Category Archives: Nature

Australian Wrap Up

Technically, we’re back in Canada now, getting over some major jet lag, but I kinda lagged a bit at the end there in making posts. It got a bit complicated with all of the traveling. So, I’m going to use this post to go over some of the stuff we did in our last few days down under.

On our last full day in Cairns, we decided to go check out the Cairns Aquarium. It included some terrarium stuff too, so not everything was wet. Let’s start with a doozy of a spider.

This spider was so big, that if you laid her on top of a cantaloupe, her legs would cover a full half of it. The one beside her wasn’t all that much smaller either.

These next ones are giant armored cock roaches. I’m sure you’re very happy to see them.

Of course, no trip to Australia would be complete without some pictures of crocodiles. It would have been nicer to get some pictures of them in the wild when we were on our rain forest tour, but that wasn’t to be.

Moving on to the more aquatic life, this is a picture of a crayfish.

Yes, he’s about the same size as a spiny lobster from down in Florida. I don’t know what the distinction is between a crayfish and a lobster, maybe it’s colour, cause these guys were pale blue.

Next we have a general bunch of fish.

Honeycomb moray eel, conveniently sticking his head out so we can see him.

The reef stone fish. Also known as the most venomous fish in the world.

Moon jelly fish. These were the things we swam through out on the Great Barrier Reef.

Another pleasant aquatic scene.

Big sea anemone with fish in front of it.

I don’t know what this next thing is, but it looks like a bright purple hamburger patty with bright neon-green hairs. How could you not take a picture of that.


More sharks!

Sting rays too.

That’s it for the aquarium and that was it for Cairns. The next morning we flew down to Sydney to spend two nights there. We arrived in the late morning so Kat and I decided to go on walkabout.

We didn’t have to go very far before we ran into more greenery, which is good because Sydney is a typical big city with all of the traffic and hustle and bustle. It turns out the Royal Botanical Gardens weren’t all that far from our hotel and it being a rather lovely sunny day, we indulged.

Here is the entrance.

We encountered a lot of these birds, and not just in the gardens, but all over Sydney. I don’t know what they are called, but they kinda remind me of Gonzo from the muppets.

Huge leaning tree.

Of course, if you’re going to wander around some botanical gardens, you should stop and smell the flowers while you’re there. Like this rose.

Or maybe this one.

I caught Kat just after she had been on a sniff-a-thon.

Here is me being overwhelmed by the size of these aloe plants. That is what we assumed they were, but someone suggested that they might also be agave.

Picture from above looking down in to the parkway.

This little fellow is a kookaburra. He was quite used to strangers too. Kat was able to get close enough to tickle his tail feathers, but he drew the line at that and flew away to another perch.

They have some ginormous trees down there.

Here is Kat beside one for perspective.

Here is another example of one of those trees that are made up of lots of little trunks.

Coming out the other end of the gardens, we came upon a rather famous Sydney icon: the opera house.

It was fascinating to see it up close as you really don’t get the feel for the scale when you see it in pictures. It’s rather huge.

After that, we wandered back to our hotel. I have to take this moment to point out an interesting difference between the light switches down there and here in Canada.

They are tiny, and they work backwards compared to ours. When the top part is pressed in, they are off. I think that may simple be that they are on the underside of the planet and everything there is upside-down.

We had one more full day in Sydney before we needed to fly home, so we used that opportunity to go visit the zoo. This gave us a good chance to see all sorts of really lazy and tired animals because it was the middle of the day and it was too hot to be moving about.

We can start with a Komodo dragon, which technically speaking, isn’t native to Australia at all.

Lizard in a tree.

Really big python.

Iguana just hanging out.

A pile of gila monsters. Pink and black are great colours for these guys.

Another iguana, up in a tree.

Taipan, a really, really poisonous snake. He was up and moving around too.

Not sure which snake this one was, but he totally looks like a worn out bicycle tire inner tube.

Did someone say giraffes?

Not to worry, it’s just a mere-cat.

They also had two Sumatra tigers, which are on the severely endangered list as there are only about 400-500 still in the wild.

Big horny herbivore.

This is an otter that has the tail of another otter stuck in his mouth. All three of the otters were playing around.

This is a fishing cat.

The infamous kangaroo who just seem to be chillin’ in the afternoon heat.

Emu alert!

The third largest bird in the world is a cassowary. The tour guide for our rain forest hike was really hoping we would see one in the wild, but they are pretty rare. Fortunately, they had one at the zoo.

