Franz Josef Heli Hike

Stories from our backyard: Franz Josef Heli Hike

Strapping on crampons immediately draws my mind to Sir Edmund Hillary. Unlike the famous mountaineer, my use of crampons is simply for a 2-hour hike on the Franz Josef Glacier, in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the South Island, New Zealand. Let’s face it…. crampons are not your normal footwear, but they play a crucially important role when hiking on ice and exploring ice caves and crevasses. The glacial hike paired with the helicopter flight is known as the Franz Josef Heli Hike. This world-renowned adventure is a privilege to behold and definetly a highlight of our holiday in Aotearoa (New Zealand).

Franz Josef Heli Hike

The Franz Josef & Fox Glaciers are part of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, a recognised World Heritage-listed area. The park extends from the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, to the remote beaches of the wild West Coast. It is a region of magnificent rugged vistas – snow-capped mountains, glaciers, forests, tussock grasslands, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and beaches. The glaciers are equivalent in latitude to the south of France, which is an unusual location to find glaciers that extend down to temperate rainforest and finish just above sea level! You can expect lots of rain in this area (after all rain & snow is what feeds the glaciers, rainforests and waterfalls), so it is best to allow a few days in the region so you have the flexibility to ensure you don’t miss your Franz Josef Heli Hike.

Franz Josef Heli Hike

The Glaciers are unique relics of the last ice age…

Rivers of solid white, tumbling down ice-hewn rock valleys, they are beautiful and mighty… and are undeniably a must see. Franz Josef Glacier (Kā Roimata ō Hine Hukatere) is one of the steepest glaciers in New Zealand, and it moves faster than your average glacier at around 50cm per day. This creates some truly incredible features in the glacier such as ice caves, tunnels, seracs and crevasses. Both the Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers have retreated drastically over the last 100 years and consequently, neither of the glaciers are accessible from the valley floor. All glacier experiences now involve a helicopter flight. The Franz Josef Heli Hike is a combination of an exhilarating helicopter flight with glacier landing (5 minute duration) which is operated by the Helicopter Line, and a unique guided walk amongst the ice caves and spectacular glacier features (2-hour total ice time), with expert guided services from Franz Josef Glacier Guides. Perfect for families and children 8 years plus, expect a 3-hour experience that is both unforgettable and awe-inspiring.

Franz Josef Heli Hike

It’s a team effort! The companies behind the tour….

The Helicopter Line is the largest Kiwi owned Heli company in New Zealand, as well as the biggest provider of scenic flights in the country.  Many of the scenic flight options are within New Zealand’s national parks which means easy access to some of the most iconic landscapes a reality which may not otherwise be accessible. The Helicopter Line works closely with the Department of Conservation as well as contributing to the local community activities & events.

Franz Josef Heli Hike

Franz Josef Glacier Guides is an internationally recognized guiding operation, established in 1990. They have exclusive guiding access to Franz Josef Glacier, combining traditional guiding techniques unique to Aotearoa (New Zealand) with modern innovations, and provide access to remote glacier terrain that would normally only be accessible to experienced mountaineers. Franz Josef Glacier Guides is owned by Ngāi Tahu Tourism, a company owned by the biggest iwi (Māori tribe) by population in the South Island of Aotearoa.

So, for spectacular scenery and some elusive blue ice experience please make sure a visit to Franz Josef and the Heli Hike is on your bucket list for your next trip to New Zealand.

Good to know:

Lake Matheson-West Coast

Franz Josef is 5 hours north of Queenstown and is famous for the stunning scenic drive through Wanaka, to Haast and on to Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers. This is glacier country and a must-do is to view one or both glaciers if in the region. It is only a 30-minute drive between both glaciers so why not do both? To allow for optimum weather conditions, we recommend staying for 2 nights. The Franz Josef region has many activities on offer including: glacier valley walk or Heli Hike, catch a scenic flight, view spectacular waterfalls in the rainforest on numerous short hikes, see the Glowworms, Kayak on Lake Mapourika, meet the Kiwi birds and get plenty of Insta-ready photos at Lake Matheson! Read more

 

Fox Glacier-West Coast

Yellow Water Cruises

Stories from our backyard: Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Cruises

Meet Big Maxi. He likes a fight. At 55 years of age, he’s a long-term resident of the Yellow Water Billabong and is an impressive fellow at 4.2 metres long. The operators of Yellow Water Cruises take a keen interest in their locals….and Big Maxi is a definite drawcard. He’s prepared to fight for his turf and is one of the many saltwater crocodiles that call the Billabong home. But the famous reptilian predator is not the only resident, in fact you will find a huge variety of wildlife including wild horses, buffalo and a vast range of birdlife….and sometimes even a stray shark who happens to make its way downstream. Yellow Water Cruises is the award-winning operator that has exclusive use of the Billabong and their boat cruise is an absolute must-do to get up close and personal with the rich variety of local wildlife in Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory.

