Our first day in Brisbane kicked off with a few trips down memory lane; a drive out to Redcliffe to see my old home and school! It was exciting, and a little bit sad.
After that Laetitia, Ian and I went off to the see the late Steve Irwin’s world famous Australia Zoo. What a great place. I’m not a fan of caged zoo animals normally, but here there is so much space and interaction it seemed far more equitable for the animals. Plus a clear overriding aim to protect and celebrate Australia’s unique wildlife!
I took over 150 photographs it was all so amazing. How much would that have cost before digital photography? Here are just a few to show some of the highlights…
The water lizards were roaming freely everywhere. It was hard not to step on them.
The centre piece was the show at the “Crocoseum”. All sorts of animals were showcased; snakes, parrots, etc. But it was the adult salt water crocodile that stole the show. As he came out swimming/gliding slowly under the water (barely knee deep, yet not making a ripple) he seemed quite small. Then as he climbed out of the water, tempted by one of the crocodile handlers offering a chicken leg, we realized just what a massive creature it was.
Later we got over to the tiger enclosure, obviously not an Australian animal, but what a show. There were six juvenile tigers playing in the water with a very brave and tough handler.
One big Australian wildlife ‘tick’ that we hadn’t seen was the Koala. But maybe that isn’t surprising. We learnt that there were 3m Koala’s in the wild when europeans came to Australia. But now thanks to hunting (before they became protected – a legal status now enjoyed by all Australian native wildlife) and cat & dog attacks, there are only about 100k left! Then consider that there are only about four thousand in the Brisbane area of Queensland – the same number that are killed every year in the same area by road traffic accidents – and it’s clear we would have been very lucky to see them in the wild. These cute critters are seriously at risk.
I’ve dived on the Great Barrier Reef before, but never anywhere else in Australia, so I figured a couple of days in Sydney would be educational. Today I did two dives at a site called Voodoo, a little south of the city on the outside of Botany Bay. The first dive went out to a rather nice archway with a big school of fish hanging in it, and a beautiful encrustation of jewel anemones on the rocks. Sadly I have no pictures of this dive as I didn’t trust my camera housing to still be water-tight, so took the housing without the camera in it.
Having determined that the housing was OK, I added the camera gear on the second dive. The visibility was excellent, and we never seemed very deep, despite getting to 18m in the middle of the dive. The highlight was seeing large numbers of Port Jackson Sharks. These were incredibly docile, to the point that my buddy picked one up without it reacting at all. Apparently it’s the end of the mating season, so perhaps they are all exhausted!
I also got to add to my collection of deadly Australian animals with the very attractive stonefish (much more photogenic than the snake, but surprisingly difficult to spot). I’d include the shark in the list, except that the Port Jackson ones don’t even have proper teeth!
Underwater photography is very difficult especially close to shore where you are pushed around by the waves. As a result, pictures of fish are often out of focus, or are pictures of where the fish was just a moment before. This is an excellent reason to take lots of pictures of stationary objects like starfish, of which there were lots.
At the end of the dive we came across a large octopus trying to hide in a rather small hole. Octopi are one of my favourite sea creatures, so naturally I took a picture. For those who can’t figure out what they’re looking at, he’s upside down with his suckers on the rock, his two eyes in the middle, and his mantle at the bottom, with his siphon visible on the left.
Five days in Sydney sounds pretty good until you think about the 24 hours of flying required in each direction to get there. That’s why I’ve added a few days of adventure to the five day conference I was sent here for. The adventure starts tomorrow, but in between sessions I’ve at least seen a bit of the city, and its very attractive botanical gardens. The highlight was the enormous colony of fruitbats that have taken over a chunk of the gardens. They hang from every branch, scratching and fidgeting like sugared up teenagers, and every so often something disturbs them and they take off in clouds, even in the middle of the day.
The gardens also run to a variety of other wildlife, including cockatoos and ibis, as well as lovely views of the opera house and the coat-hanger.
The last picture is from a little further afield—Botany Bay, a short train ride south of the city, and is my first deadly creature of the trip, a red-bellied black snake. I’m off diving tomorrow, so hopefully will be adding to my deadly creature list.