Wooohooo!! Lemurs! Who doesn’t like lemurs.

If you go into the gift shop, they have all manner of stuffed animals of all sizes that you can buy. Including this rather huge stuffed octopus that was putting the moves on Kat.

This is a red panda. Apparently the word “panda” literally means bamboo eater.

We took a selfie of ourselves as well, just to show that we were there.

That pretty much wraps up the whole trip. We caught our ride to the airport at 8am the next day and then hopped a flight from Sydney to Hong Kong. That took close to nine hours. We had a short wait in HK then a 14 hour flight from there to Toronto.

Get off in Toronto, do all of going through customs stuff, get your luggage, recheck your luggage, change terminals, and then hop another flight to Ottawa. Easy as cake.

Except for the fact that we have some hardcore jet lag going on right now. Waking up at 3am and crashing at 3pm has happened several times.

Oh well, it was all worth it.


Australian Reef Rewind

I will let everyone know at the start that our flight from Cairns to Sydney went very smooth and we have no major issues to report on that front. The only interesting thing of note was that we were cryo-genically frozen for our flight so it wouldn’t seem to take as long.

Here is a picture of them filling the cabin with liquid nitrogen.

Okay, maybe that didn’t happen, but it makes for a cool story. The cabin was seriously cloudy from the water vapourizer humidifier, which is what you see in the picture.

Anyway, for this post I wanted to back up a few days and put in my two cents on our trip out to the Great Barrier Reef.

Unfortunately, we no longer had access to an underwater camera, so we weren’t able to take pictures during our snorkle tour, but I do have a few shots that we took with our phones.

The reef tour we were part of had many options and add-ons. The basic fee gets you on the boat, morning tea, lunch and access to the glass bottom boat and semi-submersible tours. Everything else was an add-on.

Basic, never-snorkled-before, was $35 per adult. This is where they outfit you with fins, mask, snorkel, lycra body suit, life jacket and pool noodles too if you need them. They keep you in a roped off area and obviously there is no actual diving due to the life jacket.

The more advanced snorkeling tour was $45 per person, and with that they provide the same gear, minus the pool noodles, and take you a ways out from the main platform on a small boat and drop you in the middle of the reef. This was the option that Kat and I took, but we used our own gear, and no life jackets. What’s the point in having all of that gear if I can’t actually dive down. The boat crew had no issues with us using our own gear and not using a life jacket, so all was good.

I mentioned they had a lot of options and here are some more: scuba diving for beginners, scuba for certified divers, snuba, helmet dive, seabob rentals and helicopter rides. Snuba is where you are breathing from a regulator, but you have no tank or BC, just a mask and you walk on the bottom. This does mean you are tethered to the boat and limited to where you can go.

A seabob is one of the fancy water propulsion devices that you hang on to and it does the swimming for you. We didn’t look into any of the other options but I am sure they didn’t come cheep. They had some professional photographers there who took your picture as you were getting on board. They would also be hanging out in the beginner snorkeling area taking underwater photos. They were charging $15 for the first photo and $20 for any underwater ones. That was a bit exorbitant.

Oh, they also had underwater cameras you could rent, and then buy an SD card for. The rental fee was $60. Our fellow earthshipper, Katrina, bought her underwater camera for $60, so I wasn’t going to spend that just to rent one.

Anyway, we didn’t get to our snorkeling tour until the afternoon, so we did the other free stuff in the morning. Here we get to a few pictures too.

As you can see from that first photo, the sky is very blue and the water is very calm. This was the day after the big lunar event (full moon, super moon, total eclipse and blue moon). The crew said we were really lucky because it is rarely that calm, nor the tide as high.

Here is Kat looking like she’s freezing. Don’t fall for it, it was blazing hot, especially if you happened to step out in the direct sun.

This is a general crowd shot to give you a small idea of how many people came on the boat.

That wasn’t anywhere near everyone either. I wouldn’t be surprised if we had upwards of 200 people on that tour, and two thirds of them were Asian. They had crew members on board who were also translators. Pick your language of choice: Dutch, German, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and I think there was one more but I don’t remember what it was right now.

We started with the semi-submersible tour, which is a boat with a deep draft that you crawl into the bottom of and look out portholes under the surface.

My first decent picture was of this moon jellyfish. There were tonnes of these guys around. Fortunately, they’re mostly harmless.

There was one species of fish that was sizeable, abundant and really curious so not too difficult to take a picture of.