Yellow Water Cruises

Kakadu National Park covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres of exceptional natural beauty and is one of the very few places World Heritage-listed for both its cultural and its natural values. Kakadu is a living cultural landscape. Generations of the Bininj/Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for more than 65,000 years. Kakadu National Park is a timeless place – a landscape of exceptional beauty, great biodiversity and a wide variety of landforms, habitats and wildlife. Kakadu is home to 68 mammals, more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, more than 2,000 plants and over 10,000 species of insects. The opportunity to meet the wildlife and experience the spectacular journey through Kakadu’s wetlands is why the landlocked Yellow Water Billabong is one of Kakadu National Park’s best-known landmarks.

Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Cruises

Azure Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Indigenous-owned Yellow Water Cruises takes you on a discovery tour through the dramatic scenery and ever-changing landscape of this world-famous Billabong. The cruise operates from sunrise to sunset and runs up to five cruises daily. The indigenous guides provide fantastic commentary about the local habitat and of course, regale you in the local stories. The guides are skilled in searching for and identifying wildlife. The sunrise and sunset cruises are very popular, and many people take more than one cruise during their stay to see the changes in the wildlife at different times of the day. It really does deliver that WOW factor!

Yellow Water Billabong

Kakadu Yellow Water Billabong. Photo credit Paul Arnold

Positive Indigenous outcomes…

Yellow Water Cruises is more than a window view of Kakadu. The indigenous guides are educating the visitor about their land and country. Their interpretation adds to the visitor experience. And coincidentally, the visitor also contributes to the local indigenous culture as a portion of their cruise fee is put to good use with a direct funding contribution to local Traditional Owners and the community. The aim is about connection, to give back and enrich the world’s oldest living culture.

Guided cultural tours in Kakadu. Photo credit Tourism NT/James Fisher

Welcome and respect the country….

Yellow Water Billabong and Kakadu National Park is more than just a beautiful landscape. I know after our family holiday we left with a greater understanding of the Aboriginal connection to the land. And in the words of Jacob Nayinggul, from the Manilakarr clan: “Our land has a big story. Sometimes we tell a little bit at a time. Come and hear our stories, see our land. A little bit might stay in your hearts. If you want more, you come back.”

Yellow Water Cruises

Yellow Water Billabong Kakadu. Jesus bird walks on water. Photo credit Paul Arnold

Facts:

The winter season (May to September) is traditionally the most popular time to visit. The daytime temperatures range around 30 degrees Celsius and the nights are cool. Perfect weather for all activities. Shoulder seasons are a good option, with A Taste of Kakadu in May and Kakadu Bird Week in September/October. The wet season offers a totally different experience, but worth considering if you like thundering waterfalls and spectacular lightning shows. Getting around Kakadu during the dry season is relatively easy with roads to most of the major attractions (such as Ubirr, Nourlangie and Cooinda/Yellow Water Billabong) bitumen and sealed. Driving can be done in a conventional vehicle, though a 4WD is recommended, especially if you want to get to places like Maguk, Jim Jim & Twin Falls, which are 4WD access only.

Rock art at Nourlangie Rock. Image from Tourism Australia/Nicolas Kavo

Good to know:

The Top End of the Northern Territory delivers a fantastically special and unique Australian holiday. The highlight of this area is the joy of exploring World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park, only a 3-hour drive east of Darwin. Connect with the oldest living culture on earth and admire the rugged and remote beauty of the greatest National Park in Australia.  Kakadu National Park has countless activities on offer, you could easily stay for 3+ nights. Apart from Yellow Water Cruises, other top highlights include the free daily Ranger guided-tours, the “must-see” Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, marvel at the Rock Art at Ubirr and Nourlangie, swim at the stunning Gunlom Falls or at the pristine Maguk Gorge, check-out the biggest waterfall, Jim Jim Falls, and there’s plenty more! Read more on Kakadu & the Top End.

Jim Jim Falls Kakadu

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Stories from our backyard: Rotorua Canopy Tours

Rotorua Canopy Tours is celebrating their latest win in the Top 10 experiences for South Pacific as judged by TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice awards Best of the Best for 2020. Now this is not their only accolade, but the latest in a long string of awards the company has gathered in their eight years of operation. Their motivation however is to go even better by delivering the best visitor experience on the planet…now that is an ambitious KPI!

