Tag Archives: wildlife

Our Adelaide Highlights through Instagram

6 Jun

Hi everyone! The Diamond Jubilee weekend is now over; there was a lot of red, a lot of white, and definitely a lot of blue around London. Pimm’s was flowing (even though one would have definitely appreciated a hot cup of tea), cucumber sandwiches were served at the gazillion of street parties around the country, people were cheering on the streets and in front of the telly.

Have I mentioned the rain? Yes, there was rain. A LOT OF IT. So I thought what better time to reminisce about sunny Adelaide, South Australia? To avoid boring you with too much detail I offer a few highlight shots through the lens of Instagram… Enjoy!

Right. So the moments we treasure the most are…. (drumroll please) …..

1) Swimming with wild dolphins just off Glenelg beach in Adelaide. Amazing experience, especially as you get to see tiny baby dolphins swimming right under you! Tempted to see more? Watch our ‘Getting up close and personal with wild dolphins just off Adelaide coast‘ video.

 2) Getting to taste Haigh’s Chocolate, a proud South Australian icon. The chocolate is so smooth and delicious you won’t want to put a Cadbury in your mouth ever again! And here’s a little secret – if you join the free Chocolate Factory tour in Adelaide you’ll get to taste heaps of samples for FREE!

3) Remarkable Rocks on Kangaroo Island. This 500-million-years-old rock formation is truly remarkable. Want to know how it happened to appear here? Read our ‘Exploring Little Australia, Part 2‘ post to learn more.

4)  Experiencing Aussie cricket at Adelaide Oval. The atmosphere was amazing. People cheering, relaxing on the grass, enjoying the setting sun… Unfortunately, the Oval is now being redeveloped so no cricket there for a while 😦 (luckily you can read about it in our ‘Sun, Surf, Cricket and Tchaikovsky‘ post).

5) Adelaide Zoo. Home to more than 1,800 animals and almost 300 species of exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, and most importantly Wang Wang and Funi (check out who they are here), it is a piece of wildlife paradise you won’t want to miss.

6) Adelaide’s Chinatown.  If you want to ‘Eat just like the locals‘, experience different cousines and cultural influences, it’s the place to be. Our lunch combo of Chinese-Japanese-Malaysian was to die for.  

7) And not to forget; we totally smashed a bunch of typically South Australian cakes including the famous Balfours frog cake. Yummy!

How about you? What are YOUR Adelaide highlights?

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Wildlife on your doorstep…

3 Apr

South Australia combines the best Australia has to offer – constant sunshine, 4,800km of coastline, beautiful metropolitan beaches, unspoiled wilderness just off the shores of the State, countless wine regions producing the best wine in Australia and so on… What more? It is also considered to have the most accessible wildlife in Australia. It’s one of the few places you can swim with wild sea-lions and dolphins, walk down eucalyptus-lined lanes spotting koalas, and view groups of kangaroos grazing the land. Majestic whales, playful sea-lions, dainty Leafy Sea Dragons and parading penguins play on our coasts and in our seas.

The natural choice for the thrill- and wildlife-seekers would probably be Kangaroo Island (‘KI’ to the locals), Australia’s answer to the Galapagos. The island is just off the shores of South Australia (a short flight form Adelaide or a ferry ride from Cape Gervis) and it is arguably the best place in Australia to see an abundance of native wildlife up close and in their natural habitat. Take me up on that, been there, seen it, was absolutely stunned. We spent two amazing days on Kangaroo Island and couldn’t believe our eyes: the place is like a zoo without fences, with rare bird life, tammar wallabies, short-beaked echidnas and plenty of kangaroos and koalas.  Check out our posts about Exploring Little Australia, Part 1 and Exploring Little Australia, Part 2 to get the idea.

Appreciating not everyone can get to Kangaroo Island Adelaide itself offers some great alternatives:

Cleland Wildlife Park

The park is located just 20 minutes from Adelaide city in a beautiful natural bush land setting, this 35-hectare park is home to over 130 species of Australian wildlife. The animals are used to visitors so you can feed and pat them. You can even hold a koala and have this special experience captured with a souvenir photo.

Adelaide Zoo

Adelaide Zoo is home to more than 1,800 animals and almost 300 species of exotic and native mammals, birds, reptiles and fish exhibited in over 8 hectares of magnificent botanic surroundings.

Everywhere we have been in Adelaide, people have asked us if we’ve managed to see the panda’s yet – and we sure have observed this spectacle. Wang Wang and Funi (the only giant panda’s in the southern hemisphere), that currently reside at Adelaide Zoo, are huge! Funi, the female, was feeling a bit lazy and spent most of the time sleeping, whilst Wang Wang was enthusiastically tucking in to a huge amount of bamboo.

