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Sea Creatures

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Richmond

If you’d visited outback Queensland 110 million years ago you would have found most of it submerged under what is now known as the Eromanga Sea, a vast inland ocean covering 1 million square kilometres. And if you’d gone swimming you would have come face to face with the huge marine reptiles and fish which lived in it. Where the town of Richmond is now located the water reached depths of up to 40 metres, making it the ideal home for plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and elasmosaurids. 

Of course, people weren’t on Earth then and after one million years the sea and its inhabitants disappeared. But you can see the marine animals who lived in the Eromanga Sea at Richmond’s Kronosaurus Korner. The museum has the best collection of marine fossils in Australia, most found locally. Amazing displays of fossils, information boards, illustrations and models bring these prehistoric marine creatures to life. 

As well as these giant marine reptiles, large ammonites and predatory fish lived in the Eromanga Sea. 

While the Eromanga Sea no longer exists, there is a lovely lake at Richmond. Lake Fred Tritton, a manmade recreational waterway filled by the Flinders River, is a popular place for boating, swimming and fishing. And even though the water is home to 18 species of freshwater fish, you won’t come across anything as large as Kronosaurus queenslandicus!

Alive and Well

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Julia Creek

Visitors to Australia are familiar with our most dangerous creatures: crocodiles, snakes and spiders. Not many will have heard of a lesser known but equally fearsome animal which lives in the arid country around Julia Creek. Fearsome, that is, if you belong to this group of animals!

Julia Creek dunnarts, long thought to be extinct, are alive and well in north-west Queensland. They’re elusive little creatures, not often seen in the wild, but the Julia Creek Visitor Information Centre has a small population of dunnarts on display in carefully regulated enclosures. 

Also known as fat-tailed dunnarts, these cute little animals have two unique characteristics which ensure their survival during droughts.

As well as being feisty and tough, dunnarts are speedy. This little fellow moved constantly around the enclosure, searching for the mealworms his carer had placed inside. He was far more interested in finding his lunch than posing for photographs. 

Walking Underwater

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #17 The Aquarium of Western Australia, Perth

Where in the world can you walk underwater?

At AQWA, The Aquarium of Western Australia!

The aquarium hosts more than 400 species of marine animals who make the oceans off the coast of Western Australia their home. The largest display, the Shipwreck Coast Aquarium, holds 3 million litres of seawater. A 98 metre walk-through tunnel winds through the aquarium, bringing people face to face with some amazing ocean creatures.

Smaller aquariums feature beautiful coral reefs,

luminous sea jellies,

unusual fish,

shy fish

and very grumpy fish!

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

Do Quokkas Go Out in the Rain?

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #15 Rottnest Island

In 1696, Dutch sea captain Willem de Vlamingh landed on a small island off the coast of Western Australia. The only residents he found were furry animals he mistook for giant rats so he named the island ‘t Eylandt ‘t Rottenest (The Rats’ Nest Island). de Vlamingh described the island as “pleasurable above all islands” and “a paradise on earth”. He must have had better weather than we did – we went to Rottnest in the pouring rain!

Our day trip to Rottnest Island had been pre-booked as part of our holiday package so we had to go that day. We just hoped that the island’s famous residents, the quokkas Willem de Vlamingh thought were rats, didn’t mind the weather.

Our first activity was a minibus tour around the island. Although the scenery was beautiful, the rain meant we didn’t stay long off the bus. And, even though the driver kept a lookout along the way, we saw no quokkas.

After our soggy bus ride we walked to the shopping area at the Thomson Bay Settlement and, to our delight, there were quokkas everywhere! It’s forbidden to approach, feed or touch these native Australian marsupials but they’re used to people and were happy to pose for photos.

Even though their thick fur looked quite bedraggled, they seemed oblivious to the rain.

By mid-afternoon the downpour had cleared, so we explored the settlement. No one lives permanently on the island and most of the historic buildings are now used for holiday accommodation.

We even went for a short walk on the beach.

The quokkas enjoyed the break in the weather too.

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

Creatures From the Past

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #8 Adelaide 

In Adelaide, our off-train excursion took us to the South Australian Museum, to see their extensive collection of fossils.