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Rotorua is famous for its pristine natural beauty and is situated in the Bay of Plenty region on the North island, New Zealand. From sparkling lakes and lush forests, to epic biking trails and explosive geysers, Rotorua has it all. However, in years gone by, Rotorua was part of a rich logging industry which destroyed old-growth forests in the region. As luck would have it, a pocket of ancient forest remained as it delivered some scenic value for those enjoying a train ride to the town. It is this pocket of ancient old-growth forest which Rotorua Canopy Tours is fortunate enough to call home.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Ultimate tour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With international borders currently closed, Rotorua Canopy Tours have lost access to 60% of their regular customers. For the interim that means quieter times with domestic and corporate customers able to enjoy the ziplining experience in smaller numbers. The forest adventure delivers a journey through prehistoric native forest and allows customers to explore the rainforest canopy through a network of ziplines, swing bridges, cliff-walks, tree top platforms and more. Perfect for families and children 6 years plus, expect a 3-hour experience that is both unforgettable and enlightening.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

And here’s the twist… tourism is restoring nature!

Rotorua Canopy Tours is not your standard zipline experience. Their vision is to offer a life-changing encounter with the natural world that aims to delight guests. The ancient forest provides the magical setting – the ziplines, swing bridges, cliff walkways and other features are simply a way to experience it. Conservation was an important factor in the Rotorua Canopy Tours’ mantra since the beginning. Initially the forest was in poor health and had a total rat and possum infestation. The goal was to hear the bird song ringing loud through the forest and the aim has been to see the canopy flourish once again.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Everyone with trapped animals

The twin bid to save the native forest and the establishment of Rotorua Canopy Tours is one of New Zealand’s leading conservation stories. Each customer who participates on a canopy tour is part of that story, as a portion of their ticket price contributes to the conservation efforts. Today, Rotorua Canopy Tours has worked to trap over 250ha of the forest thanks to customers participation. There have been amazing results with the possums gone and the trees have been able to restore and flourish. Native animals are returning including long-tailed cuckoo -koekoeā, rare striped skink, tom tit and North Island robin. See the difference in the following photos of the before and after shots on the health of the forest canopy.

Rotorua Canopy Tours

2013 Before shot Tui Song

Rotorua Canopy Tours

2018 After shot Tui Song

Rotorua Canopy Tours

Bird feeding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A visit to Rotorua Canopy Tours is very much an emotional journey as well as an activity challenge. It is the connection and ownership of a regenerated old-growth forest that has made Rotorua Canopy Tours a much-loved nature experience in an area that is so reliant on tourism and unforgettable adventures. The beauty is with each visitor contributing to the transformation of the local eco-system. Rotorua Canopy Tours’ promise is to keep each visitor safe, create some laughs along the way and become part of the forest restoration story.

Good to know:

Rotorua

Lake Tarawera views

Rotorua

Te Puia Rotorua

Rotorua

Te Puia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rotorua is a 3-hour drive south-east of Auckland and is easily one of the most popular areas to visit on the North Island for many good reasons. It is the centre of Māori culture as well as the main geothermal hub (think bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers & natural hot springs). Rotorua is beautiful with numerous sparkling lakes and lush forests. The town has countless activities on offer, you could easily stay for 3+ nights. Rotorua delivers many iconic New Zealand experiences including thermal wonderlands to explore, visit a living Māori village and Arts and Crafts institute, don’t miss Hobbiton enroute to Rotorua for your Lord of the Rings fix, and loads of action options including white water rafting, mountain biking, luge rides and plenty more! Read more on Rotorua

 

Phillip Island

Stories from our backyard: Phillip Island Penguin Parade

They are only 33 cms tall. Formerly known as fairy penguins, Phillip Island’s little penguins are indeed the world’s largest colony of the world’s smallest penguins. It’s a heart-warming experience to see…and something that draws a smile during these COVID times. On any given evening at sunset you can expect to see 1,100 little penguins waddle in from the sea. This is the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island. A magical event in which the little penguins have the starring role and their natural environment is the stage.

Phillip Island

Penguin Parade

Phillip Island is located only 90 minutes from Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. The Penguin Parade first drew attention back in the 1920’s with small operators taking tourists by torchlight to see the penguin’s nightly arrival. Now there are up to 3,500 visitors each evening (pre-COVID) and operations are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks, a self-funded not-for-profit organisation. This is a unique conservation organisation whose responsibilities include the management of 25% of the land on Phillip Island, as well as wildlife management and the operations of a range of ecotourism experiences. Their goal is to protect nature for wildlife and inspire people to actively protect the environment.

Phillip Island

Koala Reserve

Phillip Island

Churchill Island

Phillip Island

Antarctic Journey

The main eco-tourism experiences which are managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks are the Penguin Parade, the Koala Reserve where you can see koalas up close via the tree-top boardwalks, Churchill Island which offers farm activities and historical grounds and the Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies Centre which is designed to entertain and educate about the southern ocean and Antarctica. The 3 parks pass bundled ticket with an upgrade to Penguins Plus is the most popular and recommended booking choice. Profits generated by these main attractions are invested into conservation, research, ecotourism, environmental and educational initiatives within the Nature Parks.

