We had wanted to see Lake Mungo in western New South Wales – famous for Aboriginal history and palaeozoology – for many years.
An early start from Adelaide and a very sleepy look at Australia’s largest river- the Murray
By the time we got close to Lake Mungo it was obvious we were now truly in the outback, especially the last 60km or so along a bumpy dusty road with saltbush and other semi-arid shrubs to either side.
Well, it used to be a lake, until about 20,000 years ago, when it rapidly dried out. You can still clearly see the ancient sand dunes along the edge (even from the air – I saw them on a flight to Adelaide earlier in the year).
Before then it was alive with active Aboriginal communities as well as diprotodons and other now-extinct megafauna (and some not so mega). 20,000-year-old human footprints surprised and intrigued researchers and others. There was even more surprise when the remains of Aboriginal people found there (especially Mungo Man and Mungo Lady) which proved to be 40 – 45 thousand years, and decorated to suggest a ritual burial. Two surprises here – first that humans had been in Australia for such a long time (recent discoveries elsewhere have now suggested over 60,000 years) and secondly that ritual burial had such a long history.
The remains of Mungo Man have recently been returned to his home country of Lake Mungo.
20,000 years ago saw an episode of climate change causing Australia to become colder, drier and windier, gradually drying up the lake
Our main purpose was to spend 4 days meeting travel agents from around the world and explaining our tours to them, at Australia’s biggest annual trade show, the ATE. It is very tiring, a bit like four straight days of speed-dating, but also very enjoyable meeting a lot of friendly and interesting people, making potentially valuable contacts and gleaning new ideas, and also sampling foods from the various states and territories.
After the ATE we collected my grandson (Darren’s nephew) Axel from the airport after his first-ever flight in a large plane so that he could have his first-ever meeting with his Adelaide cousins and first-ever experience of Australia’s outback on our drive back to Queensland.
We met my niece Britta and her two boys Niki and Alex at the Adelaide Zoo . Lovely see them again. The boys seemed to quickly make friends and enjoy exploring and playing together.
Then a family reunion dinner
Next day a family visit to the SA Museum, which I was forever dragging my mother to as a child and later exploring frequently ion my own, followed by the art gallery and a stroll through Adelaide city streets.
SA Art Gallery
Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Next day we (3 generations: myself, Darren and Axel) met with lecturers from the new ecotourism course being offered at Adelaide University (where I graduated with Honours in zoology many years ago), followed by a personal tour of the University, especially the science areas and library, some of which I remembered but much of which was new.
Next day it was off towards that site so famous for Aboriginal history – Lake Mungo …….
See previous post for travel to Pilliga and Siding Springs
On to the Flinders Ranges
We settled into the quaint and cosy hotel “The Mill” in Quorn and took a walk just before sunset along a very small section of the 1200km Heysen Trail.
I was pleased to find we could still buy my favourite ice cream – Golden North honey – in the region. At the time I used to visit, many years ago, it was the only place you could in fact buy it. It arrived in Adelaide some time later.
Next day was devoted to a whirlwind trip to Wilpena Pound and Brachina Gorge in the FlindersRanges, where ancient rocks have been uplifted and folded into dramatic shapes.
I had very often camped and hiked here with the Adelaide University Mountain Club many years ago but Darren had never visited. I was glad he immediately fell in love with these rugged ranges and started missing them as soon as we left
To Wilpena Pound
To Brachina Gorge
I wish we could have had a day or two to explore the time trail here, and just to wander around, and sit in the gorge taking in the whole atmosphere .
Instead of simply heading by plane to the Australian Tourism Exchange in April 2018, Darren and I decided drive to some places we’d never been to and re-visit some we had. I also arranged for my grandson Axel to join us by plane and drive back with us for his first-ever flight in a large plane and first-ever visit to the outback, plus a first-ever meeting between cousins (my brother’s grandsons)
Our first stop: the Pillaga
This is the largest remnant of dry woodland in NSW, on Jurassic-age Pilliga sandstone, and the traditional country of the Gamilaroi People, about halfway between Narrabri and Coonabarrabran.
Here we had out first glimpse of the world’s largest model of the solar system:
Planet models and the distances between them are all to scale, and you drive many kilometres between them. We found most of the others on our way to Coonabarrabran and on to Siding Springs Observatory.
Hot and tired when we reached the entrance to the caves walk, we decided to just walk as far as there first cave, but when we saw it we were rather tempted to goon to the second, and continued on to visit them all.
Various etchings can be seen in some spots – e.g. of emu and kangaroo tracks
Are you starting to see why we kept walking from cave to cave?
A few of the birds we saw in the Pilliga:
White-eared honeyeater (one of the study species during my Honours Zoology research on Kangaroo Island years ago – it does eat nectar but also many insects gleaned from leaves and -more unusually for honeyeaters – very often from bark)
Common bronzewing pigeon:
Apostlebird (they and Australian choughs belong to a family with no other members, and both are exclusively Australian)
Fracking for CSG
All may not be well for the Pilliga in the future. Santos has been doing some quite extensive searching for CSG extraction possibilities, and already has established pipelines through the area. Potential problems include excessive water usage in an area already subject to drought and possibly increasingly so as climate change progresses, possible contamination of water sources (including underground), habitat destruction and noise of fracking stations disturbing wildlife
We have led many day tours to this lovely little island, but that way we miss out on the charming sunsets, sunrises and early morning birding. There is now the possibility of staying overnight in comfortable cabins near a picturesque beach and a walking track through the coastal woodland.