We learned about creatures which lived on earth in prehistoric times, including strange marine creatures from the Cretaceous Period;

fierce dinosaurs like this Allosaurus atrox;

and giant megafauna whose descendants still live in Australia.

Today’s kangaroos and koalas are cute but I wouldn’t like to meet one of these creatures on a bush walk.

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

Winter Garden

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #5 Chinese Garden of Friendship

There’s an element of surprise at the entrance of Sydney’s Chinese Garden of Friendship. Surrounded by the high rise office buildings of the city’s CBD, the forecourt offers glimpses of the calm space within.

The garden opened on 17 January, 1988 during Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations. Mosaic paved walking paths lead visitors on a circuit past 17 traditional pavilions and a serene lake complete with waterfalls and trickling brooks.

Both Chinese and Australian native plants fill the garden; mid-winter blooms add colour to the rich greenery.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the garden on this sunny winter’s day.

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

The Best View at the Zoo

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #3 Taronga Zoo

Sydney’s famous Taronga Zoo, located at Bradleys Head, overlooks the city and beautiful Sydney Harbour. Visitors riding the Sky Safari cable car from the wharf to the top entrance are treated to spectacular views on the way.

The zoo, renowned for its conservation and preservation projects, wildlife research and education, has more than 5,000 animal residents living in scientifically curated geographic environments. Their accommodations are excellent, but which group of animals has the best view in the zoo?

The Bolivian squirrel monkeys spend their days darting through a tropical rainforest

while the koalas are happy to munch on gum leaves in the eucalypt trees.

Brightly coloured Gouldian finches perch on a branch in the aviary for just a few seconds before flying away again,

but ring-tailed lemurs and Sumatran tigers like to relax and soak up the winter sunshine.

The meerkats demonstrate their sunbathing techniques – first warm the front…

then warm the back…

before climbing up to see what everyone else is doing.

The chimpanzees like to climb high too.

The African lions and Asian elephants have glimpses of the city from their spacious enclosures.

But who does have the best view in the zoo?

Gold and Silver

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland.   

Welcome to Karumba! 

Located at the mouth of the Norman River, Karumba is famous for fishing and sunsets. While we were there, the sunsets lived up to their reputation and we got up close to every fisherman’s dream catch, the barramundi. 

We stayed out of town at Karumba Point, where the Norman River flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria. The beach where the river meets the sea is a popular spot for those hoping to catch a barra or a king salmon.

Salt water crocodiles also favour this area. We didn’t see any but we heard stories in town about a very large croc who had recently been coming closer than he should. 

Karumba is one of just a few places in Queensland where the sun sets over the ocean so, on our first night, we joined the crowd on the beach. Staying well away from the water’s edge in case that crocodile was lurking, we watched as the setting sun burnished the sky.

The golden glow lingered long after the sun had slipped below the horizon.

The next morning we learned about Karumba’s other claim to fame, at the Les Wilson Barramundi Discovery Centre. Originally established as a venture to restock the waterways around Karumba with barramundi fingerlings, the centre now houses an interactive educational display focussing on the barramundi and its environment. 

Entry to the centre is free but we chose to buy tickets for a behind the scenes tour of the barramundi hatchery. We learned how the breeding stock is kept strong and healthy, and followed the process from gathering fertilised spawn to caring for fingerlings before releasing them into the waterways around Karumba and elsewhere in northern Queensland.

We also had the chance to hand feed the huge silver fish. Glen found out that big fish make a big splash when they’re focussed on snatching their dinner. 

In the afternoon we joined a Ferryman Gulf Sunset and Wildlife Cruise to see Karumba from a different perspective. First we sailed upriver towards the town, passing buildings constructed as part of northern Australia’s defence system during World War Two.  

At the wharf a ship was preparing to carry freight to islands in the Gulf.

Further along lay an another boat, long ago abandoned to the elements.

White egrets perched on overhanging branches, intent on catching a late afternoon snack.

Just before sunset the boat turned, sailing back downstream and into the Gulf of Carpentaria. 

The sun set as quickly as it had the day before, slipping below the horizon in a matter of minutes. 

