Posts Tagged With: animal encounters

Peel-Region: Hanging out with Australian wildlife

Australia is a destination without equal in a lot of aspects. 10.685 beaches? Check. World class-cuisine in an array of cutting-edge coastal cities? Check. Landscapes and vegetation that ranges from the tropical rain forests of Northern Queensland to the immensely vast red outback deserts of the interior? Check. 

If there is one thing, however, that sprang to my mind before visiting Australia for the first time back in 2011, it was its unrivaled array of quirky wildlife. Once I told my European friends that I would move Down under, there was a unison:” But what about the animals there? Isn´t it dangerous??” Well, theoretically, yes. But practically and with a tiny bit of common sense, no. Yes, there was a deadly red-back-spider in the shed of my former home South of Perth, as my partner nonchalantly pointed out when I stepped inside with no shoes. And yes, there were a few Shark-related incidents on Western Australian beaches. But for the most part, the animals in Australia are to die for, not to die from. 

Need some proof here? Alright, I´ll take you to a very special place in Pinjarra, to a small animal sanctuary otherwise known as Peel Zoo. Sounds good? 

The unique thing about this place is that you get a possibility to really get up close and personal with the resident cuties here, and not in that “Come really close”-PR-kinda way, where you are still 50 meters away from the action.  Buy some feed and venture into a part of the sanctuary where you can encounter endearing Alpacas, deer, and curious chickens.

You can also hang out with some kangaroos, feed an Emu, assist a snake expert talk and demonstration and hold a snake yourself, or spend time in the amazing walk-through-aviary. I tried my luck at holding a snake and honestly, I loved it! I assumed somehow the snake´s skin would feel cold and slippery, but instead, it felt quite warm and almost lovely to the touch. Of course, I was still a little unsure when holding a snake for the first time. But with all the messages we get around these reptiles in the media, that was to be expected…So if you visit, do give this experience a go, it might just completely change your attitude towards this beautiful animal!

If snake holding is not your thing, but you´ve somehow always secretly dreamed of being a pirate, you´ll have the chance to make this phantasy, at least partly, come true. How on earth, you may ask? Well, when wandering through the Peel Zoo aviary, it might just happen that a cheeky parrot spontaneously decides to hang out on your shoulder for a while. Take that, Captain Sparrow! 

All in all, you´ll come away from your hours spent at this sanctuary an hour South of Perth with a warm and fuzzy feeling and with some new-found friends from the Australian Animal Kingdom. 

Have you ever interacted with Aussie wildlife before? If so, where and how did your experience go? Would love to hear from you. 

Categories: Reiselust- Hungry for travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Rotto: Where animals are the true Selfie-pros

Perth and its surrounding areas have so much more to offer than cultural cliches might make you believe. In my humble opinion, there are a lot of spots here that come close to what heaven might resemble like, especially if that heaven was envisioned for Condé-Nast-travel-editors, National Geographic- wildlife-photographers or just intrepid travel lovers. Ok, now that the stage is set and your curiosity is sparked, let me introduce you to Rotto. Say what?

Rotto is local speak for Rottnest Island, an absolute chocolate-praline of an island located about a 25-minute ferry ride off Fremantle in Western Australia. Rotto is everything you think the Carribean might look like, plus Quokkas. Say what again? Well, imagine stepping off the ferry in Thomson Bay, being blinded by white sand beaches, greeted by incredibly clear blue waters sparkling invitingly in the sun and a sky the color of azure-blue confetti. Your gaze wanders around, your mood lifts from taking in all the picture-perfect impressions around you and then, something VERY unusual stops you in your tracks.

Is it an Instagrammed aka beautified rat? Is it a small kangaroo gone wrong? No! The small animals that like to wander around Rotto as if they own the place (which they kinda do) are called Quokkas. If a zoologist would explain to you what they are, he would probably say that they are wallaby-like marsupials about the size of a cat. Quokkas are a truly Western Australian phenomenon, as they can only be found on some islands off the WA coast and in the forest and coastal heath in the South-Western part of this vast state.

