Category Archives: Wildlife

Africa dreaming…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Watching the sunset from our back deck in Australia…dreaming of the wild night life on the African savanna.

I bumped into a colleague last week at a conference, as you do. She’d just returned from South Africa, and was literally bouncing after self-driving around Kruger National Park and staying in various camps along the way. Jealous? Of course.

My mother is South African. I’ve wanted to go there as much as she’s vehemently wanted me not to. With apartheid in full swing by the mid-1950s, she’d left with her new husband (my dad) without a backward glance.

But all our ‘Aussie’ South African friends tell us it’s a stunning place to visit…

I’m pretty sure Kruger National Park would send my crazy wildlife lovin’ brain into overdrive.

I hear the south of Kruger is the game-rich area, with Skukuza, Satara and Lower Sabie the best camps to stay in. In the north, Oliphants is another favourite camp for travellers and a great area to see oliphants… I mean, elephants.

Right now, spring is coming to an end, so it’s a great time to visit (I wish). In November and December it’s the rainy season but this is when all those cute babies are making their delightful entrance into the world.

You can find out more about Kruger here, and all about the seasons here.

I did have a giggle at this wildlife-petrol station connection on the very useful Kruger Park Self-Drive Guide site:

“… the landscape is a fabric in which all the birds, plants and wildlife are like interwoven threads. Look for the points of connection. There are petrol stations at all the major camps and workshop facilities at Skukuza, Letaba and Shingwedzi.”

Um, okay.

The World Expedition cycling tour along Route 62, west from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, has also always intrigued us.

I’m told the wineries are something else too. According to the Wine Anorak, the wines are “often nicely poised between the new world and old world styles”. Can’t say I really know what that means, but I’m willing to find out!

Copyright: Louise RalphFor now though, we’ll have to content ourselves with gazing at the sun setting from our back deck in Australia.

It looks a little like an African Savanna (if you squint)… except the roaring in our ears comes from passing passenger planes, not lions. And down in the valley, there are golf carts, not elephants.

C’est la vie.

You can’t have everything. But a little armchair travel is good for the spirit, don’t you think?


Heaven’s here on Earth… at Black Rocks

Copyright: Louise Ralph

We went back to Black Rocks in Bundjalung National Park this weekend…I meant it when I said we love this place.

This time we took our kayak and paddled up Jerusalem Creek. It was a gorgeous, although not exactly leisurely, paddle.

While I practice my zen paddling technique upfront, EB makes like an outboard motor in the back.

Somehow it works… well, having a rudder stops us turning circles at least.

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd I get to take photos along the way (with my trusty iPhone in its LifeProof case – and no, this isn’t some dodgy promo!).

The isolation, where the creek meets the sea, is simply sensational.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphAnd then there are those endless walks along Ten Mile Beach… where paw prints reveal the nightly wanderings of wild dogs in search of shorebird eggs, and huge bluebottles – some with four-metre stingers – are strewn along the tideline.

We weigh up the odds of getting stung, figure they’re all stranded on the beach, and plunge into the icy water.

Luckily we escape unharmed, in time to spot a mother and baby whale making their way down the coastline along the whale ‘super highway’.

Closer in, three dolphins glide in and out of the waves.

Later, along the walking tracks, wildflowers are bloomin’ fabulous, grass trees raise their flower spikes to the sky and a bee homes in on a solitary flower.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Back in our campground, tiny birds feast on grass seeds and a goanna wanders through our camp, tasting the air with a flick of its tongue.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It reminds me of the words of a Tracy Chapman song…

“I’ve touched creations beautiful and wondrous
I’ve been places where I question all I think I know
But I believe, I believe, I believe this could be heaven…
The world is our temple
The world is our church
Heaven’s here on earth…”

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 


Snakes alive… on Amedee Island

Copyright: Louise Ralph

There’s a lot to love about the trip to Amedee Island on the Mary D. Swimming with resident green turtles is a major highlight in a totally relaxing day.

But I just couldn’t go past the snakes – well, without nearly stepping on one.

I’d just taken some photos of the awesome lighthouse, rising up in the perfect light against postcard cloud formations. Turning to catch up to EB, I only just caught sight of something slithery at my feet…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s not like you can miss something this dramatic. This black and rust striped Tricot rayé (Striped sea snake) and several snakey-mates are curled up along the pathway and very close to my feet. Nearby, there are blue and black-striped ones.

These gorgeous sea snakes are more venomous than cobras but totally chillaxed! Which is pretty lucky considering I am totally distracted by nature, and tend to not pay attention to where I put my feet!

Later, walking along the beach, a gorgeous specimen slithers past on its way to a shady spot among the rocks…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

These shy, reclusive creatures still have lungs, so they come onto land to hang about and digest their food (usually fish and eels), then head back into the sea to hunt at night.

Fascinated as we were with them, there is so much to do here – a glass bottom boat, a trip out to the reef, snorkelling, swimming, island fare and entertainment, or just wandering around this peaceful island…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But seriously, those snakes…

copyright: Louise Ralph

 

 

 


Another world…Aquarium des Lagons

Hands up if, like me, one of your earliest career choices was Marine Biologist… Let’s take a trip back to the future in New Caledonia, where fascinating marine life thrives in a pristine environment…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

New Caledonian is surrounded by a barrier reef, the second largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s created a perfect environment for marine life to survive and thrive.

I usually avoid stats like the plague, but these are pretty impressive:

  • 454 marine plant species
  • 1,965 fish species
  • 2,150 mollusc species
  • 4,000 crustacean species
  • 150 types of coral formations.