 

Phillip Island

Pyramid Rock walk

So, every visitor contributes…

As a result of these contributions Phillip Island Nature Parks have scored many great conservation wins. The island is now the largest inhabited island in the world that has eradicated the European red fox and remains free of this introduced predator. That is good news for the penguins and other native wildlife! Other efforts and conservation programs focus on the care of the habitat with many new native plants in the ground that provide food and shelter for wildlife, removal of invasive weeds, wildlife rescue of seals from fishing lines, examining images from motion detection cameras to identify any pest animals, as well as the all-important wildlife research and monitoring.

Phillip Island

Seal Rock – Phillip Island

But back to the main event. With international borders currently closed, and a second pause to visitation of the Penguin Parade due to a Coronavirus uptick, the Nature Parks have concentrated on keeping things as normal as possible for the stars of the show. That means many nights of no crowds with the lights still flicked on so that the waddling stars experience no difference to their environment. Such strange times!

Time to put on a smile on your face…

Even in these quiet times the penguins still draw attention. The respected Scottish BBC sport commentator Andrew Cotter, whose voice is well known to fans of international golf, tennis and athletics, has narrated the antics of Phillip Island’s most famous residents as they waddle from the shoreline, across the sand dunes to arrive safely at home, in their burrows. Please enjoy the Facebook video here.

Phillip Island

Cowes Foreshore

Phillip Island Nature Parks is a not-for-profit conservation organisation, committed to the protection of wildlife and its habitat, funded through the operation of its ecotourism experiences. Make sure to support Phillip Island Nature Parks and enjoy the penguin parade when you next visit Victoria, Australia.

Good to know:

Phillip Island

Island Surf School

Phillip Island

Phillip Island Chocolate Factory

Phillip Island

 

Phillip Island is only a 90 minute drive south-east of Melbourne and is easily one of the most popular spots to visit in Victoria for many good reasons. The island offers stunning coastal scenery, beaches to explore and many wildlife encounters. Well worth a 2-night stay, make some time to catch the large colony of Australian Fur Seals on a seal watching cruise, feed the wild pelicans at San Remo, visit the Chocolate Factory and then burn off all the sugar at Amaze n Things. Finally, don’t forget to take the kids go-karting on the scale replica of the famous Grand Prix circuit!

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Stories from our backyard: Whale Watch Kaikōura

July 4 is a celebration day for Whale Watch Kaikōura as they will be back on the water after 103-days downtime! New Zealand have had great success in their fight against the Coronavirus, and the resulting reward is social distancing elimination and the resurrection of domestic tourism. For the Māori-owned operator in Kaikōura on the South Island New Zealand, it will mean a simple start on the path to recovery and a chance to show-off the Whale encounters that Kaikōura are well renowned for.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Sperm Whale – Tiaki

Kaikōura is a small coastal town where the mountains meet the sea. The Seaward Kaikōura mountain ranges are the northern-most part of the Southern Alps and just 800 metres off the coast lies the submarine Kaikōura Canyon which provides a constant rich food chain for the local population of Sperm Whales, Dolphins, Seals, Albatross and Penguins. The waters are a protected marine sanctuary for the many who call Kaikōura home.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

For Whale Watch Kaikōura, this marine sanctuary is their backyard. With international borders currently closed, Whale Watch Kaikōura have lost access to 85% of their regular guests. For the interim that means quieter times with domestic travellers able to admire the antics of the giant Sperm Whales in relative tranquillity. The Sperm Whales are unquestionably the stars of the marine experience. Whale Watch normally run up to 16 cruises per day year-round with a 95% sighting success rate of these amazing creatures that can measure up to 20 metres in length. Their unique marine experience also provides the opportunity to sight other whale species on their migratory route as well as the high-spirited dusky dolphins, and other residents of the marine sanctuary.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Passengers & Hectors Dolphins

Whale Watch Kaikōura is no stranger to downtimes…. COVID-19 has seen to that. Apart from the current global pandemic, in 2016 Kaikōura experienced a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which destroyed lives, businesses, roads, railway lines and houses. The earthquake influence extended to the sea floor which rose between .5 – 1.5 metres around the peninsula. The result was a 49-day downtime for the company whilst dredging and marina adjustments ensued.

