After some delay, we are starting to leave Chicago to go to Los Angeles on our second flight going to Australia. The delay wasnít boring though, my ten companions and I spent a lot of time to get to know each other. We are all part of a college program called CAC. This stands for Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation and we go to many different places to learn about the natural world and to teach people about nature. On this trip, all of us are traveling to Australia! This trip is so exciting for all of us, we get to travel to the other side of the world to study what we love to learn.
On this trip, we will travel through the hot Australian rainforest and swim in the Great Barrier Reef to learn.
On this trip we will travel through the hot Australian rainforest and swim in the Great Barrier Reef to learn and understand the unique Australian environment. We will also connect what we see to the bigger picture of global warming, trying to find how this affects us and what we could do to help.
We are just taking off from Sydney to Cairns; this is our last flight to our destination! After finally touching down on Australian soil, I canít wait to get out and see everything. However, I still have to wait two and a half more hours to get to our last stop. Its different here in Australia, the Australian accent everyone naturally carries around them is heard everywhere you go. Itís fun though, all of us try to mimic them and I am sure by the end of this trip, we will have an accent of our own. Even the money here is so different. Every bill has its own color and is so busy with illustrations of animals, portraits and famous Australian quotes.
For me though, I really didnít fully realize I was here until I felt the heat and saw my first Australian bird. Itís so bizarre to see something you are so familiar with become new to you again. Even though I didnít get a good look at it, that bird still told me that I was somewhere exotic and wonderful. I know I will have a great time here.
I canít stop myself from going outdoors. Right now even, I am sitting writing this listening to some insect or bird calling in the jungle. We affectionately named it ďalarm call birdĒ even though none of us really knows if itís even a bird or not! Itís kind of funny though, everything here is new to me and the team, but each day we learn more and more about this place. I am sure everyone would agree with me when I say that the more we see and learn, the more we love it.
It is still strange though, around here you see something familiar and you think itís strange. A bottle of Coke in a supermarket, a bird you saw in a pet store flying free above your head. It makes me wonder why itís strange at all. Why shouldnít an Australian go to the store for a Coke. It could be that maybe what I think as different should be the way it ought to be. You donít have to keep a bird as a pet to take pleasure in its beauty.
There are so many different birds here that they sometimes can overwhelm you. Itís a good thing then that today we went with Allen who knew the birds in the area. He showed us tips on how to Identify the birds and helped us find where many of these birds lived.
Just today, we saw 45 different bird species but I have to say, my favorites were the red-backed fairy wren, a small, cute black bird with a red pack on its back and an upright tail. Another of my favorites we found sitting on a rail post was an Australian kestrel. This is a small bird of prey that looks a lot like our American kestrel but is all light brown. One of the last birds we saw was the plumed whistling duck. This duck is really unique because it has feathers by its wings that point up toward the sky. I canít figure out how they donít hit these feathers when they fly.
Even though the birds we saw were really amazing, the places we went to go see these birds were beautiful as well. We went to some of Australiaís parks to see the huge towering cathedra fig tree. The fig trees here are really interesting. They start their life as a seed on a larger tree and slowly grow until it kills the larger tree and slowly grow until it kills the larger tree and stands on its own.
We also went to many different water bodies, lakes, creeks, and rivers. These were really cool places to travel to because there was so much activity especially the bird life.
This is our last night in the Table Top area. I remember so many wonderful things we did. I remember seeing a platypus for the first time outside our hotel and the time all of us climbed a massive tree.
Even our last night here was eventful. All of us decided to go out tonight to see some nocturnal animals. On our way there, we drove through a large colony of fruit bats. There were hundreds flying against the strong wind heading, we think, to the forest by our hotel to eat the fruit and nectar on our trees! It was a thrill to see all of those large bats swooping and flying above us.