The water wasn’t as clear as I thought it would be. That may also be due to the heavy tidal action, but it meant you couldn’t see very far in the water. The camera saw even less.

Hopefully you can at least see a bunch of fishy blobs on the left side of the next photo. There were a number of different groups coming together.

Here is one last one, of the curious fish again.

After the semi-submersible, we did the glass bottom boat tour as well. It was much the same, but less confined. We did get to check out a few of the shallower spots, so the coral was much closer.

I think if we had just come straight to Australia and done this tour, it would have had a much larger impact. However, we just spent most of the month of January snorkeling in Indonesia. Much of the coral is the same.

However, our snorkeling tour had one major thing we didn’t have in Indonesia: a marine biologist as our guide.

This was really great because we could ask about anything we saw that she hadn’t already mentioned. Remember this guy from one of my Indonesian posts?

We found a small one during our tour and I dove down to point it out. The tour guide then filled us in.

It is a mushroom coral. The fascinating thing about them is that they don’t attach themselves to a rock or other structure like all other coral. They a free floating, just sitting on the bottom. This does mean though that forces of nature can flip them over pretty easily, which makes them more vulnerable to abuse.

I only saw two of those during our reef tour, but they were extremely abundant on Kenawa island, in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

We ran into huge pods of those moon jellyfish, but thankfully they aren’t harmful. No, it’s the ones you can’t see that will sting you. The tide was going out by this point and the wave action was picking up. There was a small debris field we swam into and that’s when you will run into stinging jellyfish. The debris doesn’t seem to need to be specific, but when I encountered them, it was usually things like floating leaves and other organic matter.

Anyway, our tour guide managed to get one wrapped around her hand, I had one zap the back of my left hand and my neck and Kat had a sting on one of her hands. It was mostly like a bee sting, these weren’t boxed jellyfish or manowars. After that happened I pulled my sleeves down over my hands to protect them. Yes we were all wearing wet suits as protection.

We saw lots of coral, and lots of fish and just before we got back to the main platform we saw two sea turtles feeding at the bottom. It may have not had quite the impact I was expecting, but the snorkeling tour was definitely worth it. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.

Australian Safari

This morning, Kat and I were picked up at the very late hour of 07:10. The tour bus seated 15, plus the driver and all seats were filled. There were a number of us Canadians, some Americans, British and Swiss.

Today was our safari tour of a rain forest up here on the northeast side of the continent. There was a lot of driving, not only to pick up everyone. The drive up to the rain forest probably took close to two hours.

The safari started with a boat cruze down a river in the hopes that we might see a crocodile.

Crocs, as they call them here, don’t like clear water because they can’t hide and surprise their prey. This is why the river is so muddy. The muddiness actually comes from the tides going in and out, as this river is connected to the ocean. When the tide is in, the water is salty. When the tide is going out, it’s fresh water.

If you look closely at this next picture you can see a small bird in a nest on the dead tree. I believe they said it was a type of kingfisher.

Here we have a funky red plant that I don’t remember the name of.

This next one is of an actual crocodile.

No, really. The tour guide even brought the boat in closer so we could all see it. I couldn’t see anything except brown water and trees. There were a few others that were spotted as well, but it was either on the opposite side of the boat or it disappeared before it came into my view. I am sorry to say, we don’t have any pictures of actual crocs.

We do have a lot of pictures of the massive ammounts of greenery growing along the side of the water.

Many of the trees are well over 30m (100′).

It was a gorgeous, sunny day so almost any picture will look good.

After the boat cruze, we had a walk through the forest. You might think this to be dangerous, it being Australia and all, but the path was a boardwalk with waist high railings, so unless you decide to wander from the path, you’d be pretty safe. The only real danger were the mosquitoes. They really liked legs, and any time we stopped I spent a considerable amount of my attention on removing them. There was one girl who had so many bites on the back of her legs, she had a welt the size of a grapefruit.

We did get to see some interesting creatures, but many of them were not out in the wild.

This one was, though.

Sorry about the bad focus. This is a medium sized golden orb weaver. We saw another one later on that was bigger but I couldn’t get a picture of it as we were in the bus. Yes, we saw a spider that was big enough that you could spot it from 4-5m away (13-16′).

A snake in a terrarium. I don’t know what kind.

Another snake. This one might have been the death adder, but without seing his head, it’s hard to tell.

A small aquatic turtle.

A really big crayfish.

More snake.

Here we have a big lizard hanging out on a log in a cage.

