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EARTH HOUR 2016

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Today is Earth Hour – a worldwide movement that symbolises a commitment to protect our planet. It brings awareness to environmental issues and the challenges we face to create a sustainable world.  Our commitment to the Earth extends beyond that and involves recycling, shopping second hand, turning the lights off when we leave a room and getting our greens from the vegetable garden.

 

Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007 and it has since spread to thousands of cities and towns around the world. It’s held annually in March, and all you have to do is turn your non-essential lights off for an hour between 8:30pm and 9:30pm local time.

 

The focus of this year’s Earth Hour is on the places we love. Of course, the Great Barrier Reef is a well known and beautiful place that is affected by climate change, but we’re going to spread our love for Shark Bay, located on the westernmost shores of Australia.

 

Cape Peron  - François Péron National Park

 

Recognised by UNESCO as one of the most remarkable places on earth, Shark Bay has three important natural features that make it special – its enormous seagrass beds, which are one of the largest meadows in the world, the dugong population that feed on the seagrass, and the stromatolites, prehistoric living fossils that we were privy to witness during our visit there.

 

Hamelin Pool

 

Shark Bay is also home to five species of endangered mammals, including the Burrowing Bettong, which is now classified as Near Threatened, and the seagrass meadows also provide food for the Green Turtle and Loggerhead Turtle, both endangered.

 

Monkey Mia

 

Climate change can disrupt the ecosystem at Shark Bay by raising the temperature of the water. A disastrous event like this has already happened, when in the summer of 2010-2011, the average temperature of the water was 5°C higher than normal. Because the seagrass at Shark Bay is temperate, not tropical, 90% dieback was recorded in some areas of the bay during this heatwave.

 

Because the seagrass is a major source of food and habitat to the animals in Shark Bay, this change in the ecosystem produced a snowball effect. Animals that rely on the seagrass decreased, and therefore the predators that feed on them also suffered. Seagrass is also important to maintain banks and sills in the bay, which reduce circulation and maintain a salinity gradient that is required to sustain the stromatolites.

 

See, our environment is a fragile thing and our planet is a precious place. It is, after all, the only place we have to live, so let’s take care of it, and show our commitment by turning our lights off tonight.

 

 

Cobbold Gorge

Natural Wonders : Cobbold Gorge

Cobbold Gorge

 

Cobbold Gorge was on our bucket list from the beginning, and it was fantastic to finally see it in the flesh… or sandstone.  It is located within Robin Hood station, which is owned by the Terry family.  The cattle property is around 1300 square kilometres but Cobbold Gorge is within a 4,000 acre nature reserve where the cattle are not permitted to graze.

 

We booked ourselves in for a morning tour of the gorge, and boarded the bus to the nature reserve.  Before embarking through the gorge, we were treated to a bush tucker walk.  We learnt about various plants in the area that supplied glue, insect repellent, contraception, antiseptic and food, like the Aniseed Bush, which provided a liquorice flavour to damper, and Bloodwood Tree, a popular place to find sugarbag.  The local aboriginals would find the sugar bag by catching a single bee and sticking a small feather to its butt.  They’d let the bee go and follow it back to the hive of delicious sugar bag.

 

We also learnt about the amazing work of termites, and were delighted by the fluttering of Common Crow Butterflies.  They are so numerous because they don’t have many predators due to their amazing ability to absorb the flavours of the things they consume.  Because they eat from plants such as Oleander, they are not very appetising to other creatures.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

At the end of the bush tucker walk, we found ourselves at the grave of John Corbett, a pioneer who died 1871.  He was only 12 when he willingly came to Australia to make his fortune.  By the age of 14, he was digging for gold in Ballarat with his brother and became a wealthy lad.  Over the next 10 years, he established hotels in Brisbane, and when gold was struck in Cloncurry, he wanted to monopolise the area by establishing another hotel in Normanton.  This was when John’s luck ran out.  After a series of misfortunes, he was found robbed and dead in the bush with a six-foot spear in his chest.  Local aboriginals were blamed for his murder but there are rumours that this wasn’t the case at all.

 

After an enthralling tour of the bush, we boarded the boats and set forth into Cobbold Gorge.

