Take a walk on the wild side of Australia
THE CLIMB TO THE TOP of Mount Bishop and Clerk, the highest point on Tasmania’s Maria Island, rewards intrepid travellers with panoramic views over the top of the island’s eucalypt forests and out across the Pacific Ocean. To the west lies the Freycinet Peninsula; to the south, over the distant horizon, the icy landscapes of Antarctica.
We reach the peak on a sparkling, blue-sky day and the vista is splendid, accompanied by the tune of a pulsing ocean and whistling wind on which we can even smell Antarctica’s purity.
Maria Island is a walkers paradise, but climbing to the island’s highest peak isn’t the only attraction for those who want to stretch their legs.
Wildlife abounds here. Kangaroos, wombats and wallabies are everywhere, making the island a great destination for travellers keen to experience Australian fauna in its natural state. The island is also home for the elusive 40-spotted pardalote, a very shy bird endemic to the region and much loved by amateur and professional bird spotters. A colony of fairy penguins also call the island home.
“Walking on Maria Island gives us time to be part of this natural environment, rather than merely look at it,” Jemma Haythorne from Maria Island Walks says. “And there are paths for all. You can amble along deserted beaches, wander through paddocks where pug-nosed wombats graze, and take time to enjoy phenomenon such as the magnificently patterned Painted Cliffs.”
While wandering among them I learn to pay attention to the detail rather than the big picture. I marvel at the intensity of orange lichen against the grey-blue watermarks of a Tasmanian gum; I photograph fossilised sea creatures, reading a million years of history as I run my fingers over the fossil’s Braille-like impressions; and I listen out for the call of the elusive 40-spotted pardalote.
For more information visit The Maria Island Walk.
Explore Kangaroo Island by e-bike
Cycling along the banks of the wending Cygnet River beneath a canopy of towering red gums is just one of the treats in store when you visit Kangaroo Island.
And if spinning the pedals on a bike isn’t your usual activity, then KI’s recently launched e-bike tour is the perfect introduction. According to Exceptional Kangaroo Island Managing Director Craig Wickham the riverside cycle is great, as too are the open pasture and bush rides. “We pass through habitat for kangaroos, Tammar wallabies, a few species of possums, as well as glossy black-cockatoos,” Craig says.
The rides take place on a piece of property within Cygnet Park accessible only to guests of Exceptional Kangaroo Island (and those involved in habitat restoration work).
“Kangaroo Island has huge swathes of conservation land, but the tall forest we explore here only ever covered about one per cent of the island and none of this is included in the reserve system,” Craig says. “It really is a special treat to explore.”
Formerly pastoral land dating back to 1819, this special slice of KI has undergone a complex revegetation program since 2007. “They used 135 species of plants – including a variety of herbs, ground cover plants and mid-storey vegetation – to showcase that it was possible to do more than simply plant trees,” Craig says. “Nature is complex – it is dense, messy, colourful and diverse. By using solid science and planning based on soil type and topography, they have given nature a restorative boost.”
The e-bikes you’ll use have more than enough power to help negotiate the undulating landscape, and there’s always the option of just pedal power if you’d prefer.
According to Craig there are lots of stops en route where you’ll learn about the property’s conservation work and look for wildlife, and afterwards you’ll refuel with an al fresco lunch served under a canopy in the forest, and wine and gin tastings towards the end of the ride.
Murray River Safari
According to Murray River Safari’s Tony Sharley there’s encounters with koalas, possums and kangaroos to be had and spectacular outback lakes teeming with birdlife to see on a guided adventure in remote South Australia.
“You’ll enjoy the comforts of houseboat accommodation with exclusive access to diverse riverine habitats,” Tony says, “when you join our three-day river safari which leaves from Renmark.
“Your guides will lead you on four easy field trips into different landscapes – 2 per day to discover the diverse wildlife within the Riverland Ramsar Wetland of International Importance where more than 180 endemic bird species have been recorded. You will return to your houseboat for lunch and relaxation before your next field trip.”
Guided field trips include:
- Cruising the river on your private pontoon cruiser spotting koalas and kangaroos, pelicans, and swans
- Canoeing in tranquil backwaters encountering ducks, darters, cormorants, and whistling kites
- Walking through woodlands and cliffs spotting whistlers, wedge-tailed eagles, honeyeaters, parrots and migratory bee-eaters.
- Driving to the floodplain lakes in a high conservancy area where spectacular birdwatching can include black swans and their cygnets, pied stilts, red-necked avocets, yellow-billed spoonbills, migratory waders and rarely seen blue-billed ducks and musk ducks.
Each night you can sit by a riverbank campfire under the sparkling starlit skies where your lodge style houseboat accommodation is moored. You’ll also be treated to superb local food with a creative native twist.
For more information visit Murray River Safari.
Explore Kakadu National Park
It’s no secret that Kakadu National Park is a magical place – it’s natural beauty is truly remarkable and its Indigenous culture unparalleled.
For consummate bushman and owner of Lords Kakadu and Arnhemland Safaris, Sab Lord, this sublime World Heritage-listed wilderness area is inextricably linked to his earliest childhood memories.
Raised on a buffalo and crocodile hunting station, he has lived experience of one of Australia’s most cherished and untouched wilderness areas.
So too does safari guide Bianca Di Nuzzo, who says one of her favourite spots to share with guests is a place called Maguk.
“It’s a really interesting location to show guests, with a big and beautiful waterhole positioned at the base of steep gorge walls, and top pools that always look so inviting,” she says.
“The walk to the main plunge pool follows mainly low-lying pathways and weaves its way alongside streams and small rivers, so you are essentially meandering through a monsoonal rainforest.
“When you’re moving in nature you hear the birdlife, insects and lizards all going about their business and you can’t help but feel grounded and close to the earth.”
There are a range of walks you can enjoy while touring with Lords, and because they require different levels of fitness, Bianca is up front about that with guests. “To get to Jim Jim Falls, for example, the walk through the subtropical rainforest is more clambering over and around rocks than hiking,” she says. “But although it can be challenging, we walk at a pace that suits the group. Twin Falls gorge is nearby, too, and to get here we first travel 12km by 4WD, then take a boat cruise, before hiking to the base of the falls.
“Guests usually enjoy taking a moment to appreciate all the scenery on the white sandy beach at the base of the falls. The contrasting colours of the plant life against the sand and rocks are striking; the escarpment rising up 150m is breathtaking; not to mention the cascading waterfall itself.”
On a cool June morning we set out for Koolpin Gorge, one of the park’s best-kept secrets according to Bianca. “You can both boulder and hike around the gorge. The Aboriginal name of Koolpin Gorge is Jarrangbarnmi (jarrang meaning flood or big water flow, and barn meaning rift or gap) in the Jawoyn language.
“Jarrangbarnmi is part of the Jawoyn creation story, so the area is spiritually very special. The Jawoyn people have restrictions on visitor numbers, so we’re very lucky to have access to such an amazing place.”
For more information visit Lords Kakadu & Arnhemland Safaris.