 days – it departs the pouch for life in the grass.
  • Female kangaroos are ready for reproduction a few days after giving birth, but if they mate and concieve, the fertilised egg is put into a dormant state until the previous joey leaves the pouch.  That means they can have three babies at the same time – one out of the pouch, one in the pouch and one on standby.

 

Cuteness Rating: They have pretty eyes and the joeys are freakin’ cute!

Danger Rating: have you heard about boxing kangaroos?  These guys have a catty right jab and can balance on their tail to kick you with both of their muscly legs at the same time.  Warning – their feet have been known to disembowel.

 

Our Encounter:  Where do we start?! We’ve seen so many in the last two months!

 

 

The tame kangaroos at Urimbirra Wildlife were very friendly and gave Juz hugs from all sides, but don’t expect this when you see roos in the wild.  More often then not, they’ll just look up and stare at you before hopping away.

 

Sunrise over the Flinders Ranges

Experience : The Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges are located 450km north of Adelaide, at the northern end of the Heysen Trail.  Wilpena Pound is the major attraction, a huge amphitheatre surrounded by a ridge of mountains, including St Mary’s Peak.  The mountains continue into the national park, creating beautiful valleys and tree-lined gorges, perfect for bushwalking and 4WDing.  There is heaps of native wildlife running around like kangaroos and emus (bush chooks), as well as introduced stock such as feral goats and rabbits.

 

The Flinders Ranges is abundant with geological features and fossils and most of the rock is made up of quartzites, limestone, shales and sandstones.  It formed about 800 million years ago beneath the ocean before the land was lifted out of the ocean, causing folds and fractures in the earth.  Aboriginal culture is important to the area.  The Adnyamathanha people are the traditional custodians of the region and their name means rock people.  Dreamtime stories about how the land and animals were made are published on plaques around the national park – why crows are black and how the rivers beds were dug through the earth.

 

 

We raced the sun as we drove through Quorn and Hawker to get to Wilpena before dark.  We stayed one night before heading into the Flinders Ranges National Park to our next camp spot – Aroona Ruins.  In the morning, we packed up and headed towards Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park.  This part of the flinders ranges is much more rugged and isolated and features Arkaroola, an award-winning wilderness sanctuary.  Unfortunately, after copping two tyre punctures on the way there, we decided to cut our losses and head for the highway to make our way back down south towards Port Augusta.

 

While we were out there in the dry heat, dealing with our second puncture at Balcanoona, we realised that it takes a very special person to see the romantic side of the outback and the life of a bushranger.  The aridity and isolation, flies and thirst – they’re not pleasant.  While the scenery is fantastic, it’s probably more comfortably enjoyed via a Ken Duncan photograph.  Unless you and your rig are fully prepared for the intense landscapes, dirt roads and plethora of floodways, stay close to civilisation because there’s no reception and people are few and far between.

 

 

POINTS OF INTEREST

Wilpena

If you want to check out Wilpena Pound, many walking tracks begin at Wilpena, which is basically a resort town sporting a variety of accommodation from flash cabins to unpowered campsites.  The visitor centre is located right in the middle and while you have to pay for entry into Flinders Ranges National Park, you have to pay more to stay at the resort overnight.  It is a good pit stop to fill up on water, and they have showers, BBQs and picnic areas.

 

 

Kangaroos are everywhere, so be careful during sunrise and sunset, but the scenery is incredible. St Mary’s Peak, almost 1200 metres high is one of the mountains that make Wilpena Pound, and while we didn’t do the Pound hike, we woke at sunrise to watch the mountains turn red.

 

Bunyeroo Valley & Gorge

The drive through the national park was beautiful – rolling hills with dry forests of native pine, dirt roads winding through the valleys and gorges.  The view of Bunyeroo Valley from the Ridgeback Lookout was phenomenal and the Bunyeroo Gorge was nice to drive through.

 

 

Brachina Gorge

We thought we’d go and explore Brachina Gorge before setting up camp at Aroona Ruins.  We found a campsite of people who had found a puddle of water in a creek bed.  The vegetation was lush in this area and we watched goats cross the hillside in the distance, salivating at the thought of a slow-cooked goat curry.