Unlike some other islands nearby, the shores are protected by the “Emerald Fringe” of native woodlands. – no high-rise buildings or indeed any buildings coming right to the beach (and there are no high-rise buildings anywhere on there island). The Coochiemudlo Island Coastcare group work hard to keep introduced weeds under control and to prevent foreshore erosion.
If you’ve never seen a bush stone-curlew and would like to, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them here. They have an unforgettable stare with those big yellow eyes, and there’s plenty wandering around the island, sometimes with chicks following.
There are plenty of bush stone-curlews wandering around the island, and their weird, wild calls at night add to the atmosphere.
As the tide recedes we see hundreds, sometimes thousands, of blue soldier crabs marching across the beach. If you go too close you’ll startle them and they quickly bury themselves in the sand, but if you then stay still and quiet for a few minutes they’ll slowly re-emerge.
Meals can be at the cabins, picnics on the beach, or the Red Rock Cafe, with fresh seafood and many other options.
The name “Coochiemudlo” refers to the red rock from these cliffs (below) that were important to the local Aborigines, who used them for painting their bodies for ceremonies and trading for other goods far inland on the mainland.
Quiet beaches beckon. We often have these to ourselves even during the day, but even. more so by staying overnight and walking early in the morning or late afternoon.
Several mangrove species grow along some shores. These ones almost look as though if we turn away they’ll start approaching us like Triffids.
Getting up early on the island allows for good birding experiences.
Walking along the beach at low tide reveals shells of many local molluscs and fragments of local coral.
Sea-grass – important for dugongs and green turtles – is sometimes also washed ashore
Staying overnight gives an opportunity to see fruit bats when they visit the island to feast on nectar in certain flowering seasons, and sometimes also frogs, frogmouths, owls and the intriguing (and harmless) net-casting spider.
There is also the delight of moonlit nights and wonderful sunrises
So, if you’d like to not only spend a day on this scenic little island so close to Brisbane but also stay overnight in a comfortable little cabin close to a quiet beach and a woodland trail, please let us know.
An American family with only a few days to spend in southeast Queensland asked for a whirlwind 6 day tour of outback, rainforest, wildlife park and beaches at the end of winter (late August). A French intern working fir Wildlife Tourism Australia also joined us.
The surprisingly good little council-owned zoo at Queen’s Park in Ipswich was our first stop, to see animals we would not be seeing in the wild, such as billies, wombats and quolls. This also gave me a chance to talk with Frank Manthey (founder of Save the Bilby Fund) who will be opening the Scenic Rim Wildlife Bioblitz in October, while Darren showed our guests around the zoo.
As usual, our first night was spent in St George. We consider the western end of the bridge as the beginning of the true outback – past all sorghum, cotton and other crops, into free-range grazing or wilderness, red soils, red kangaroos, lot of emus, Major Mitchell cockatoos etc.
Next day took us through Cunnamulla to Bowra, a former cattle property well-known as a birding hotspot and now owned by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy.
We were delighted to be welcomed at our arrival by not just one but two echidnas!
Here are just a few of the other species we saw over the next few hours and following morning
One night is never enough in Bowra, but our American family only had 6 days to explore southern Queensland, so we moved eastwards again to the rainforests of Lamington National Park, the glow worms of Tamborine Mountain, woodland-lined beach at Fingal and captive-breeding programs and platypus aquarium at David Fleay Wildlife Park.
Wildlife tourism conference to be held in Adelaide, 6 to 9 November 2016
Organized by Wildlife Tourism Australia Inc.
Explore how to “do it right”, discuss what kinds of research have been useful for wildlife tourism and what research will now be most valuable, what kinds of training are currently available and what more may be needed in Australia and elsewhere. How can tourism businesses best work in cooperation with researchers, governments, local communities, NGOs and traveling citizen scientists or conservation volunteers? What ethical responsibilities do tour operators have towards tourists, local communities, other operators, animal welfare and biodiversity conservation?
Enjoy quality presentations, join in round-table discussions, visit wildlife attractions old and new near Adelaide, promote your own business, conservation cause or research …
For some years now we’ve been conducting tours to Coochiemudlo Island, an attractive and varied little subtropical island with long sandy beaches over which thousands of blue crabs march as the tide recedes, rocky platforms, mangroves, coastal woodlands and red cliffs much prized by the Aboriginals, who used the red ochre for body painting and trade with mainland groups. Bush stone-curlews, with their arresting stares, raptors, butterflies, bush-birds, shorebirds and a variety of sea creatures in rock pools all add to the charm of this island, so close to Brisbane yet often so deserted as holiday-makers rush to the far more commercialized Gold Coast.
Darren and I have recently been employed by Coochiemudlo Coast Care (under a grant from Redlands Shire Council) to conduct a fauna survey o the Melaleuca (tea-tree) Wetlands over four seasons (mid-summer, mid-autumn, mid-winter and mid-spring, with a view to enhancing conservation management plans. We completed the first session in January, with a team of volunteers to help set, check and wash traps (used to capture animals which are promptly released after identification).
The delights of staying overnight, listening to the weird, wild calls of the stone-curlews, watching the sun and moon rise over the waters and wandering safe bush tracks at night are encouraging us to add overnight stays to our island tours. We may also in future involve our tourists in some weed eradication (an on-going threat to the native understorey plants) in conjunction with the excellent programs by Coochiemudlo Coast Care, and spotting species in a monitoring program. Let us know in comments below or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Results will not be public until completion of the survey, but here are a few photos from our visit, which included live trapping and release, walking the trails day and night and setting motion-sensing cameras.