The Quokka is a true trendsetter by the way, as he/she prefers vegan food, and is furthermore also very photogenic. It´s no wonder, then, that Quokkas do fancy the occasional photo-shoot. Ah well, they might be slightly addicted. But who isn´t, in these times of social media mayhem? Sorry, I am wandering off. Back to your new found animal friend.

No matter whether you choose to explore the Rottnest Island nature reserve by foot or on a bike, you´ll see Quokkas all around. They will approach you if you stick around for a bit, so get that selfie-stick ready and put a smile on your dial. The Quokka usually already has one, that´s why it´s often called “The happiest animal ever” by its admirers. I would be happy, too, if a whole island was named after me!

Yep, the name ´Rottnest´is actually a weird sort of love declaration to the fun-loving furry marsupials, because, just like you, 17th century Dutch explorers didn´t know what hit them when they saw these cuties for the first time. They accordingly named the island after their perception of the Quokkas as cat-sized rats – Rottnest Island literally means rat´s nest.

Alright, let´s assume you are waiting for your Quokka-friends on this car-free island playground, ideally around the main settlement area in the late afternoon. Your new photo-co-stars love green spaces and grass (ahem, no comment), so they often hang out around the green space where the bakery is, according to insider sources on the island.

You could also choose to interact around Thomson Bay or see if a Quokka wants to keep you company at the Oceanside Pub. Anyways, Quokka approaches you, next up, get low to the ground and close to the Quokka’s level, and do not put your arm around it – you can do that with your Uncle Bill, but not with this wild and free Selfie queen/ king. Do not touch it all, actually. Think of it as a Kim Kardashian or a Sam Heughan in animal form. You wouldn´t touch them, either, if you crossed their path, right? Being starstruck and all.

To top off your Quokka-interaction- experience, continue on to the final step: Click that freaking shutter! Yeah, you´ve done it! And the best part: No need to Whatsapp the Quokka-mate the new picture. They have plenty already.


Practical information:

  • To get there, take a ferry from Fremantle, central Perth or Hillary´s Boat Harbour. There are numerous ferries available daily with Rottnest Express and Rottnest Fast Ferries. 
  • Do not touch the Quokkas, you or them might get unwell from that. Think of them as a Tinder-date with social anxiety.
  • Do not feed them, either. Think of yourself feeding them as that overeager aunt that always wanted to stuff you with food you didn´t want.
  • Bring a Selfie-stick to keep a decent distance between you and smiley Quokka. Remember, they are basically movie or TV stars. Keep your cool and don´t get hysterical. 

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Meeting the Camel Whisperer

Do you have a dog or cat? Do you feel connected to animals and are interested in learning more about them?

As an animal friend, you might have noticed that the perception of animals varies a lot from species to species, and often also from country to country. In China even dogs are considered as “living things”(the translation for animal in Chinese), while in countries like the US it’ s not rare to find luxurious Spas exclusively for beloved dog or cat companions. 

But what about different type of animals, like let’s say  camels?

They don’t belong into the category of edible animals (for non-vegetarians, and not even by Chinese standards). Nor do they belong into the category of animals separated by most people from other animals by labeling them as cute or cuddly, aka dogs, cats, hamsters and the like.

What do you associate with camels? Think about it. And after having read this, please think again.

Camels are surely one of those animals highly prejudiced by society. And that’ s just a tiny bit of what I learned when I met the Camel Whisperer, Henk Van Eek, at his workplace in Monkey Mia, Western Australia.

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Getting up close and personal with Lou and Ally

Getting to know a dutch Camelwhisperer

I encountered him and his gentle camels for the first time a year ago while exploring the Australian Westcoast. More specifically, it was at the beach of Monkey Mia, a place famous for its dolphin feeding and for its remoteness.

