Taronga zoo in Sydney is great. You can go there on a ferry, ride a cable car and it has great views over the city, not to mention lots of cool animals to see. I wrote about it here.

They have a sister zoo, Dubbo Western Plains. It’s 5-6 hours drive west of Sydney, past the Blue mountains, on the edge of the outback. We headed out there one weekend in June, setting off on Friday after work, and stayed in a cabin In a caravan park. As it’s winter and inland it gets to low single digits at night, so camping wasn’t on my agenda! On the drive out we hit 1 degree, and it was 3 degrees in Dubbo by the time we got there.

You can stay in the zoo itself, which includes some additional animal tours. It’s very expensive though, so it decided it was better to save money for another stuffed animal for my collection! We stayed in a cabin in Dubbo, which was 70’s retro and

I love animals, so needless to say I enjoyed the zoo. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast there looking at the lemurs on an island in the lake.

had a massive fan heater bolted to the wall. It did heat the place up nicely, until you turned it off!

The zoo is really more like a safari park. The main route around is 6km, and you can hire bikes to cycle it, or a golf cart! Needless to say we went for the active bike option. I managed to cycle around without any accidents, just one near miss with a kid running at me on a narrow path whilst looking behind him. I shouted at him! You only ever ride for a little while, then stop and go and see the animals. Its the same if you drive – rather than being like Longleat you need to park and get out to see the animals.┬áThe ticket is valid for two days, so you can go back the next day if you’re really keen.

By fluke we managed to time our route around to see feeding time with the hippo (called Happy), elephant (called Cuddles) and the Siamang apes. They were all very cool, and the apes were really noisy – it sounded like they were signing a song and were great to watch.┬áNear the end it started to rain, but we managed not to get too wet. Here’s a load of pictures of cute things!

DubboMeerkats

DubboHippo2

DubboHippo

DubboElephant

DubboSiamangs

DobboRhino

DubboTiger

DubboKoala

 

 

Pip the Little Penguin

Pip the Little Penguin

As promised, here’s a dedicated post on penguins! On our Summermas holiday I saw penguins three times:

  • First in Fortescue Bay, Tasmania on New Years Eve on a free tour from the National Park Warden
  • Second at Bincheno in Tasmania when out for a walk and night and
  • On the Philip Island Penguin parade east of Melbourne

I’ve mentioned about the first two encounters here and here. They were both awesome and it was amazing to see the penguins in the wild. The first time we were in a small group of about 15 people and the second time it was just us which was brilliant. Because they come out at night though, it was a bit hard to see them with just head torches (covered with red cellophane or on the dr light setting to avoid scaring them and hurting their little penguin eyes!) Because of that I decided it was still worth paying $23 for the Philip Island experience – plus, you can never see too many penguins!

The website advises you get there by 8pm. I ended up being early at about 7.30, but there were already quite a few people there. I had a look around the centre which had some information about penguins and little hatches which you could look in and see some of them in their nests. I also learnt the Litltle Penguins don’t actually mate for life like the warden in Tassie suggested, but have a divorce rate if about 18-22% and break up if they’re not breeding successfully!

The viewing area has three big tiered seating platforms, and apparently normally the penguins come about 9pm, although the night before they had surprised people by being early at 8.30pm. There are special floodlights to help us see them but which don’t bother the little fellas. I was all wrapped up warn (luckily it didn’t rain) and took my seat a bit after 8pm having managed to resist buying anything in either of there two gift shops. I managed to get one on the front row when the warden made everyone squeeze up which I was pleased about. You could go and sit on the sand if you wanted too but I opted for the seat. They did a short talk about the penguins and i learnt a group of penguins is called a raft. They go up to 50km out to sea each day fishing and then form these giant rafts a few hundred meters off shore, waiting until it’s dark enough that they feel safe coming in.

PenguinSign

Right on time, the first ones started waddling up the beach shortly after 9pm. The ticket works that they keep the stand open for 50 minutes after the first penguin comes. I got a really good view of them coming up the side of the seats I was on and if the ones coming up the middle too. Some of them played in the water first which was really cute. As there was a low tide we got to see them for a nice Iong time, including some hopping over the rocks at the top of the beach. Some of the brave chaps went by themselves but mainly they were in small groups. The counters counted 462 in 50 minutes! A lot of people left after a bout 20 minutes (crazy!) so towards the end I moved to a prime spot in the centre and saw some even closer.