When we got to our destination, we took our flashlights out to see if we could spot some eye shine off the animals in the forest. Eye shine is a reflection that you get off of an animal at night when you shine a light in its eye. We did this because this is the easiest way to find nocturnal animals. When we entered the forest, we saw that there were people there looking for animals too. We made friends with them and they were able to show us a lumbhottís tree kangaroo and a green ring tailed possum. Whatís interesting about these animals is that both of them are marsupials which mean they keep their offspring in their pouch.
Seeing these marsupials was a great way to end the day and I hope we see many more wonderful things!
We left Table Top today to head down to the coastal Daintree forest. On the way, we made several stops to great areas to see birds.
Our first stop lead us to a banana and sugar field with a lake where we saw a cool bird called a comb-crested janaca. This bird has unique feet with long toes so they can walk on top of lilies so they can get to the insects they eat. Here we also saw a large flock of magpie gees and a small group of red-tailed black cockatoos.
The next stop we made was the dry Granite Park where we saw super cute rock wallabies and took a dip in a dammed pond.
After this we went to a very beautiful lake where I go to see may first stork, the black necked stork. In this picturesque lake we also got to see a cute pair of green pygmy geese by the shallows.
One of the best spots we went to was actually a school yard. We went looking for a great bowerbird nest but instead found a broad shouldered dove, red-winged kanot, blue-faced honeyeater, little friarbird and a double banned finch.
The next birding spot we went to was a quaint little swamp where we saw the playful brown honeyeater.
The last place we ended up at was a park that was known for the beautiful buff-breasted paradise kingfisher which some of us including myself got to see!
Today we started with a boat tour of the Daintree rainforest. We went through two fresh water rivers and an estuary. I think though that the most interesting place we stopped at was the mangrove forest because it was flooded and we got to see the Azore kingfisher a very beautiful bird with a splash of red coloring.
Later, we went to swim in a river with rapids which was really fun because we could swim toward the middle of the river and let the current take us to rocks in the middle. After we dried off, we got to go on a hike. We didnít see much and we got bit by many mosquitoes but the walk itself was worth it because of the view.
We got to eat an Australian chicken dinner and when we went out, we noticed hundreds upon hundreds of the spectacled fruit bats we saw before. It was getting dark so we headed back to find a fruitbat hanging in a tree outside our hotel.
Because of our luck, we tried to go out to find more mammals but came back empty handed except for a snake sighting.
When we returned though, we were surprised to find two north brown bandicoots outside our hotel. We watched them eat and we all agreed that this was a great end to a great day.
Today, we spent all day at the Great Barrier Reef! We took an hour and forty-five minute boat ride to the edge of the reef and docked the boat in the middle of the ocean.
I had a great time. There were so many beautiful fish butterfly fish, damsel fish and even an anemone fish that was the cousin to the fish species Nemo is.
It was great to see all of these fish in their habitat. Snorkeling through the reef felt like swimming in a great big aquarium only these fish were wild not fenced in.
This was my first time snorkeling and even though the sea was rough, I had such a great time I barely paid attention to the waves. The worst part was that I couldnít stay any longer. In all, I probably spent two hours in the reef when I could have spent so much more time there.
After we were finished at the reef the boat brought us back to land and we started a new part of our journey heading back toward Cairns (pronounced like cans).
On our way we stopped for a while at a horse pasture where we saw a group of agile wallabies. Their face markings were so beautiful and it was great to watch them jump. They were so comical.
Today all of us went on a boat ride to a crocodile farm where they raised crocodiles for the fashion industry. Being there was an interesting experience because I didnít know what to feel about it, whether I was fine with the farm or if I didnít like the idea at all.
On the tour, we went through a large fenced in area where they kept the wild crocodiles. These crocodiles were caught in the wild and were used as breeders. I thought that using wild caught animals was unnecessary but the guide insisted that the captive bred animals couldnít breed well. Overall though, it seemed the animals were well taken care of.