We also got to see a Tasmanian Devil, who didn’t look much like ‘Taz’, some very loud monkeys and some very cute bilbies. Bilbies are native to Australia, but unfortunately have become extinct due to the introduction of competitors like rabbits into the ecosystem. The zoo is undertaking great conservation work to try and reintroduce them into the wild, which is being supported by Haigh’s Chocolate who produce chocolate Easter bilbies instead of Easter bunnies!

So there you go; wildlife literally on your doorstep. What do you think? Can you get any closer than this?

Exploring ‘Little Australia’; Part 2

1 Mar

We were up early for day two of our trip to Kangaroo Island (check out day 1 here). A short drive and we were at Hanson Bay Sanctuary which includes a Koala Walk. A gentle walk through a eucalyptus-lined path gave us the chance to spot a few of the 30,000 koalas on the island. Though lazy to the extreme (they sleep up to 20 hours/day as their main source of food – eucalyptus – is not very nutritious), they are very cute…

Koalas (which is an aboriginal name and means ‘no drink’; they don’t need to drink as they get all their fluids from eucalyptus leaves) were introduced to the island in 1919 (when 19 koalas were brought). By 1970s their population grew to astonishing 50,000! Since then, various attempts to control their number were introduced in Australia (shooting, de-sexing, giving them chlamydia (!) which makes them infertile). Today, Koalas are protected (shooting them can get you up to 2 years in prison). Did you know koalas are not bears? They are marsupials (similarly to kangaroos) and they carry their babies (which on birth have the size of a fingernail) in their pouch!

From Hanson Bay we headed to Remarkable Rocks, an unbelievable, if uncreatively named, rock formation balanced precariously over the Southern Ocean. The Rocks have been ‘in making’ for 500 million years. It all started with a huge volcanic activity which caused the melting of rock. A granite dome was created which over the next centuries surfaced. For the last 200 million years the dome has been subjected to erosive forces (wind, water) which has caused cracks and created unusual shapes of the rocks. Remarkable or what?!

No less impressive and alliterate was out next destination, Admiral’s Arch – a giant hole where the sea has gnawed hungrily at the landmass. Again a creation of thousands of years of wind and sea erosion, Admiral’s Arch is a huge arch, constantly being battered by huge waves. Amazingly, you can see petrified tree roots hanging from the arch where the underlying soil has been eroded too. On the rocks with a bit more protection from the elements lie hundreds of New Zealand fur-seals (amazingly, over 7,000 fur seals live and breed around Cape du Couedic). Maybe not as cute as the previous day’s sea lions, they’re still pretty cool. We watched one surfing around in the waves- he was even more skilful than Owen in the water (did you know the males are called ‘bulls’ and the females ‘cows’?).

South Australia

Next up we headed to the beach at Stokes Bay. Inaccessible by vehicle, we crawled from one bay to our destination through a series of caves and ended up on yet another perfect, white-sand beach. Ice cream in hand, it doesn’t get much better than this!

South Australia

Eventually we were dragged away from the beach to make our way to the Island Beehive in Kingscote. The island is in fact the sole remaining home to the pure Ligurian Honeybee. After endless tasters – they were all so good! – we bought supplies to take home and made our way to the ferry for the journey home.

Kangaroo Island had provided us with the opportunity to get up close to so many wild animals, and to be able to see them in their natural habitat was incredible. All of that coupled with the beautiful beaches and chilled out, rural atmosphere, had made our visit truly unforgettable.

In words of Isaac Bober from Symmetry, Australia: ‘There really aren’t enough adjectives to accurately describe the beauty of Kangaroo Island. In fact, words can almost spoil the moment.”

Exploring ‘Little Australia’; Part 1

1 Mar

Our next adventure was Kangaroo Island (KI to the locals). And it was set to be a big one, as KI- Australia’s Galapagos – is said to be one of the most natural islands on the planet, a completely unspoilt and beautiful piece of land just off the coast of South Australia. Nicknamed ‘Little Australia’ it is known for having the most accessible indigenous wildlife in Australia.

We were excited to put these claims to the test.

We set off early in the morning on a coach to Cape Jervis, where we caught a ferry for a short ride over to KI (the ferry ride takes approximately 45 minutes). Stepping off the ferry, it was definitely clear that this was a rural place. There was only one general shop in sight and no sign whatsoever of a McDonalds or a Starbucks – how refreshing! We jumped onto our minibus and were greeted by our super-friendly tour guide, Jenny who kept us entertained throughout the whole trip. She was never short of interesting facts about the island and its native wildlife as we trundled down the bumpy dirt roads.