These are Galah birds.

These bright little guys were being quite noisy.

This guy was just hanging out on the back of a chair, and he wasn’t camera shy either.

There were also two sharing a cage, though the door was open, so they were able to come and go as they like.

Okay, last birdie.

They had a bunch of displays at the visitor’s center showing some of the insects.

A lot of them were butterflies or moths.

This guy was just sitting on the hand railing during our walk through the forest.

I’m sure you would all like to see something cute after all that, so here are the wallabies.

These wallabies are all orphans and can’t be returned to the wild. We were given pieces of sweet potato and we got to feed the wallabies.

I’ll give you one guess as to whether this next wallaby is male or female.

Here is the female with a full pouch.

There was a lot more that happened, but unfortunately I am going to have to cut this short, as it’s getting late and it has been a long day.

I will leave you with this awesome picture from one of the lookouts that we visited today.

Heading Down Under

It’s been a few days now and lots of things have happened. I will start where we left off last time.

We arose on Jan 29th to a lovely sunny day. It was lovely, but super windy. We had the highest waves we’ve seen yet on Kenawa island.

We boarded up the Earthship as best we could and then headed over on the boat later in the morning to Poto Tano. The wave action made that quite interesting.

We met up with Suji one last time and he showed us where to buy the ferry ticket. For the two of us it was 34k, which is a lot less than the 200k the taxi driver got from us to buy our ferry ticket on the way over. The taxi drivers at the airport will all try to rip you off.

Fortunately, Katrina recommended a smal B&B to us that would pick us up at the port, drive us there and then take us to the airport the next day, all inclusive for 700k. Thats rougly $70CAN. It is a really good deal, the driver and owner of the B&B speak English quite well, and they don’t try to weasel more money out of you.

I snapped this random picture during the ride there.

Yes, that is a scooter coming right at us in our lane. This picture doesn’t even show half of it. Instead of sticking to lanes of traffic, it works closer to a flocking pattern. Yes, they generally stick to the left side of the road, like the UK and Australia, but there is no speed limit so there is lots of passing and being passed, not to mention other vehicles parked on the road, pot holes and random crowds of people.

That being said, the speed is never very high. On the more major roads, we might get up to 80kph, but that was the top end. We asked about accidents, and we were told that it happens a lot less than what you might think. I guess when you grow up in a culture where spaces are small and cramped that you’re just used to the roads being the same way. They figure it out as they drive.

We made a few stops before arriving at the B&B, but for those details, you will need to check out Kat’s post. By the time we made it to the B&B (called “Sama Sama”, which translates to “You’re Welcome”), it was really pouring rain. The car driver parked as close as he could to the door and we made a dash for it.

They don’t usually serve dinner, but because we couldn’t go out due to the rain, they served us a really nice veggie curry dish, with fried egg and rice. It was great after so much rice and fish.

The rain eventually calmed down enough for us to make the trek out to our cabin, but it was full night by that point. As a result, all of the pictures you’re about to see we took the following morning.

This was the hut that we stayed in. The sleeping pad is just big enough for a standard double mattress and a narrow walk way beside it.

There is a doorway at the back of the hut, with some stairs that lead down to the toilet and shower. The shower water is not heated, nor is there a sink or mirror. We were pretty cozy while the wind howled around us.

It was much nicer the next morning and we were able to get a view of our surroundings. Like all of these fun signs.

During our ride with the driver yesterday, he put on some music. The first song was Indonesian but after that he played stuff from North America. The first American song that came on was “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns and Roses, which we thought was rather apt for the location.

You can see a bit of the mountain in the background between the trees there. Kat looked it up and it is an active volcano with around 12,000 feet (3650m) of elevation.

You can’t really see it too well in the pictures so far, but there is a sheer drop right in front of the path that goes beside the huts, probably 3 or 4m (9 to 12 feet). Right on the edge of that was this swing that was attached to two trees. Here is Kat trying it out.

I tried it too, but that picture is on Kat’s blog.

Before breakfast we took a short walk down the hill, to experience the Indonesian wilderness. We discovered this small stream at the bottom.

Looking back up the hill we just walked down looked like this.

Fortunately there was a path with bamboo steps in it to prevent all of the dirt just washing away in the rain. That made the trek pretty easy.

We came across this guy lying beside the path. It’s a land snail and not a small one either. That shell is longer than my hand is wide.

Here is a close-up of the stream.

And the little waterfall going the other direction.