Lucky for us that Whale Watch Kaikōura put their downtimes to good use…

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Hutton’s Shearwaters

In 2005 Whale Watch partnered with the Department of Conservation and the local Kaikōura community to help save the Hutton’s Shearwater seabird. It is an endangered seabird with their only breeding colonies located high in the seaward Kaikōura Ranges. Numbers of these seabirds have dramatically declined due to introduced predators and habitat loss. With only two breeding colonies remaining, a third artificial colony was established with predator-proof fencing which enabled a safe environment for ongoing breeding. These efforts have enabled the preservation and sustainable management of the endangered Hutton’s Shearwater, the world’s only alpine breeding seabird.

Whale Watch Kaikoura

NZ Fur Seal

Whale Watch is a multiple national and international award-winning nature-based tourism company who is committed to a sustainable future both on and off the water. Formed in 1987, the company grew on the back of their quality whale watching experience and Kaikōura became an eco-tourism destination as a result. Together they partner in many conservation initiatives including the Trees for Travellers program, which encourages visitors to plant a native tree in Kaikoura and offset their carbon footprint. Whale Watch and the Kaikōura community have formed a partnership in recognition of the responsibilities of guardianship, as well as protecting and preserving the Kaikōura environment. Make sure to support Whale Watch and enjoy a cruise with them when you next visit Kaikōura and the South Island.

Good to know:

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Whale Watch Kaikoura

Kaikoura

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaikōura offers many compelling reasons to visit this stunning region. Its location is on the well-worn Alpine Pacific Touring route north of Christchurch. The town caters well for the wide range of marine & land activities. Well worth a 2-3-night stay, take time to also swim with the dolphins, kayak with the seals, wander the Kaikōura Peninsula walkway as well as trek the many short walks in the area. Most importantly, don’t forget to sample the local crayfish for which the town is so famous! Read more on Kaikōura

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Stories from our backyard: Wavelength Reef Cruises

Jenny Edmondson was mowing her lawns. Quite a strange thing for the co-owner of Wavelength Reef Cruises to be doing…. but then again, we are in COVID times. Her normal backyard is not grass, but rather showing off pristine coral gardens, abundant fish and the clear waters of the outer Great Barrier Reef. Wavelength is the premier cruise operator when it comes to exploring the Great Barrier Reef from Port Douglas in far-north Queensland.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Snorkeller, Opal Reef, Wavelength Reef Cruises

With both international and state borders currently closed, this is a downtime with no cruises scheduled and a hopeful re-start come this July. Wavelength is normally fielding a vessel with 38 guests for their regular day trip to 3 exclusive sites on the Great Barrier Reef. Locally owned and with over 34 years’ experience, Wavelength Reef Cruises specialise in small group size guided snorkelling tours with their very own marine biologists.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Great Barrier Reef – humphead wrasse

The Great Barrier Reef:

is one of the seven wonders of the natural world and was declared a World Heritage site in 1981 for its remarkable variety and beauty. It’s the world’s largest coral reef system with over 3000 individual reefs, 900 islands and stretches for over 2,600 kilometres (bigger than the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Holland combined). Amazingly 90% of its diversity occurs within 4 metres of the surface…which is why snorkelling on the reef is so popular and undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

St Crispin Reef, Tropical North Queensland

But there is no snorkelling happening on the reef for now…COVID-19 has seen to that. The coronavirus is a disrupter above the water line, and for coral reefs worldwide one of the big disrupters below the water line is indeed climate change and the warming water temperatures. The result is the Great Barrier Reef has seen a series of coral bleaching events over the last 5 years which have damaged some of the coral ecosystems on the reef. Fortunately for us all of the Great Barrier Reef is not damaged nor dead, and many areas of the reef are not affected. With time and a stable environment those bleached corals can re-grow, but the series of bleaching events within a short time-frame means that there is a greater challenge to recover.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Branching Fragment, Coral Nurture Program

This is where Wavelength have stepped in.

Conservation:

In early 2018 Wavelength Reef Cruises formed a partnership with the University of Technology Sydney to establish a Coral nurture program. It is a partnership between tourism and science that encourages and propagates the growth of heat resilient corals. Initially established with 2 multi-specie coral nurseries and now expanded to 7, these nurseries are located at healthy reef sites that Wavelength manage. The idea is to supplement the high-value reef sites with hardy corals that are heat tolerant to keep these reef sites healthy and thriving for the long-term.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Coral Nurture Program

The Coral Reef rehabilitation efforts have now expanded to a total of 6 operators within the Port Douglas/Cairns area. If successful, the goal is for broader adoption again of the Coral nurture program to other tour operators and stakeholders connected throughout the Great Barrier Reef. This program does not replace global efforts to further protect the reef, but if successful and upscaled it will contribute to the overall conservation of the reef. Combined with the Eye on the Reef monitoring program, Wavelength Reef Cruises is utilising their current downtime well to contribute to the health and well-being of the Great Barrier Reef.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Wavelength is passionate about conservation and low impact tourism at its best. Even in these tough COVID times the company is working to protect the incredible natural wonder that is the Great Barrier Reef. The company recognises the importance so that future generations can experience and benefit from the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef as we do today. Make sure to support Wavelength Reef Cruises and enjoy a day trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef with them when you next visit Port Douglas and far-north Queensland.