 

Aroona Ruins & Red Hill Lookout

This campsite was great, but would have been even better if there was water in the creek.  There were kangaroos and goats prancing about.  We also saw a rabbit, foraging only a few meters from us, so we ran to get the bow, only to decide not to shoot it because we had a fridge stocked with meat biscuits and lamb chops.

 

 

The Ruins included a log house and shed and were built in 1925.  The famous artist, Sir Hans Heysen stayed in the house a few times to paint the surrounding landscape.

 

During the day, it was hot and dry and we were very lucky to have drinkable water from a tap nearby.  We lazed in the sun like kangaroos, reading and writing and snoozing.  Out there in the wilderness, it’s like time stands still and the hours sauntered by.  Many times the quiet was noticeable and only broken by the sound of flies buzzing about your ears or the distant bleat of a goat.

 

 

Once the sun was low in the sky, we put our hiking boots on and headed for Red Hill Lookout.  It’s a 4.3km hike with plenty of inclines to a fantastic panoramic view atop Red Hill.  It took us an hour to get there, with plenty of wallaroo spotting on the way.  By the time we got back, we were wet with sweat so we rinsed off and enjoyed our first night without the fly on the dome tent, gazing at the stars until we were asleep.

 

 

Parachilna Gorge

We were looking forward to getting to Parachilna and checking out the Prairie Hotel, but when we found out that they’re closed for 6 weeks at this time of the year, we were aghast!  The pub is famous for its Feral Food Platter and atmosphere, but they don’t advertise their closure so people come from miles away, sometimes from other countries to go there, only to find out they’re closed!

 

“Balls”, we said – and boycotted the town entirely.  Instead, we went to Parachilna Gorge and spent another night without the fly on the tent.  A really beautiful camping ground that is free for all, provided that campers keep respecting the area.

 

TOWNS

Quorn

If you’re travelling from Port Augusta to the Flinders Ranges, you may as well stop in Quorn and have a quick look around.  There is an old mill with an exit door on the second floor (???) and the town park has great

 

Hawker

General store is the place to go for coffee, food and advice.  They also have a great selection of camping equipment, a bottle shop and souvenirs.  At the entrance of town are toilets and coin-operated BBQs at 20c a pop.  There are also a few lookouts nearby, like Castle Rock and Camel Hump.

 

 

Leigh Creek

Located at the top end of the Flinders Ranges, Leigh Creek is the oasis in the middle of the desert.  It was originally set up in 1980 as a place to accommodate contractors who were involved in the coal industry.  Over the years, the population dwindled from 2500 to 500 and is now a gateway to central Australia.

 

The town boasts a friendly tavern with a great beer garden and schnitzel day on Wednesday, free electric BBQs by the footy oval, a local supermarket and café, as well as an Olympic-sized swimming pool to provide the perfect relief after a few days in the arid ranges.  Entry is $3 for adults and it was great to have a swim and a warm shower before moving on.

 

Leigh Creek swimming pool - the perfect way to end our time at the Flinders Ranges

Sugar Gum Lookout hike

Camping : Mount Remarkable National Park

Located in the southern Flinders Ranges, this beautiful national park offers a few campgrounds and a selection of great hikes into gorges shaded by red river gums.

 

Mambray Creek Camground

We stayed at Mambray Creek, shaded by big, twisted river red gums along the dry creek bed.  There are 54 designated sites, with plenty of taps offering great tasting drinking water.  In the centre of camp are toilets, showers and deep sinks for dishes and hand washing clothes.

 

 

If you’re after more sheltered accommodation, there is a cabin that offers basic accommodation right next to the amenities.  It sleeps a maximum of four people, contains a stove, table and chairs with cooking and eating utensils but refrigeration and bedding is BYO.

 

Wildlife

We couldn’t believe how close the animals got.  Our first surprise was a curious goanna lurking in the bushes near camp and a band of kookaburras perched in the nearby trees while we cooked dinner on the electric BBQ.  We also saw emus and kangaroos during our hike to Sugar Gum Lookout.