When the breeders laid eggs the handlers would dig up the eggs and heat them to produce males which are larger and thus more skin. These animals are then kept in cement enclosures with water and fed a rich diet to enhance the worth of the skin. This part of the farm was run in a similar manner like a meat farm in the U.S. If anything, the animals had more room to move. This farm brings to mind many questions of animal welfare we should ask ourselves. What rights do animals have and how do we go about making our own farms humane?
Today we are heading south to travel toward Townsville. On this ride, we want to focus on finding a cassowary but we also went to some other interesting places.
One of the places we went to was a swamp near a rainforest. There were a lot of mosquitoes here but there were some great butterflies including the Ulysses butterfly a very beautiful creature with black wings and large metallic blue spots. We also viewed the large swamp from a hill which gave a breathtaking view of the large swamp.
After this stop we went to a beach where we looked for areas where cassowaries might live. You can be we were surprised to find it eating fallen fruit in a caravan park. When I first saw the bird, I was surprised at how large it was. I knew that cassowaries were large birds but seeing one in real life was very astonishing. The cassowary was almost as large as I was! All of us got a great look at it and we left it alone to go swimming or sit on the beach for a little bit.
When we reached our hotel we took a walk down the beach to go look for some restaurant to eat at. On our way there we saw many little round balls surrounding holes in the ground. It wasnít long until we saw the inhabitants of these holes, little sand colored crabs. We watched them scurry in front of us into their holes trying to get away from us. We were able to get a closer look at the crabs that werenít as fast as the others at finding a hole. We followed these until they found their homes, then we went on our way.
Today we took a long trip to Townsville, Australia to go to our last hotel before home. As sad as this is, we still managed to have a good drive.
We first stopped off at a rainforest park where we found some cassowary feces. Their feces are really interesting because they are so full of seeds that they are known as the gardener of the rainforest because they scatter seeds all around the forest floor.
I also later had a chance to snorkel in a clear rainforest stream. Her I was able to see some real cool fish. I tried to follow them around but I had no finds so I wasnít as fast as they were so they always managed to swim away. This stream was also a neat place to swim because some rocks were so smooth and slippery we could slide down them.
Later on, we went to a nature center and a swamp. We went to the nature center and saw many interesting nests, my favorite being the bowerbird construction. This center was very interactive and we learned about some of the various animals of a swamp ecosystem.
After we went to the swamp, It was hot, so we didnít stay long but we did get a good look at a crimson finch. These little beauties are fiery red and twittle as they fly in groups. It was definitely worth a trip to see these beautiful birds.
Today we went to Magnetic Island, known as Maggie Isle to local Australian. The purpose of going there was to find koalas on the island.
When we got to the island, via ferry, we drove to the Fort hiking path to find the koalas on the island. About halfway through, one of us spotted a basketball sized ball of fur in a tree, it was a mother koala and baby. So, we slowly crept near them to get a better look. They baby koala was so adorable! He had a cute koala nose and was looking around at us while its mother slept in the tree.
We walked away feeling really happy and later got to see two more koalas sleeping in trees.
It was really hot out and we soon got tired, so we went to another part of the island to a beach protected from box jellyfish and swam in the water to cool off.
While we were swimming, we also got a chance to go tubing on the water. It was great. We were being bounced around and I kept my eyes closed for fear of getting sea water in them.
Later, while we were driving, we saw a group of red-tailed black cockatoos foraging on the ground. We were getting pictures of these birds when they started to fly. I was so amazed when the red on their tail was showing. They were so beautiful.
Today is our last day in Australia. Itís very sad but I will be glad to go back home and see my family and to go back to school.
All in all, I feel all of us got all we could get out of the two weeks here. It was wonderful to get to spend so much time in a wonderful place with such great people.
Iíll miss the Australian wild, especially the rainforest. Being at such a cool place, I have no other choice but to want to come back. Maybe later, but for now, when I get home, I can share my travels with my friends and family.