Everyone sat in silence, watching the play of colour in the west. Behind us in the east, the moon rose in a dusky sky.

Back on land after our cruise, we went in search once more for barramundi – at the local fish and chips shop!

Rain in the Gorge

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

It’s not supposed to rain in May in far north Queensland. Normally the dry season starts in May, with warm sunny days and mild nights right through till November. The exception is when La Niña comes visiting. 

While the weather pattern known as El Niño creates hot dry conditions resulting in prolonged drought, La Niña brings cooler temperatures and increased rainfall. This year Australia’s eastern states experienced their second La Niña in a row, with heavy rain and serious flooding in many areas. 

As we headed west into savannah country it seemed the dry season had finally started. But La Niña had other ideas and delivered another deluge across north Queensland. Luckily we were on the edge of the broad band of rain, so our plans were hardly affected. But we did experience a rare phenomenon – we were rained on in Cobbold Gorge. 

The gorge and nearby Cobbold Village are only open from April to October when the dry season allows access. While the Robertson River shrinks to a small stream, boat tours of the gorge are possible because Cobbold Creek is fed by natural springs. 

Our tour began where a pontoon bridge crosses the creek. After heavy rain the previous afternoon, the water was higher than usual and flowing fast. Flat bottomed boats were tied up alongside the bridge, but we had somewhere else to visit first. We followed our guide over the bridge and up the hill between large sandstone formations.

Our destination was this 11 metre long glass bridge which crosses the gorge at a height of 17 metres. From here we could see the creek and the sheer walls of sandstone up to 30 metres high on either side. 

We looked down through the glass floor onto the sandstone beside the creek, deeply grooved where it had been shaped by the moving water.  

Continuing on past the bridge, we walked back down to the creek and the waiting boats. 

Once we were all safely seated our little boat set off, powered by a silent electric motor. We glided along the widest section of the creek, under the glass bridge and into the gorge. 

The residents of Cobbold Gorge include a population of freshwater Johnstone River crocodiles. With increased storm water in the creek, our guide wasn’t expecting to see any but just as we entered the gorge a single croc was spotted up ahead. The boat slowed and we watched as she drifted ahead of us for several minutes before turning and disappearing beneath the surface. 

Further on the gorge narrowed until the boat was almost touching the sandstone walls. One saw-shelled turtle, no bigger than the palm of a hand, rested on the stone just above the water. 

As we reached the end of the gorge we could hear the sound of running water. Tiny streams fed by yesterday’s storm cascaded over the top of the walls. The water in the creek, usually dammed at this point during the dry season by a natural wall of stone, tumbled over the rocks. And it was here that it started to rain. 

The rain continued unabated on our return journey through the gorge. By the end we were all very wet but our spirits weren’t dampened. Instead we were buoyed by the privilege of visiting this special place in such unusual circumstances. 

Bush Camping at Undara Experience

Queensland Road Trip, May 2022

Let’s go on a road trip! Come with us to Townsville and west on the Savannah Way to Karumba on an adventure in far north Queensland. 

While camping is not permitted in Undara Volcanic National Park, there’s a fabulous campsite nearby which had everything we needed and more. 

Undara Experience, just outside the national park, offers a range of options from unpowered bush camping and large powered sites to tents, cabins and luxury converted railway carriages. Our powered site was perfect – shaded in the afternoon, close to the amenities and a short walk to the bistro.   

We visited the bistro at Undara Central every day. It was the ideal location to enjoy an invigorating morning coffee, a tasty lunch or a refreshing ice cream after a long walk. 

Seven bush walks, ranging from 1.5 to 12 kilometres, all begin from Undara Central and there’s plenty of wildlife around the camp ground and on the tracks. While we loved seeing the pretty face wallabies, kookaburras and rainbow lorikeets, I was less than excited when I came face to face with a huge goanna sunning himself outside the toilets one morning!

Even in May the afternoon temperatures rose to the high 20s C. The swimming pool was a popular spot. 

Best of all was the delicious dinner we enjoyed at Undara Experience: macadamia crusted barramundi with chips and salad followed by a chocolate lava cake for dessert. It was bush camping with a touch of luxury!