 

Hiking

Daveys Gully Hike – 1 hour loop, 2.4km

A track that everyone who camps at Mambray Creek should do.  It’s a quick trek through a gully before ascending the hill that overlooks the entrance to the national park.  You can see the Spencer Gulf from the top and even Whyalla on a clear day.  Along the way, you’ll see lizards and kangaroos.  Best time to do this hike is in the late afternoon just before sunset.

 

 

Sugar Gum Lookout – 3 hours return, 8km

An easy walk that follows Mambray Creek, the path is shaded by big river red gums.  We bumped into kangaroos, wallabies and a family of emus that dashed ahead as we approached.  A small cabin just before the 600m ascent is interesting to check out before marching up to the lookout, which overlooks red quartzite cliffs.

 

 

Camping is at around $18 a night, plus a $10 entry fee into the park, but if you get a Parks Holiday Pass for $70, that takes care of all entry and camping fees to SA National Parks for two months.

 

Happy snaps with the koala!

Urimbirra Wildlife Park

Menacing!

 

Urimbirra Wildlife Park is located only 5 minutes north of Victor Harbor and is the home for over 400 Australian animals, like kangaroos, koalas, snakes, lizards and birds.  There are also farm animals like chooks, rabbits and guinea pigs and you can get up close and personal with most of the animals.  They also have a kiosk and souvenir shop onsite and you are welcome to bring a picnic lunch to cook up on their electric BBQ and enjoy it in the Park.

 

Urimbirra is an aboriginal word meaning ‘to preserve’ or to ‘take care of’, which is very appropriate. The Park was opened in 1975 by the local council and went private in 1992.  It sits on land with a rich Aboriginal history, which is evident in the canoe trees on the property.

 

 

The first thing you’ll see as you walk through the park is the range of birdlife, including devious rainbow lorikeets.  The emus are curious creatures with eyes that are bigger than their brains.  They are the second largest bird in the world and can be a bit intimidating, but the ones at Urimbirra are tame enough to hand feed and peck at the folds of skin in your hand as you offer them food.  The cassowary, on the other hand, is a little more aggressive and was separated by a fence, and for good reason.  They are known to jump and kick your guts with their long and strong legs, usually aiming for disembowelment.  The young cassowary got a little upset when Juz called it Testicle Neck.

 

The Park’s echidna was an active little guy who was busy licking up the ants that were scurrying around his food plate before marching around his pen and diving into his burrow.  The wombats were a little more sedate but came out for lunch.

 

 

The Park also breeds lizards, snakes and tortoises.  The Reptile house has a variety of lizards and snakes, including the Tiger snake, which causes the most deaths in Australia, and the Brown snake, which causes the most bites in the state.

 

 

The Crocodiles

We made it to the crocodile enclosure just in time for the feeding.

 

Fresh water crocodiles range from 1.2 metres for females to 2.5 metres for males.  They have a longer, more slender snout which is perfect for gliding through the water to catch fast little creatures like fish.  They pose minimal threat to humans but if approached, they might close their eyes, which makes them look like they’re sleeping, but they’re actually protecting their eyes from danger and are ready to ‘defend’ themselves and deliver quite a bite. Andy, the onsite handler, has been bitten a few times. He said that flesh wounds aren’t too bad, but if they hit a bone then it really hurts. Ouch!

 

 

Salt water crocodiles eat larger animals like duck and geese, but once they reach 3 metres long, they’ll attack anything, like cows and horses.  They are much faster in the water than on land, prefer murky water so they can ambush their enemy, and usually kill larger animals to defend their territory.  They are very aggressive and are definitely a danger to humans.

 

The Koalas

We had the opportunity to touch and pose with these guys.  Their fur is thick and soft but a little wiry and they were mostly oblivious to the hands that reached out to pat them.

 


These days, koala numbers are dwindling due to death by cars and dogs, whereas back in the day, their main threat was the dingo.  Check out our post on the Koala.