And that’s not all… There are major nesting sites here for marine turtles, as well as breeding areas for dugong, humpback whales and seabirds.

Of course, the best way to see it is diving or snorkelling. But you can get up close and personal with this mindblowing diversity, without getting your feet wet, at the Aquarium des Lagons…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

It’s not often you get an underwater perspective of critical habitats like these mangroves…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Fishy colour and movement – including eye makeup apparently

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Things that make you go…awww (now anyway) – a baby black-tipped reef shark…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

There are 150 types of coral in the New Caledonia lagoon…some that glows in the dark!

I felt like a kid hanging over the re-created rock pools, full of all sorts of marine wonders…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise Ralph Copyright: Louise Ralph

No doubt I also looked like a kid with my face pressed against the glass of the huge aquariums, pretending I was back scuba diving – something I haven’t done for at least 20 years.

Now that’s what I call relaxation therapy…


A wild, chilly day on Kingy beach…

Along Cudgera Creek, stingrays glide past fish doing some weird breeding or feeding pirouette on the creek bottom, pelicans skim the surface like flying ships…

Down on the beach, distant whales breaching, a pod of dolphins fishing, sea eagles on the hunt, indigenous people working their nets…

It’s a wild life at Kingscliff this chilly day. Love this place.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

 


Winter beach escapes…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

The tourists have gone, the cafes and shops are quiet, and the camping areas are almost empty except for intrepid grey nomads on their way north to escape the southern chill.

A crisp wind sweeps the beach, where only the locals brave the elements to fish, walk or give their dogs a run.

Surf and sun are definitely big drawcards, but winter is my favourite time at the beach.

When our kids were little, we’d wrap them up  all cozy and warm and we’d go to the beach to play – to search for shells and other treasures, make icy sand castles, brave a paddle, throw a ball, look for dolphins.

Here in northern New South Wales, from June to November, humpback whales are coming and going along their migratory highway. Seeing them breaching and playing just off the beach makes you want to wait forever for each magical glimpse.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

But there is plenty to do around here that doesn’t involve the beach – or practicing your whale whispering techniques.

Try an early morning climb – with that last chain-assisted scramble – up Wollumbin (Mt Warning), the remnant central vent of an ancient volcano and an icon of the region.

Or slightly easier (with goosebumps of a different kind), paddle up the river towards the mountain. Along the way, you’ll see raptors riding the thermals above you. Last weekend, we counted twelve raptors, possibly square-tailed kites, in one breathtaking group…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

If you’re not into chilly water sports or ‘hill’ climbs, there are so many forest walks around here – and so many stories. Like the walk to Protestors Falls on Terania Creek near Nimbin, the birthplace of Australia’s environmental movement in the late 1970s.

Or head down the trail in Springbrook National Park to the Natural Bridge, created over millions of years by water tumbling through the roof of a basalt cave.

For something a little more civilised, the Taste of Kingscliff is a delicious foodie fest in July 2014. We’ve booked in with a bunch of friends for the Long Table feast under the stars, so more on that in July…

Then there are weekend markets, the Mt Tambourine wine trail, theme parks, the Currumbin Sanctuary, places for golfing and cycling, cozy bars and cafes, music, and more.

This is the kind of place where, once you dig your feet in the (now chilly) sand, you never want to leave. For too long, anyway…

 


Curious kookaburras…

You’ve got to love those lazy Sunday mornings when some curious kookaburras come to hang out in your tree… a kooky trifecta!

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…one

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…two

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

…three

 

 

 


The (sea) eagle has landed

Travelling is always enlightening, often life-changing and mostly awesome. It also opens your eyes to the things you love about home.

Like family, friends… and little things you love about where you live. Like walking along the beach at dusk and coming across a sea eagle having a fishy feast…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Copyright: Louise RalphThese eagles have landed too (which thankfully didn’t involve fish gizzards).

It’s a long flight from NYC to Australia – even longer when you get a bonus three-hour wait on the tarmac at LA airport. Not that we’re complaining about technical difficulties with fuel tanks being solved before take-off!

New York was amazing… there are more stories to be told.

And more adventures to be planned. Because this trip confirmed what we’ve always believed in –>


Take a walk on the wild side…in Central Park

Copyright: Louise RalphThere may have been flash flooding in New York City last night, but today the sun is out in full force – and so are the people. Everywhere.

Definitely time to escape the seething sidewalks and get back to nature in Central Park.

Yep, there are a lot of people here too, but it’s not as frenetic (well, except for the joggers and cyclists and power walkers).

If you want a break from the touristy stuff and the crowds, head to the northern end of the park where there’s a little more breathing space and plenty of wild creatures out and about.

Which suits me, since I am a certified freak for nature! Here’s a sneak peak at the wild side of the city…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Catching some rays, turtle style

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

This clever American Robin built a nest right over the path about two feet above eye level – but nobody (except us) looked up.

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Hollows make cozy nesting places. Some wildlife won’t breed without suitable hollows to nest in…

 

Copyright: Louise Ralph

And after all that action, it’s time for some R&R…

 


A wild life in the ‘burbs

In February, we moved into a new (old) place – another house near the coast that we’ll be renovating.

After finishing our Pottsville house, it wasn’t a great feeling to arrive in another house requiring way too much TLC. Until we met the neighbours…

At first, it was just spooky rustling in the bushes. Then they revealed themselves.

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Now we share our urban space with about ten Eastern Water Dragons – from big daddy and bold mama to offspring in varying stages of development.

They are beautiful, fascinating creatures and not bad compensation for all that pesky moving stuff…

Copyright: Louise Ralph

Our fascinating neighbours