Our first stop was to see Rob the local farmer, who introduced us to his award-winning sheep dogs Toby and Billie. They expertly rounded up some of his Merino sheep, and we got a demonstration into how to shear a sheep. It looked surprisingly difficult, and it was obvious Rob had developed a good technique over the years. We learned a professional shearer is able to shear a sheep in 3.5 minutes which allows him to shear some 50 sheep a day (however there are so called ‘gun-shearers’ who get up to 200 sheep/day!). Sheep lose about 5kg of weight/each during shearing which makes them very happy and chirpy as they no longer have to carry around the excess weight.

Next we visited Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery which produces eucalyptus oil. As it is produced from the leaf of the KI Narrow Leaf Mallee it is the only one of its kind in the world. The distillery is also home to the only emu left on the island. She has been nicknamed ‘Evil Eyed’ as she had killed her two male cage-mates when she was in a bad mood! We stayed clear of her cage…

After a delicious lunch on the veranda that Jenny had prepared for us, we sped off south to Seal Bay.

The beach was typical of Australia – white sands, clear blue sea, the sun beaming down. The only difference was that it was home to a colony of  700-800 Australian sea lions. We felt very privileged to have seen them so close in their natural habitat, and we were also lucky to see them so soon after the breeding season. This meant there were loads of tiny, cute baby sea lions staying close to their mothers. Being a sea lion would be a great life, they seemed to all be either lazing around in the sun, or doing a funny leaning sort of stance, which Jenny informed us was sea lion ‘yoga’ because it took the pressure off their shoulders and necks (imagine being 300-350kg of weight, you’d want to take some of it off your shoulders :)).

After marvelling at the sea lions, we had a short drive over to ‘Little Sahara’, a huge mass of sand which had formed giant dunes 3km from the nearest beach without any obvious cause. Regardless, we Mr Sheen-ed a few glorified trays and sandboarded down the dunes. It was a lot of fun but we were soon foiled by the ‘he who slides must return the board to the top of the dunes’ rule which left us a bit out of breath. We trudged back to the bus, emptying all pockets and orifices of sand as we went – a fair old weight of sand itself… a hint, perhaps, as to how all the sand ended up there in the first place!

Freshly de-sanded, we headed off to our accommodation, Vivonne Bay Lodge. The place was pretty sweet, with pingpong, pool table, bar, canoes to head up river and mountain bikes to trek around. Even cooler, the grounds were covered in Kangaroos! No surprise, I guess, given that we were on Kangaroo Island, but they’re so cute, and friendly too (a piece of trivia for you – the Kangaroo Island kangaroo is a subspecies of the Western Grey kangaroo, being smaller, darker and having longer fur)!

However, the real highlight was the accommodation’s location, just 15 minutes’ walk from Vivonne Bay – independently crowned Australia’s best beach by a 17-year census of its 11,011 beaches. After Owen schooled me at pingpong we took the walk down to the beach. Wow. It sure ain’t been named Australia’s best beach for nothing. Pristine white sand, crystal clear water lapping the shore and totally isolated from anything or anyone. It really was breathtaking. After a couple hours taking in the view and a few rays, we headed back to the accommodation for a barby and a beer.

The day was far from over, however. After dinner once the light had faded, we headed out to a bit of coast where Fairy Penguins are known to nest. Armed with red-light torches we clambered over rocks, listening for the pint-sized birds’ call. Right away we spotted a couple hiding amongst the rocks, resplendent in their midnight blue feathers. They’re so cute! Very shy though so our attention eventually turned upwards towards the sky. With just 4,400 inhabitants and the nearest urban centre, Adelaide, hundreds of kms away, the sky at night was absolutely astonishing. Never in my life have I seen so many stars, so clearly! You could perfectly make out the Milky Way, Venus, Jupiter and Mars. Unbelievable! Humbled by our insignificance, we pretentiously went to bed.

The rest of the trip in Part 2, coming soon!

Just another day in Adelaide: Dolphins vs. Aussie Rules

29 Feb

Today was special.

There was something on the itinerary we’d really been looking forward to – a dolphin swim. Not just a swim with dolphins , a swim with WILD dolphins. We arrived at Glenelg Marina very early in the morning. We were to sail with Temptation Sailing, the first vessel in South Australia to be given a licence to swim with and study these magnificent mammals by getting so close to them (normally you have to stay some 50 metres away from them or you risk a $10,000 fine and up to two years in prison, ouch!). We boarded the huge catamaran and managed to squeeze ourselves into wetsuits (we are getting seriously good at it). The crew explained that the dolphins we were hoping to see were wild animals, so we couldn’t touch them, and there were no guarantees we would see any (even though Temptation Sailing actually give you a partial refund if for any reason you don’t get to swim with them). We crossed our fingers and headed out into the ocean.