 

The Gorge

As we floated quietly along the river in an electric-motored flat-bottomed boat, we learnt that Cobbold Gorge isn’t just any old gorge – it’s a baby gorge!  Having only been discovered in 1992, the creek that formed Cobbold Gorge changed its course only 10,000 years ago, so Cobbold Gorge is still fairly young.  It was named after pastoralist and surveyor Frank E Cobbold, clearly because he was awesome.

 

The gorge is about 6km long, with 30m cliffs on either side, and is 2m wide at its narrowest point. The water maintains a fairly constant level and is fed by springs that seep through the 200 million year old sandstone and reach the gorge 30 years later.  There was plenty of wildlife to spy on.  We saw a few archer fish, a baby turtle, and plenty of lazy freshwater crocodiles basking in the sun.

 

 

 

The Resort

If you’re looking for a place to disappear to for a few days, then the Cobbold Gorge Resort is for you.  The campground offers quiet and relaxing scenery, unpowered, powered and powered ensuite sites, and includes facilities such as a guest laundry, Wi-Fi, camp kitchen, BBQs and fireplaces.

 

MacDonald’s Deck is a fully licensed bar and restaurant with heaps of character.  Have a few drinks and a meal while you soak in the Aussie outback.  Nearby, is the Boomerang Bar, a swim-up bar in the infinity swimming pool. There is also Corbett’s Store, which offers a variety of souvenirs and a few grocery items as well.

 

 

 

The Essentials

Bookings for tours and accommodation at Cobbold Gorge are essential.  Call 1800 66 99 22 or email enquiries@cobboldgorge.com.au for more information.

 

Cobbold Gorge

 

Cage of Death - Crocosaurus Cove

Experience : Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin

Crocosaurus Cove

Did you know that there are over 200 crocodiles, both big and small, that live in the heart of the Darwin CBD?  They all reside at Crocosaurus Cove, with many other creatures like turtles, snakes, lizards and frogs, and they would love a visit from you!

 

Crocosaurus Cove is an incredible attraction that was opened in 2008 to rejuvenate Darwin city.  These days, they get up to 400 visitors a day during the Dry Season, including families with kids, international visitors and young Aussies.  All staff are incredibly knowledgeable and super friendly whilst always keeping your safety in mind, and the souvenir shop stocks all the usual stuff like pens, shot glasses and toys, stuffed toys, as well as crocodile leather products.

 

There are two roads that you can take when exploring Crocosaurus Cove.  You can pay the entry fee and walk around the centre yourself, getting to the meeting points on time to see presentations and feedings (check the Croc Cove program here), or you can choose the Big Croc Feed Experience that includes a guided tour.  We spent the morning exploring by ourselves and went on the guided tour later in the day.  We both agree that the tour was a bloody ripper.  We had an extra special mate along for the tour – a frilled neck lizard that would sit on our shoulders – and we got to feed some of the critters.  We got so much more information from our guide and learnt heaps about the enclosures and the centre itself.  We highly recommend opting for the Big Croc Feed Experience.

 

 

Meet the Reptiles

The reptile enclosure at Crocosaurus Cove is the largest collection of Australian reptiles… IN THE WORLD!  It holds over 70 species from the Top End and Kimberley region, including lizards and geckos, snakes, turtles and quite possibly a new species of crocodile – the pygmy crocodile.  They’re still waiting on DNA results that will determine the new species, but in the meantime, enjoy this great ‘Terminator’ shot that Juz took.

 

Pygmy Crocodile - Crocosaurus Cove

 

We learnt about non-venomous pythons, like the beautiful albino olive python, which doesn’t grow as big as its olive counterpart, but still has that placid and friendly disposition.  We also learnt about some of Australian’s venomous snakes, like the death adder, who is too fat to move quickly so they usually hide and end up getting trod on.

 

 

An interesting fact that we learnt about snake bites is that the venom is spread by the lymphatic system, not the bloodstream!   If you are bitten by a snake, apply pressure and immobilise the affected area to prevent the venom from reaching vital organs.

 

This was by far Juz’s favourite location, not only for the air conditioning, but because of the displays and the reptile handling.  We got to hold a big blue tongue lizard, a bearded dragon and a friendly Stimson’s python that slithered all over Dave.