Beyond the stream was a little rice paddy. There are tonnes of these all over the area.

After we made our way back, we found this little toad just hanging out in the dirt.

Some other fun things that were growing right on the property of the B&B are these.

Yup, bananas. Lots of coconuts too. I even found one of these trees.

It is a bit dark, but I think you can see the papayas hanging from the top there.

That was it for our little forest foray. We had banana pancakes for breakfast. No maple syrup here, just chocolate sauce.

We wanted to have lots of time at the airport, so we headed out on another lengthy drive. It took about 1.5hrs to get there, but the weathere was nice and we didn’t have any misshaps on the road.

We had to wait to check in for our flight as we were a bit too early, but it wasn’t too much.

The previous flight from Bali to Lombok was on a propeller plane and took about an hour and 45min. We were on a jet this time and it was under an hour. We arrived around 14:00 and our next flight wasn’t untill 23:00 so we had a bit of time to kill.

Eventually, we made our way through the first security check, to then line up at the check in desk with about a thousand other people all going various places. It was divided up by destination so we didn’t have to wait too long.

Once we made it through that, there was another checking of our credentials, then we had to go through Indonesian exit customs. I guess they really want to make sure you do actually leave when you say you are going to.

From there you walk through a massive hallway with the most glitzy shops you can imagine, selling things like perfume, watches, luggage and jewelry. All the things I go to the airport to buy 😛

At that point we stopped to have a bite to eat before heading to our gate.

The weird thing I noticed about our gate number, was that it was the same gate as several other flights scheduled at roughly the same time. All we could do was head over and see what was up.

When we reached the gate, they had all of the waiting area blocked off and you had to go through another security check. This one mainly for confiscating any water or other liquids you may have just bought on the way through.

It wasn’t setup very well as if your flight wasn’t one of the immediate ones being loaded, they wouldn’t let you through. Also, nothing was labeled so you had to get in a line and get rejected before you could figure this out.

So, not only did this create more lines, it created a lot of confusion and congestion between the passengers milling abount trying to find out when and where they needed to be.

Now I get the whole security thing, but if you’re going to take everyone’s water away, and then charge money on the plane for any type of service or beverage on a 4+ hour flight, that’s a lot like extortion. I wasn’t impressed.

Once we made it through that process, and they strarted to load the plane… or at least that’s what we thought they were doing. They did the ticket scanning, we went through the gate and then we got on a bus.

The bus drove out to the middle of the runway, they glued on some wings, and then backed the bus up into a huge elastic band. The band let go and we were launched into the stratosphere. We now know what it’s like to travel by Airbus.

Okay, that last paragraph was a bit exaggerated, but they did bus us out to our plane, which explained how they could load several flights from the same gate, just by directing you to a different bus.

It was an overnight flight, so we had planned to sleep most of it, but it was tough. I have slept on many flights, but this one it was really difficult to get in a position that was either comfortable or wouldn’t make some part of my body go numb.

We landed in Cairns, Australia just before 6am local time. Went through customs, got our bags, and found our driver to take us to the hotel. It’s nice having someone waiting for you.

Unfortunately, the hotel wasn’t even open at that point, let alone have our room ready. We waited a bit and when they opened up at 7am we were able to stow our luggage there while we headed out and did other things.

First thing we did was have breakfast. There are a lot of shops and things closed that early in the morning but we were given directions to a breakfast place. It was nice not having fish, for a change. I had eggs benedict, with ham and spinach. Definitely worth it.

After breakfast we had a lot of time to kill, so we wandered around the neighborhood until we came to this park.

We had been walking for a while at this point and needed to sit. They have these really big trees here too.

I say big tree, but really it’s several smaller trees all combining together like some wooden Voltron to form a super tree.

Here is Kat acting like she is having and amazing time, while secretly suffering from sore feet.

As we continued to wander we ended up out by the harbour. We came across these lovelies just hanging out on a post sticking out of the ground.

These next two guys are mud skippers. They’re a bit like a cross between a fish, a tadpole and an eel. They skip along the water and then hang out on the rocks.

Last, but not least, there were a bunch of pellicans just hanging out waiting to have their picture taken.

These are not small birds. The tops of their heads would probably reach the top of my thigh. They didn’t seem too concerned with people taking their picture.

That was a lot to cover, so I’m going to leave it at that. We have a trip to the Great Barrier Reef tomorrow and a rain forest tour on Friday. We should have lots to tell after those adventures.