Good to know:

Port Douglas is a touch of paradise.

Wavelength Reef Cruises

Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas. Tourism & Events Queensland.

Just an hour north of Cairns Airport, Port Douglas is uniquely bordered by two World Heritage sites, the magnificent Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest.

Dreamtime Gorge Walk – guided tour. Mossman Gorge Centre. Tourism & Events Queensland.

Crocodile, Daintree. Tourism & Events Queensland

Mossman River, Daintree. Tourism & Events Queensland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well worth a 5+ night stay, take time to also explore the northern beaches, sample coffee and chocolates in the Atherton Tablelands, meet the big crocs at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, don’t forget a swim in the fresh-water Mossman Gorge and simply relish in the delights that this tropical village has to offer. Read more on Port Douglas

Daintree Ice Cream Company. Tourism & Events Queensland

Healesville Sanctuary

Stories from our backyard: Healesville Sanctuary


Top of mind when visiting Australia for many is to meet the local residents…which of course is not the human variety but the native animals. This is not surprising as our native wildlife are unique and simply a huge drawcard for admirers of all ages! And for those of us visiting the Melbourne region, this means a must-visit is to make the one-hour journey from the Melbourne CBD to Healesville Sanctuary in the stunning Yarra Valley.

Healesville Sanctuary

Couple with kangaroos at Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary | Zoos Victoria

Healesville Sanctuary

Meet an Echidna, Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary:

Healesville Sanctuary is all about our native wildlife and is not your ordinary zoo. It is a bushland haven for Australian wildlife and a delight that demands a full day adventure. Wander along the tracks and meet some iconic Australian animals like Koalas, Kangaroos, Platypus, Dingoes, Wombats and Emus. Take in some Keeper talks to get to know your favourite animal and how the Keeper’s care for our furry, fluffy, and even scaly friends. Have your photo taken in front of a Koala or Kangaroo and watch our strangest animal friend, the Platypus.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala being treated for bushfire injuries

Australian Wildlife Health Centre:

But most importantly, Healesville Sanctuary is also home to the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, a hospital which treats more than 2000 sick and injured native animals every year. The vets and keepers from the Australian Wildlife Health Centre were part of the bushfire emergency teams that staffed a number of triage centres across Victoria during the recent summer bushfires. They tended to injured wildlife on the frontline, and several Koalas have been brought back to Healesville Sanctuary for rehabilitation with the hope that someday they will be released back to the wild.

Healesville Sanctuary

Koala treated for bushfire injuries

Bushfire Relief Fund:

The recent bushfires were horrific. Scientists estimate billions of animals have perished in the vast bushfires that have torn through millions of hectares of forest across Australia’s south-east. Up to 100 endangered species have lost most of their living areas. As a voice for wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is devastated by the impact of the Australian bushfire crisis on precious species and their habitat and is determined to assist in all aspects, including through raising much-needed emergency funds. Healesville Sanctuary and Zoos Victoria have set up a dedicated Bushfire Emergency Wildlife Fund for donations. You are welcome to donate here.

The goal of the Bushfire relief fund is to work towards establishing long-term plans to ensure our native wildlife, including endangered species, can recover from these heartbreaking and ongoing fires. Healesville Sanctuary is internationally renowned for its work saving endangered Australian species and offers a memorable day where you can meet and enjoy the local residents as well as see the important work in the Australian Wildlife Health Centre. So, make sure to add this to your must-visit list when next visiting Melbourne, Australia!

Good to know:

Whilst you are visiting Healesville Sanctuary take time to stay awhile as there is plenty to do in the stunning Yarra Valley!

Yering Gorge Cottages, the Yarra Valley

Dining at Domaine Chandon winery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay in a villa with local wildlife visiting you at dusk. Explore the Yarra Valley by visiting the local wineries (including Domaine Chandon), cider & gin distilleries, don’t miss the farmgates or the magnificent Coombe Gardens, do a day hike through Kinglake National Park and catch the Puffing Billy steam train through the nearby Dandenong Ranges. Read more on the Yarra Valley

Puffing Billy Steam Railway

Cheese on display at the Healesville Harvest cafe

Dolphin Swims

Stories from our backyard: Sea All Dolphin Swims

For a hands-down most fun thing to do with your family make sure to do the Dolphin & Seal Swim. Just 30 minutes from the start of the Great Ocean Road and 1.5 hours from Melbourne, Sea All Dolphin Swims operates from the historic town of Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. This is a nature-based experience that you simply won’t forget!

