Exploring Tasmania... Part 1 - Wildlife
Cox & Kings’ Australasia Product Manager Aaron Jennings visited Tasmania earlier this year in March. Here, in the first of a four part series of blogs on this trip, he tells us about the abundance of wildlife on offer on the island.
I’ve been to Australia numerous times before but had never previously made it to Tasmania. In part I think because I’d often heard it being talked about as another New Zealand and I’d always felt I wanted to experience Australia when I’m in Australia, not New Zealand.
I can now confirm that those comparisons are wrong, very wrong. Tasmania is very green and very pretty, but that’s where the similarities begin and end. There’s nothing like it in New Zealand, nor elsewhere in Australia.
Much of Tasmania’s wildlife is endemic; you won’t find them on the Australian mainland. Possibly the best known are Tasmanian devils, carnivorous marsupials, which are estimated to be extinct in the wild by 2020 due to a contagious facial cancer that’s decimated the population in recent years (contagious only to the Tasmanian devil).
Prior to the mid-1990’s and before the tumour’s discovery it would have been common to spot the devils in the wild but today sightings are rare and the best opportunity to view them is to visit one of the many wildlife parks that are striving to maintain a healthy population. I visited Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary; just 20 minutes drive from Hobart to do just that, as well as taking the opportunity to get up close to other Tasmanian wildlife.
The sanctuary was established in 1981 as a sanctuary for injured and orphaned wildlife and today continues that work, whilst allowing visitors to view and learn about the wildlife in its care. During my visit I fed a Tasmanian devil, stroked a wombat and patted a kangaroo, all experiences you won’t get in the wild.
For a very different wildlife experience I joined Craig Williams owner of Pepper Bush Adventures on his private Quoll Patrol tour. Craig is a fascinating mix of Steve Irwin and Jamie Oliver, a 7th generation Tasmanian who grew up in the bush, he’s as passionate about his guests having an authentic wildlife experience in his backyard, as he is about them being well fed with the best local ingredients, beers and wines he can source.
Craig picked me up after lunch from Red Feather Inn, my accommodation for the evening, just outside of Launceston and drove me out into his country. After a brief stop on top of Mount Ben Lomond to soak in the incredible panorama, we headed towards the bush. Taking a road that can’t be found on the map, Craig stopped every so often to pick native plants to use in the dinner and to show me hidden wildlife. Continuing on we reached his place, a shack in the middle of a field, surrounded by bush.
Upon arrival there was no wildlife to be seen, no surprise, as the native animals are nocturnal, so we just had to wait for the sun to drop. As we waited and chatted, Craig began to start preparing the 7-course bush dinner I was soon to eat and explained how Tasmania’s wildlife has changed over the last few decades, explaining the extinction of the Thylacine or Tasmanian tiger as it’s commonly known, the decline of the Tasmanian devils and the threat of non-native species such as fox.
At dusk I spotted my first animal, a wombat, slowly meandering across the field. As it grew darker small animals surrounded us, possums were hiding in the trees, wombats, wallabies and eastern quolls all creeping out of the bush in search of a meal. Leaving the shack and we drove around the field in Craig’s 4WD, we saw dozens of animals, all unfazed by the vehicle and torch beams. Stopping by a small river we searched for platypus but recent heavy rains had caused the riverbanks to burst and with all the extra water the platypus were more elusive than ever. Despite the lack of platypus, this was certainly the best wildlife experience I’ve had in Australia, possibly anywhere.
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