No sooner had we managed to read the safety information, the crew was shouting for us to get into the water (‘Swimmers in!’) because they had spotted a pod of dolphins. We all quickly slid in and held on to the ropes that were dragged behind the boat. Our snorkels and masks (which made us all look as we had just left a plastic surgery with our upper lips done) allowed us to search through the water for the dolphins. And sure enough they glided past beneath us – such an amazing experience! It was so crazy to think that the crew had done nothing at all to lure the dolphins to the boat, yet the natural inquisitive nature of the animals had meant they wanted to explore for themselves. Over the next few hours we were in and out of the water, and even got to see a couple of baby dolphins! We left feeling overwhelmed to have seen these fantastic creatures, and experienced them in their natural habitat. Definitely beats Seaworld!

Next on the itinerary was some AFL – Aussie Rules Football. We got a quick run through of the rules from a helpful local on the bus (people here are so helpful!), and had arranged to meet Mark (a huge football fan and diehard Adelaide Crows supporter) at the stadium. Mark provided us (read Owen) with a Crow’s jersey, a football (traditionally made of kangaroo skin) and a very warm welcome. A quick consolidation of those rules and a little kick around with the ball and we felt the part so took our seats in the AAMI stadium. We were there for a preseason cup in which three teams would play each other, the overall winner being crowned champions. Two of the three were Adelaide teams – the Adelaide Crows and Port Adelaide – with Melbourne-based Carlton completing the line-up.

Aussie rules is a great game! Very free flowing, it combines the physicality of rugby with the kicking skills of football.  Plus it’s high-scoring and the fans are awesome. We’d long been told that we were to be Crows supporters and thankfully for them we were their lucky charms – the Crows humiliated both Port Adelaide and Carlton and were dully crowned NAB Cup Champions. Boom!

To round off our day we went to see some stand up comedy, The Best of British show as part of the Adelaide Fringe. We traditionally supplied ourselves with Coopers beers (what are we going to do without it in London) and laughed a lot at the British take on Australia. The highlight of the show was from an English comedian – Bob Slayer. He arrived on stage apparently having drunk rather a lot, and proceeded to hold the audience to ransom with a blow torch. His demands? A pack of cling film and a bottle of port to be brought to the stage. He managed to negotiate the cling film, but no such luck on the port. A lucky (?) volunteer was invited on stage, and ended up being wrapped from head to toe in cling film for the amusement of the audience. This was the basis of Slayer’s whole act, but was hilariously unexpected and the crowd was in stitches.

We have another very early start tomorrow – travelling over to Kangaroo Island for our 2 day trip, so we’ll sign off and get some sleep! See you soon!

Two Days in paradise – Kangaroo Island in photos

28 Feb

Hi everyone,

We have just returned from a two-day Adventure Tour on Kangaroo Island (‘KI’ as the locals call it), courtesy of Sealink. We are working on a informative/funny blog post about the island, however, in the meantime, we just couldn’t wait to share some of our highlights with you. So sit back, relax, and take in the the beautiful jewel that Kangaroo Island is.

But first, a few housekeeping details:

  • Kangaroo Island is the third largest island in Australia
  • Population of KI is 4,400 humans, 30,000 koalas and some 500,000 sheep
  • The island is 155km long and 55km wide
  • KI is recognised as one of the most natural islands on the planet (and voted the ‘Number 1 island in Asia Pacific’ by the National Geographic Traveller Magazine in 2008).
Now, let’s get down to business. At Emu Ridge Eucalyptus Distillery (which is the only one in the world producing eucalyptus oil from the Narrow Leaf Mallee) we got up close and personal with ‘Evil Eye’ – a grumpy emu female who in the past killed her two male counterparts.

Seal Bay is home to 700-800 Australian Sealions, which are currently at the point of extinction (only about 15,000 of them left in Australia).

Little Sahara off the southern coast of the island is a mysterious place. No one can explain how has all the sand moved so far from the coast (which is 3km away).

At Vivonne Bay Lodge, our accommodation for the night, we were welcomed by the cutest roos and wallabies.

Before dinner we got to hang out at Australia’s best beach, Vivonne Bay. It was declared the best beach out of the 1,011 beaches in Australia by Andrew Short who was commissioned by the University of Sydney to explore the 36,000km of Australian coastline (this took him 17 years).

We visited Hanson Bay Koala Sanctuary which is full of these cute and cuddly marsupials chilling up on the trees. As they are sleepy heads by nature, Owen was more interested in a nearby wallaby. The interest was not mutual :).