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

But here’s a warning… this is not a Seaworld attraction experience. All animals are completely wild, and the experiences are totally impromptu…

Dolphin Swims

Dolphins at play

The swim tour:

Takes 3.5 hours, and you get to meet the local residents of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park… most notably colourful fishes, Australian Fur Seals and of course, the Burranan or Bottlenose Dolphins. You can do as much or as little as you like in these shallow and protected waters. Learn to snorkel, then swim with both the Seals and Dolphins or simply watch from your spot on the boat or the boom net if you prefer…

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Australian Fur Seals

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I gotta tell you it’s a lot of fun sitting in the boom net watching the dolphins & humans at play !

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

Since a recent ban on commercial fishing in the Bay has been introduced you can expect a 95% success rate with Dolphin sightings. Sea All Dolphin Swims offer a nice small group with a maximum of 35 guests onboard. If you are wondering about your young ones swimming, then let them decide. They will be well coached and supported on the day. Swimming is open to all ages.

Dolphin Swims

Sea All Dolphin Swims – Queenscliff

The Dolphins:

Dolphin Swims

The dolphins are the stars of the show and they love to frolic in the boat’s wake. They are both social and intelligent, and it is SO much fun to be with them in the water. Sea All Dolphin Swims prides themselves on ensuring that their guests have an engaging and altogether unforgettable experience. So, make sure to add this to your wish list!

Good to know:

The swim tour is based at Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula. Queenscliff is a port with a car/passenger ferry which connects one side of the Bay to the other.

Queenscliff-Sorrento Ferry

The ferry is an excellent way to connect your stays on The Great Ocean Road to Phillip Island or the Yarra Valley and beyond. But whilst you are in Queenscliff take time to also explore the wider Bellarine Peninsula by visiting the local wineries, farmgates and the Koala & Wildlife Sanctuary at Barwon Heads. Read more on the Great Ocean Road

The Whiskery on the Bellarine Peninsula. Chris McConville

Wine from Jack Rabbit

Seafood on the Bellarine Peninsula

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Update: Australia’s Bushfire recovery

Record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought have fuelled a series of massive horror bushfires across Australia in the summer months of 2019-2020. The areas most affected were southern NSW, far eastern Victoria and Kangaroo Island in South Australia. At least 33 people have been killed – including four firefighters – and more than 11 million hectares (110,000 sq.km/27.2 million acres) of bush, forest and parks across these regions of Australia has burned. Up to 2,000 homes have been lost. More than 1 billion mammals, birds, and reptiles likely lost their lives in the blazes. Smoke pollution from the fires reached New Zealand over 1,000 miles away.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Source: NSW Rural Fire Service / Victoria Country Fire Authority, 31 Jan/bbc.com

These are very sad facts indeed…

And what has happened since? The rains have helped contain many of the worst fires in February 2020. The ongoing incredible generosity from individuals, groups, organisations both from local and global communities has helped with Australia’s bushfire recovery. The Australian Government has sprung into action with a dedicated effort. There have been many bushfire relief concerts ranging from events at the local hotels to International stars such as Katy Perry & Mylie Cyrus announcing their support with upcoming concerts. Community fundraisers abound.

These efforts and events all signal a collective hope. Hope that we can make a difference. Support those directly affected. And in the words of our National Bushfire Recovery Agency it’s all about……Relief. Recovery. Regenerate.

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Here is a quick look at some of the amazing bushfire recovery initiatives & stories:

Aces for Bushfire Relief:

Tennis stars from across the world joined forces at the Melbourne Australian Open in January to help the victims of Australia’s bushfires by turning aces into donations. The Aces for Bushfire Relief campaign encouraged the public to pledge a donation for every ace served by their favourite tennis player. An amazing 11,058 aces were served over the duration of the Australian Open with a total of AUD $5.8 million raised.

Australian Open

Blaze Aid:

Blaze Aid is a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. The volunteers work alongside the rural families and help to rebuild fences and other structures that have been damaged or destroyed.