 

 

The reptile feeding was also a thrill.  They presented an olive python with a humanly pre-killed rat so that we could watch how the snake gets its big lunch down its little throat.  Contrary to popular belief, snakes don’t actually dislocate their jaw, but they can open their mouths to 160°!  We learnt that snakes have a sense of smell that compensates for their bad eyesight and their forked tongue allows them to smell in ‘stereo’.  They also locate prey by sensing heat and once they capture their dinner, they constrict it to suffocate it so gently that no bones are broken.  If the snake does break bones, the kill will be abandoned because broken bones can scratch or stab internal organs during digestion.

 

 

Meet the Fish

Crocosaurus Cove has a massive 200,000 litre fresh water aquarium that is based on the Daly River system.  The selection of fish include two massive whip rays that can grow up to 1.3m wide, enormous barramundi, and two endangered saw fish, which made our day every time we saw them.  Despite the 22 razor sharp teeth in each side of their rostrum, they looked super happy with their pink gummy smile.

 

 

One of the coolest fish in the aquarium is the archerfish and we got to feed these little guys during the guided tour.  They have fantastic eyesight and spit water at their prey (insects, bugs) to knock them into the water.  They can spit up to 3 metres above the water’s surface, but their accuracy is limited to 2 metres.

 

The Archerfish – Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin from Our Naked Australia on Vimeo.

 

Meet the Crocs

The main attraction!  They’ve got big crocs, baby crocs, juvenile crocs and even lover crocs – the royals, Kate and William.  A few of the crocodiles were so old and injured that they’ve been brought to Crocosaurus Cove for sanctuary.

 

As part of the guided tour, we got to do two awesome things – feed the giant crocodiles and go croc fishing!  Juz was first up to feed the largest crocodile in the centre and the feeling of having a 5 metre, 80 year old crocodile on the other end of the pole was indescribable.  After the terrifying crack of the crocodile’s jaws clapping around the hunk of meat, the pole arched as Juz heaved and the string eventually gave way.  What a feeling…

 

 

Dave had his turn with a different crocodile that was sleeping in a pool only 2 meters from our faces.  It took a while to wake the critter up, but after a flash of white water and teeth, we knew he meant business.

 

The croc fishing was heaps of fun.  We approached the juvenile crocodile pond to find a huge ‘crocopile’ and had a giggle as we referenced a South Park episode.   We stepped onto the jetty, the guide baited our fishing line with a small piece of meat and the crocs jumped out of the water for a bite.

 

CROCOPILE! - Crocosaurus Cove

 

Hold a Baby Crocodile

The World of Crocs Museum exhibits various crocodile species from all over the world and is also the place where you can get up close and personal with a baby crocodile.

 

The first thing we did when we arrived was hold Fluffy, a 3 month old baby saltwater crocodile, and holding Fluffy again was the last thing we did before we left.  They had a few Fluffies on rotation to ensure that one hatchling didn’t get overhandled or too tired.  It was a great opportunity to hold a feisty little croc, and get a closer look at its scales, feet, eyes, and teeny tiny teeth.

 

Tom Kelly, the resident photographer was very informative and pointed out sensory spots on Fluffy’s scales before taking some hilarious photos.  The sensory spots help the croc feel even the smallest change in the water – the slightest ripple could mean lunch time!

 

 

Cage of Death

While this feature was recommended to us by a few mates, we chose to watch instead of participate.  The Cage of Death is Australia’s first and only crocodile dive experience and while it looked like heaps of fun to be centimetres away from a crocodile, we were happy to stay dry on the sidelines.

 

We saw three cage drops, with most of the thrill seekers being in their 20s.  We had a chat with some people after their dunk and they said it was really cool, scary and well worth the money.

 

 

There’s a reason Crocasaurus Cove is one of the most popular attractions in Darwin – it’s great fun for kids and adults alike.  We wholeheartedly recommend taking the Big Croc Feeding guided tour – it’s worth every dollar.  Not only do you get to feed the crocs, you get to hold more animals than everyone else, you get your own guide to answer any questions you throw at them, and you get VIP priority for baby croc holding and croc fishing.