We made our way to the Remarkable Rocks. 500 mil years of evolution (volcanic activity, landmass movements, water- and wind erosion) has created something truly remarkable.

Admiral’s Arch features a magnificent archway sculpted by the wind and sea where New Zealand fur seals play on the shore platform below.

So what do you think? Which one is YOUR favorite?

Discovering the heart of Australia’s wine capital

25 Feb

So, continuing on the wine theme (yesterday we learned all about the wine production process at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus, read about it here), today we have decided to put our freshly gained wine knowledge to practice so we’ve joined the Barossa Valley ‘Groovy Grape Getaways’ tour. We woke to our hottest day so far- it’s reached 42 degrees today! So what better way to spend the day than driving through the hills, past vineyard after vineyard and stopping off every now and then for a welcome glass of wine.

The ‘GGG’ tour attracted a very interesting bunch of people; a group of six Adelaide girls who have not been to the Barossa before (can you believe it? If I lived here I’d go every weekend!), a small group of visitors from Korea, a Canadian adventurer and a Swiss girl who is wrapping up her Great Ocean Road trip in Adelaide). We got on the bus and were taken through the itinerary by our lovely guide for the day, Jason. First stop: World’s biggest Rocking Horse.

The Rocking Horse is part of the Gumeracha Toy Factory and apparently is a unique structure in the world. It is built entirely of steel anchored in over 80 tonnes of concrete set in rock. At its highest point (the head) it is 18.3 metres.

Next we visited the mysterious Whispering Wall, which is quite special, but won’t whisper to you (if that’s what you were expecting :)). The Wall is the first reservoir built in South Australia, 140 metres wide, completed in 1902. Due to its arched shape the noise travels really well and provides fantastic acoustics; you can hear the person at the other end as if they were standing right next to you!

And now it was time to get down to the business; we had four wineries to get to in the Barossa Valley, which is renowned as the heartland of Australia’s wine-making capital. The region has a rich heritage of grape growing and winemaking dating back to 1842. Today, there are over 150 wineries and 80 cellar doors in the Barossa.

First on is the famous Jacob’s Creek, which it turns out is actually a real creek! The story of the winery started in 1836 by William Jacob (the assistant surveyor of Colonel William Light who ‘designed’ Adelaide) who was sent to the Barossa to survey the area. He loved it so much he actually built a home here (can’t blame him really :)).

During our visit the vineyards were beautifully bathed in the morning sunshine, and they even provided deck chairs to relax in the view. We tasted five lovely wines, from a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc to Shiraz Rose to their Reserve Shiraz and a beautifully peachy Moscato. Going through the different varieties we learnt a lot about wine flavours and tasting. A helpful tip: if your wine smells of vinegar or eggs you should ask for another bottle in the restaurant!

Kies Barossa Valley was our next stop. This is a family-owned winery (we hear this quite rare these days) that doesn’t distribute to supermarkets nor does it export. If you fancy their wine you have to come to the cellar door. And it would be worth it; their ‘Bastardo Port’ is like Christmas in a glass…

At Richmond Grove winery we had a traditional Aussie BBQ for lunch, although unfortunately nobody ‘threw another shrimp on the barbie’, but this was more than compensated for with delicious steak and sausages.

Our final winery was Seppeltsfields, one of the oldest in the region. Here we finally tasted the much heralded sparkling Shiraz – a South Australian specialty. It was delicious… apparently it’s even better with bacon and eggs in the morning! The winery is particularly noteworthy for its fortified wines and we started the afternoon with a few glasses of port. Most remarkable of all, every year since 1878  Seppeltsfields has barrelled port to be opened 100 years later. It is the only winery in the world that does this. Last year the winery opened the vintage during which the Titanic was built, 1911. This year they opened the bottles from the year in which it sank, 1912. Now if that’s not impressive I don’t know what is.

Our day concluded with a trip to the Adelaide Fringe parade, to mark the official start of the festival. The event attracted thousands of locals and the streets were packed with people eager to get a glimpse. We saw circus performers, zombies, camels and buses to name but a few of the participants. Afterwards a few of the locals took us out for a beer at a pop-up fringe venue and bar in a car park (Tuxedo Cat) – really cool idea, with crates to sit on and boxes to use as tables. As we sipped on our Little Creature pale ale and Pipsqueak cider, we learnt some new aussie phrases such as ‘fair dinkum’, a great alternative for fair enough. We go to bed once again feeling overwhelmed at the kindness and welcoming nature of the people who call Adelaide home.

Tomorrow is surfing so stay tuned!!

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