Sunday, June 29

aaaahhh.... the birds!!

Western Australia's iconic Black Swan (Cygnus atratus)
I must warn you upfront that I didn't visit Australia for the wildlife.

Considering I made no plans whatsoever to visit wildlife sanctuaries (apart from Ningaloo Reef) it's amazing what I did see!

On the mammal front I spotted one koala, a couple of possums (in & near Brisbane), and saw kangaroos on only 3 different occasions whilst travelling through 3,500 kms  of Western Australia. 

To be honest, if one travelled through unprotected "normal" countryside in South Africa you wouldn't see too much in the way of large, 4-legged wildlife either!

But my spotting instincts refused to take a holiday and I excitedly found new and amazing birds everywhere I went. (There were quite a few notable lizards as well!)

In Brisbane, my main focus was bonding with family and I didn't have my big zoom lens at the ready. Which was a pity as I missed getting photos of Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Magpie Geese, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a whole host of other interesting birds.

Once in Western Australia, however, I got a bit more serious about wildlife spotting. Just in case I needed to fill in any gaps in those awesome, wide-open landscapes....

Australian Wood Duck

Bird sightings predominated, from the relatively lush, emerald, south western woods and wetlands........

Barnaby's Cockatoo

at Yanchep National Park.......

Purple Swamphen

through to the crashing rollers, high cliffs and white beaches of the Indian Ocean coast. 

Silver Gulls on the beach at Cervantes

Singing Honeyeater, Shark Bay
Nankeen Kestrel, Kalbarri cliffs

Pied Cormorants at Cape Peron (Shark Bay World Heritage Area)
Crossing from the scrub and spinifex country of the North West Cape through the Pilbara region on the way to Karijini produced all the open country I could have wished for.

It was a deceptively green landscape. An indicator of it's normally desolate and arid nature was the scarcity of visible animal life, whether livestock or wildlife. But again, there were some birds.........

Brown Falcon
 Out in the open areas the birds of prey dominated...
Wedge-tailed Eagle
and in the wooded areas beside the infrequent creeks a few more colourful birds....

Australian Ringneck Parrot
and a flight of Little Corellas

Every little oasis of an outback town hosted flocks of the noisy and vibrant Galah.
the gorgeous Galah
Once back near the coast, in the last days before starting my Ningaloo Escape, I finally got a photo of the Crested Pigeon and a couple of other specials in the shrubs amongst the red dunes and eroded gorges of North West Cape.

Crested Pigeon
Brown Honeyeater
A bower of the Western Bowerbird

Needless to say I saw and heard many, many more birds than listed or pictured here. It was a truly rich birding experience that I really hadn't anticipated!

Birds identified with the help of :- Birdlife Australia

Wednesday, June 18

An African Guide in Australia

The moon looks the same whether viewed through the branches of a Marula in Africa or a Gum Tree in Australia
I've always had the travel bug and over the years I've managed to visit a fair number of beautiful places on this planet.

It was in 1989 that I first landed in Sydney, Australia and then spent eleven weeks seeing just a little of the south, The Red Centre, Great Barrier Reef, and the East Coast. I had also intended to spend some time in Western Australia but that was postponed when I had to fly home to Zimbabwe at short notice. It's only taken me 25 years to pick up where I left off!

I had several objectives for this recent holiday. First was a family wedding and reunion in Brisbane and next in priority was seeing some of Australia's vast landscapes. Third was sailing/diving Ningaloo Reef on the north west corner of Australia.

So after two wonderful, family-intensive weeks in Brisbane I flew into Perth to start my road trip north up Australia's West Coast.

Indian Ocean Drive (Yanchep-Cervantes)

To give you a quick overview of the next 3 weeks, 7 National/Marine Parks and 3,400km on the road:-

1) Perth - Cervantes (via Yanchep and Nambung National Parks)
2) Cervantes - Kalbarri (Kalbarri National Park)
3) Kalbarri - Denham (Stromatalites, Shark Bay World Heritage Area etc.)
4) Denham - Exmouth (via Carnarvon)
5) Exmouth - Karijini National Park and back again to Exmouth incl. Cape Range National Park)
6) Ningaloo Reef (5 days), and then flying back to
7) Perth

I have so many photographs, memories, experiences that I have been struggling to decide how to post about the whole trip. Today, my last real free day at home before the winter safari season gets hectic I just had to get something out for you........... (as they say, the best way to eat an elephant is one plate at a time).

The ancient "Wicked Campers" campervan that took me over 1,800 kms up the coast

Lots of trees this far south on the West Coast
Pinnacles Desert, Nambung National Park

Every now and again amazing views of the Indian Ocean would pop up around a corner. Endless blue seas, waves breaking on fringing reefs, silver white beaches and sand dunes, low green scrub stretching into infinity

Cervantes, a typical, small West Coast fishing village

Unusually heavy autumn rains up the whole West Coast produced green vistas everywhere I went. Though as you can see from the picture above this green was very sparse in the sheep farming areas.......

Kalbarri, where the Murchison River meets the Indian Ocean
As an aside, it took me almost the whole 3 weeks to get used to an ocean on my left whilst heading north....

Most of my coastal experience has been on an East coast - it is very disorientating to suddenly be on the other side of a continent!

Kalbarri NP, Coastal Cliffs
Some great walks and bird-life along the cliffs (these are Nankeen Kestrels)
One of my favourite pictures.....

 Not long after taking these last photos I twisted my ankle badly on one of the cliffs set of steps. Fortunately I was not far from the campervan & my first aid box. I spent the rest of the day resting my ankle and I skipped visiting any of the Kalbarri NP gorges further inland.

I just had to get my ankle back into better shape before visiting Karijini a week later & then diving on Ningaloo Reef the week after that!

Well, that's all for this blog posting. Watch this space.... when I get back from safari next week I will try to get the next posting on WA (Western Australia) out.