The way they run up the beach is so comical. They lean forwards and look like their trying to go really fast but with a big sideways waddle at the same time. Sometimes they seem to lean too far forwards and flop on their bellies!

Viewing the penguins with so many other people was pretty frustrating. A lot of times at the start the guide said to keep quiet and not to walk about when the penguins were coming up (unless you were leaving) as it would scare them. So many people just blatantly ignored this it was fairly irritating, especially when they stood right in the way, and he kept having to remind them. From that point of view seeing them in Tassie was definitely better.

After the beach viewing area shut you could go and see the penguins from along the board walk back to the centre. There were lots to see and you got an excellent view. Some of the chicks were trying to find their mums and there was also lots of preening and feeding going on as well as general penguiny standing about. Seeing them nesting in grassy areas still seems wrong to me, I can’t help thinking about penguins needing to live on ice still.

I walked back very slowly looking at all the penguins along the way and was one of there last to leave in June end after getting herded on by the wardens. We had to stop on the last bit for a penguin to cross the actual path as he’d ended up on the wrong side of hoes go fence from his nest. I asked if they’re not disturbed by all the people gawping at them and kids yelling as I was a bit concerned for the poor penguins. As the area has been open to tourists for ages apparently they are all used to it ion the colony and aren’t bothered about it. (I was reassured, although I still reckon anyone pointing, roaming and talking loudly should be sent home or possibly slapped round the face with a wet fish!) In the end I was one of the last to leave after being herded along by the wardens. So there was 50 mins on the beach and near enough the same again on the walkway. I defiantly felt it was worth the money although it would be better with some sort of crowd control enforcement!

On the way out I couldn’t help but pick up Pip the Little Penguin from the shop. She’s so cute and all the proceeds go to penguin conservation. There was a rouge penguin wandering about the car park on the way out but he had a warden looking out for him and I made sure to check under my car for others as instructed! (There wasn’t one there which was disappointing, although probably for the best as I might just have opened the door and smuggled him in!)

koalawild

I was so excited recently by seeing wild koalas, I thought they really deserved their own post!

We went on holiday with Phil and Rhiannon from the UK along the Great Ocean Road which is west of Melbourne in Victoria. You can read more about that here. On our first night we stayed in a cabin in the Great Otway National Park at a place balled ‘Bimbi Park – Camping Under Koalas’. For me, the name was a give away that there might be some exciting wildlife around!

On the drive we stopped near the Kennet River for some initial koala spotting. After a few minutes Matt won with the first sighting.

Now, koalas sleep for over 20 hours a day, so generally they’re spotted as round balls of cute fur nestled in the joins of branches in Eucalyptus (Gum) trees. They blend in well with the tree colour. Seeing them awake is fairly unusual, even at the zoo. In the Kennet area we managed to spot 9 koalas, including a few awake ones and one going for a walk along the forest floor – I did have to be restrained (= warned about snakes and spiders) as I excitingly bush bashed my way through the undergrowth for a closer look!

That morning the friendly checkout lady at the supermarket where we got our obligatory road trip supplies (including TimTams) informed us that koalas are actually really noisy, especially at night and make a very deep noise. In the Kennet area we got our first proof of this, and the noise was terrible. Its a low grunting / neighing noise, that you might expect to come from something like a big bear, gorilla or distressed horse. At first it sounded like they were deeply unhappy, but it seemed to be their normal call.

The road to the Bimbi Park campsite was full of more koalas. After checking in, we went for a walk and got in a koalas count of over 30 in the end! Seeing them in the wild was awesome. Around the Otway a lot more of them were awake and eating or wandering about, some of them quite close to us and seemingly not too bothered. Some of them had gone quite far out in the trees into some quite small and bendy branches in search of yummy leaves. We saw a mum and baby too – super cute.

Unfortunately the Otway area is actually becoming overpopulated with koalas. While this is good for spotting them its not good for their food supply which is fast running out or for their survival. The locals and the Government are working together on a relocation program and on some bush burning to regenerate the trees and bulk the food supply back up. Hopefully this will be successful. We did see some migrating sitting in the road! Looks like they’re getting the message to move, but hopefully they’ll learn sitting in the road isn’t a good plan!

Awwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

2koalas