Wildlife Help:  

A Victorian man put his own life on the line to help save koalas that have been impacted by the bushfire crisis in East Gippsland. After fire tore through the eucalyptus forest in Mallacoota, Patrick Boyle ventured into the still-smouldering bush to save the lives of the vulnerable marsupials. The 22-year-old said he just wanted to do his part after seeing everyone rally around one another. https://9now.nine.com.au/today/victoria-fires-mallacoota-local-puts-life-on-line-to-save-koalas/f20708ae-b97f-4815-a2b9-7099e0859816 

 

Australia's Bushfire recovery

Darren Donlen – Nature and Wildlife 2019

Spend with Them:

A number of incredible new initiatives have been launched on Instagram showcasing the abundance of small businesses in bushfire-affected communities, encouraging Aussies to spend their money at places that need it the most. It’s a way to put money directly in the pockets of these fire-affected businesses & service providers. #spendwiththem, #buyfromthebush, #emptyesky

Firefighters:

After saving countless homes and lives in this hellish bushfire season, firefighters can now look forward to a free cruise as a reward. Over 7000 volunteer first responders will enjoy a luxury 4-night cruise compliments of Royal Caribbean International. https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/free-luxury-cruise-for-bushfire-first-responders/news-story/6c4386b73e327a866ae516f5af7bfbe5

 

Travel Local:  

A new campaign has been launched to encourage visitors to support the communities who need our help by visiting and staying awhile. While donations have flooded in from around the world, the number of tourists visiting has dropped by 80 per cent in some regions compared to the same time last year. The campaign is focused on the regions hardest hit. By booking a trip to these regions we can all help the local economy and pump much-needed funds back into towns that need tourist dollars to survive. #DontDelayYourStay.

Byron Bay

Be amazed by Byron Bay!

Byron Bay. What is all the fuss about? It has a lot to do with the hugely independent and creative character of the community. Of course, there are the stunning beaches and pristine coastline. Not to mention the magnificent hinterland with many National Parks to explore. The town is all about being clean and green. And yes, let’s not forget Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor in the Avengers) has chosen to call this coastal town home.

Byron Bay

The Pass Stairway. Tourism Australia.

In the past Byron Bay was known for its whaling station and as a surfing mecca. These days it’s a bohemian town on the global map with over two million visitors each year. Don’t expect high-rise towers overshadowing the beaches, franchise shops and shopping centres in this northern NSW coastal town. If you want that drive 40 minutes up the road to the Gold Coast. Byron is loved because of the nature and low-rise feel of the town. With the choice of two airports within a 40-minute drive, and the Brisbane International Airport only two hours north, Byron Bay is easily accessible. So, if you enjoy nature walks, beaches, buying locally organic food from the farmers market and treating yourself to the local day spa then Byron Bay is your town.

Byron Bay

Person walking to Minyon Falls. Tourism Australia.

Here are some of the key things to do:

Explore the Beaches:

Byron Bay has a plethora of gorgeous beaches to choose from… all blessed with white sands, plenty of waves and resident dolphins. They enjoy the waves just as much as we do! Main beach/Clarkes beach are in the town centre or take a picnic and wander to beautiful Wategos or Little Wategos Beach for a spell. Otherwise make time to wander through Arakwal National Park to Cosy Corner and Tallows Beach. We enjoyed a close encounter with a Wallaby and her Joey in the National Park before we walked the long expanse of Tallows Beach.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Lighthouse views of Tallows Beach. Tourism Australia.

Cape Byron Walking Track:

Visit the most easterly point of mainland Australia at the Cape Byron Lighthouse. This loop track is 3.7km and takes roughly 2 hours. Lots of great bush & water views with plenty of steps and stops on the way. Tip – don’t walk back on the road but instead take in the Tallows Beach return route as it’s much nicer. Aim for Sunrise or Sunset for the best photos.

Byron Bay

People watching the Sunrise at Cape Byron Lighthouse . Tourism Australia

Get out on the water:

Byron Bay is all about the beach so make sure you take it all in. One great option is to do a kayak tour to see the dolphins and whales (in season). It’s alot of fun, and the bonus was sighting Loggerhead turtles and kayak surfing back to shore. You can also snorkel or dive at Julian Rocks marine reserve. Alternatively, consider a surf lesson for the whole family.

Byron Bay

Kayaking in the Ocean. Tourism Australia.

Food/Retail with a difference:

Byron Bay definitely has a creative vibe that is evident through the food and retail scene. The wide variety of independent shops makes for a solid afternoon’s explore and there are plenty of regular markets featuring local artisan works as well as fresh produce. The variety and breadth of restaurants & cafes is fantastic. Don’t forget to explore the Arts & Industry Estate which features the local Stone & Wood Brewery.

Byron Bay

Byron Bay Streetscape. Tourism Australia.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary:

Based on the Gold Coast, and only a 50-minute drive from Byron Bay, this native wildlife sanctuary is a good option for those members of the family who want to cuddle a Koala. The law allows you to hold a koala in Queensland, but you cannot in New South Wales. The Sanctuary offers several sessions daily where you can join in to learn more about koalas and hold one at the end of the session.

Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland.

Make the time to visit Byron Bay & surrounds. Discover what is special about the area…it won’t disappoint! It’s always nice to get off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the local community and enjoy this lovely coastal town.