 

If you’ve got the dollars and the guts, you should totally book your place in the cage of death!  We might have to find some time to head in to Crocosaurus Cove one more time to take a dunk in a croc tank…

 

Crocosaurus Cove

 

Experience Crocosaurus Cove

Crocosaurus Cove is open throughout the year from 9am to 6pm, except on Christmas Day.  If you have a Northern Territory driver’s license, you’re in luck!  An NT Locals Pass entitles the holder to pay the entry fee once and receive entry for the ENTIRE YEAR – perfect for families with young kids or reptile lovers!

 

Address: 58 Mitchell Street, Darwin City

Phone:  08 8981 7522

Website: http://www.crocosauruscove.com/

 
Book your tour at TripAdvisor

 
Crocosaurus Cove

Clown fish!

Experience : Ocean Park

This exciting and interactive Aquarium just outside of Denham is a MUST SEE attraction when visiting Shark Bay.  Get up close to a variety of sea creatures that reside in the World Heritage area and learn about the kooky ways they live their lives.

 

The Park

Located just south of Denham, Ocean Park has been operating since 2000 and was built right next to the turquoise ocean.  The tours that they provide are run by marine biologists that give you a wonderfully educational experience and greater appreciation for the animals that live in Shark Bay.  While the park works to rehabilitate marine reptiles like turtles and snakes, they also assist with researching fish species to provide information that contributes to fishing regulations.

 

 

They are very eco-friendly and have a 4 star green rating. The solar panels out the front of the park generate about 270 kilowatts hours each day and provide 98% of the power that they use at the park.  They generate their own fresh water using reverse osmosis desalination and the onsite windmill powers the vacuum that cleans the tanks. They also have a licensed café onsite with decking that overlooks Shark Bay Marine Park, and they accommodate for a variety of functions.

 

The Animals

Our tour guide was Rose, and she started off the tour in a sheltered area full of big tanks.  The first animal we met was Bob the Turtle.  It was brought in as a baby because its flipper was picked off by a bird.  Because it wasn’t strong enough to swim against the current, it was found way down near Albany when it should have been at its feeding grounds further up the north west coast past Geraldton!  Turtles can live to around 150 years old but only reach sexual maturity when they’re around 30 years old.  Unfortunately, because their survival rate is only 10%, only 1 in 10,000 actually get to reproduce!

 

 

We also got to learn a lot about clown fish – that’s Nemo for those playing at home! They have a symbiotic relationship with the anemone they live in. The tentacles of an anemone are very similar to those of jellyfish – they’re death-traps for fish that get too close. The anemone recognises the protein-based mucus on a fish’s skin and grabs it.  Why don’t they eat Nemo then? It turns out that clown fish have a sugar-based mucus layer instead so the anemone doesn’t think its food! The relationship is symbiotic because the anemone provides shelter for the clown fish, and in return, the clown fish brings food to the anemone.

 

We also learnt that star fish aren’t actually fish and their correct name is sea stars. They have no eyes or brains, but they have five noses and can regrow limbs. If their food is too big to fit in their mouth, they can externally digest it before swallowing.  Amazing…ly gross!

 

 

There were lots of lion fish – each with 13 hollow spines along the ridge of their back that can inject you with venom.  Rose told us a great story about how the hurricane in New Orleans broke many tropical fish tanks and released lion fish into the Atlantic Ocean.  They were destroying the environment so the way the problem was tackled was to put out a bounty and a cookbook to encourage fishermen to eat them.  Of course, there were many more incidents of people getting stung.

 

When we got around to the sea snake enclosure, you could feel the fear in the air.  These guys are super venomous but lucky for humans, they usually don’t release enough to kill us.  Many times, they will strike with a blank bite that doesn’t involve venom to warn you to stay away.

 

 

Outside were the bigger tanks and we watched Rose feed trevally, pink snapper and a huge mulloway.  Further on was the Shark Pool with a few lemon sharks and sandbar sharks.  The longest shark in the tank was a 2.2m shark that only eats about 500g of food a day.  It was cool to watch the sharks thrash about as Rose dangled some fish into the water.

 

 

The Essentials

Ocean Park is located on Shark Bay Road, just outside of Denham. They are every day from 9am to 4pm, and are closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

 

Telephone: 08 9948 1765

Email: info@oceanpark.com.au

Website: http://oceanpark.com.au/