I must admit that I felt slightly intimidated at first, as my first impression of Henk consisted in him being almost overprotective of his camels. He insisted that I  should not come too close to his animals or take pictures of them without going for a ride. ‘What a grump’, was therefore one of my first thoughts.

However, as “Riding on a Camel” was an important item on my “Things-to-do-before-I-die” –  Bucket list, and as I find any kind of animals generally pretty interesting – and sometimes so much more friendly than some humans -, I decided to give it a go. And I was up for a fair bit of a surprise!

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With Henk, the Camel Whisperer

Once save and sound on camel Ally’s back, a “camelus dromedarius” proceeding from Northern Africa and Afghanistan, the ride along the paradisiacal beach of Monkey Mia could begin.

While I was marveling at the deep blue of the wide open sky seeming to melt into the clear blue waters of the Indian Ocean, Henk started telling me all about his fascinating life story. And of course also about his friendly camels! He was leading the two camels Lou and Ally, who were kindly carrying my partner and me along the beach while he shared his experiences with us.

Henk had been sailing the seven seas as a captain after growing up in Holland where he had learned all about animals from his granddad, a veterinarian and animal lover. He had also lived with indigenous people in South America, who as Henk stated were used to communicating in telepathic ways. Yes, sceptics of the world, this weird stuff can apparently really work. A true adventurer and animal lover, it was obvious that Henk heart’s calling lay in protecting his camels and teaching people the truth about these amazing creatures.

The truth about Camels

I developed quite some admiration for Ally, Lou and their mates when I got to know the following facts:

  • Camels can raise their temperature about seven Degrees as soon as it gets hot. Like this, they makes sure they do not even lose a drop of moisture through sweating. HOW HANDY IS THAT?
  • A pregnant camel which just doesn’ t feel like giving birth can deliberately stop the process for up to two months by letting the baby go into hibernation. Now, how useful is that one? Great skill to have, don’t you agree?
  •  The first Australian settlers would have had quite some problems without these creatures-the good old horses soon resigned, alas laid down their heads and died, when the settlers wanted to find out what was behind the shoreline. And who came into play then? Yes, you are right, the camel fellows. Unimpressed by heat and hardship, they went on in search for food and water.
  • Camels also have the stunning ability to go without water for long periods, without drinking  anything- probably longer than many people can without a beer.Why? They can store water in their blood stream! Freaky!

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    Taking a ride on beautiful Monkey Mia beach

On this year’s ride, Henk also shared that he had freed one of his camels from a farm in Yallingup, where it had been severely abused by his “owner” at the time. Since then, Lou still does not particularly fancy young ladies with long blond hair- as that’s what his former “owner” looked like.

Sadly, the abuse of camels is common, even in countries like Australia: The most frequent being drilling through the camel’s nose and using a nosepeg to assure the camel’s obedience. Would you like to have that procedure done to you? I guess you see my point.

And in Africa, the herdsmen have a tendency to treat their camels fairly rough, as I learned from Harry Raffil Anderson, who grew up on a farm in Kenia.”It’s a fact. They don’t on average care for the feelings of animals. They are a means to an end, a practical utility”, states Harry when I ask him about the treatment of camels in his home continent.

Getting up close and personal with these gentle animals at Monkey Mia and learning how much abuse they usually have to endure makes me want to confirm again how incredibly friendly and helpful they really are. And I  can also attest by experience now that camels:

  • Don’ t spit
  • Don’ t stink
  • Don’t sink: they are awesome swimmers and use a refined method of breaststroke swimming.

Instead, they love to be patted and to smile into cameras. If you wanna learn more about camels and go for a ride with them- check out Shark Bay Camel Safaris.  It’s definitely an awesome adventure!

Let’s care for and connect with Nature and the beautiful animal world – what could be more important and worthwhile?

How do you feel about camels ? Did you ever get the chance to go on a ride with them?

 

Categories: Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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