 

The Kangaroos

Urimbirra have a variety of kangaroos, like Eastern Greys and Kangaroo Island roos.  They are super friendly if you had a bag of feed so make sure you get one when you pay for your ticket to get into the park.

 

 

They also had an albino kangaroo that was fenced off with the Tammar Wallabies.  This poor fella looked a little sad because the other kangaroos would beat him up.  He’s been sectioned off for his own safety.  Urimbirra also breed albino peacocks, which are native to Sri Lanka, and only 1% survive, which means they get one every two or three years.

 

The albino kangaroo - separated from the rest because it gets bullied.

 

The Snake

Also known as the Inland Carpet Python, this cute little Murray Darling Python was brought out so everyone could have a good look at his beautiful scaly skin.  These non-venomous snakes are usually found in eastern Australia and feed on small mammals, birds and lizards.  They are popular as pets because they’re not very aggressive.

 

 

The Essentials

Urimbirra Wildlife Park is open every day from 10am to 5pm.  Entry to the park is $12 for adults and $6 for kids.  Because the park is privately owned, all fees go towards education and maintaining the park.    Koala shows are at 11am, 2pm and 4pm, while the croc feeding is at 1:30pm and the snake petting is at 4pm.

 

Phone: 08 8554 6554
Website:  www.urimbirra.com.au

 

Juz overrun by kangaroos - friendly buggers!

 

Dave & Juz at the Big Rocking Horse

Big Things : The Big Rocking Horse, Gumeracha

Dave & Juz at the Big Rocking Horse

 

Hooray! BIG THINGS!

 

This time, we were visiting the Big Rocking Horse in Gumeracha.  Built over 8 months, it was opened in 1981 and is made entirely out of steel and is anchored in over 80 tonnes of concrete set in rock.  The Rocking Horse weighs about 25 tonnes, stands 18.3 meters tall and has three observation platforms.  The head platform was closed for maintenance so we hung around the saddle platform.

 

On the Saddle viewing platform on the Big Rocking Horse

 

 

It’s a 20:1 up-scaling of the stock made rocking horse produced by the adjacent Toy Factory, which is the largest wooden toy factory in Australia and is owned and operated by the Gous family, who migrated from South Africa and purchased the business in 2009.  They also manage a wildlife park that is free to enter.  However, if you want to have a good time, purchase a bag of food for $2.

 

Inside the park is an array of animals.  There are several peacocks strutting about, fanning out their display, shaking their tail feathers and hissing if you get too close.  There are also ibis birds, emus, ducks and geese, Chinese chickens that look like they have their brains on the outside of their heads, and spotted turkeys.  In terms of mammals, there were pretty-eyed wallabies and manly kangaroos, friendly sheep, dopey alpacas, lazy goats and a black pony with icy blue eyes called Trippy.

 

 

The food bag made us very popular and you can quite easily spend an hour in the park, getting hugs and kisses from the animals as they feed out of your cupped hand. Dave has a few experiences that were a bit special.  Whilst feeding a small wallaby, it gently wrapped its paw around Dave’s finger and wouldn’t let go until his hand was empty.  There was also a grey kangaroo – the biggest of the mob – that was very friendly and put his paws around Dave’s waist as he sniffed out the bag of food.  The kangaroo would have been as tall as Dave, with biceps and pectoral muscles to match, so that encounter was a little intimidating.

 

 

Feeding the birds was fun.  In most cases, Dave had to distract the sheep that were following us around the park (like…sheep) so that Juz could get some poultry time.  The ducks would frantically pluck the food pellets out of your hand, gently pinching at the skin.  It didn’t hurt; it was almost ticklish, but very cute and we giggled.  The peacock was a little scary but still approached for a nibble.  The only bird that we were afraid to feed was the emu.  Dave filled his Barmah Hat with pellets but neither he nor the emu were sure about each other and it was an anti-climatic event.

 

 

All in all, we had a great time at this BIG THING location and we absolutely recommend the attraction to everyone of all ages!

 

Dave & Juz at the Big Rocking Horse