Waking up to a sunrise view of little white fishing boats bobbing on this wash of blue reminded me of my university days in Brighton living in view of the sea.
The air had a slight breeze, but nothing as strong as the salty gusts you would feel against your skin if you visited the seaside.
That’s because this vast expanse of water was not the sea. It is a lake.
Metung Village is a tiny port village located in the midst of this huge lake network called Gippsland Lakes, fed by the Tasman Sea from Lakes Entrance.
“A well kept secret on the Gippsland Lakes. It’s both incredibly romantic and fabulous for families.” boasts the official Metung tourism website. It’s quite a quiet village with few things to do, and with a population of only 1207 people.
In fact, we saw more different species of birds than humans here. My first glimpse of Pelicans sunbathing on the docks took me aback a little as for an English lass it’s rare to see such majestic birds in the wild. Other than pigeons.
There are 828 species of native Australian birds living in this country, which doesn’t include the 27 introduced birds, and the 13 that are sadly extinct today.
Of these 828 species of birds, about 45% of the birds living here are endemic, meaning they don’t live anywhere else in the world. So if you’re a bird lover, I highly recommend a visit to Australia to hear the chirps of rare birds from the eucalyptus trees and the flash of bright feathers as parrots you would only find in the zoo (in the UK), fly past the window.
These colourful, noisy birds are one of the first things that stand out to visitors to Australia. Songbirds are an enormous group of birds, about 5000 species overall, consisting of the thrushes, robins, mockingbirds of the Northern Hemisphere, and the magpies, bowerbirds and lyrebirds of Australia.
Throughout the 20th Century, ornithologists believed that many groups of birds evolved in the North, and travelled to Australia, as Australia was seen by 19th Century naturalists as “an empty land to be filled up with good stuff from the North.” (The Guardian)
However after years of searching, eventually fossils of songbirds were found here that were up to 54 million years old, much older than any found elsewhere in the world. Studies carried out in the 1980’s suggested that Australia had the greatest genetic diversity of songbirds in the world. This took a long time to be accepted overseas, but in 2016, Nature Communications published a study confirming this from research carried out on 100 species taken from 25 countries.
The study further confirmed that songbirds began to diversify 33 million years ago, but did not reach overseas until 10 million year ago. This means that whilst the rest of the world remained silent and absent of birdsong, for 23 million years Australia’s lands were bursting with the calls of these delicate creatures.
Excessively loud birdsong is one of the unique qualities of Australian birds, however thats not the only thing they are known for. Many birds like cassowaries and fruit doves are excellent pollinators of fruit trees, spreading the seeds through their excrement.
Lyrebirds are known for reducing bushfires by frequently turning over leaf litter thus effectively creating firebreaks. A really important ecosystem lifesaver as Australia has some of the most intense bushfires, destroying thousands of hectares of habitat every year.
Suitably named “Lakes Entrance’, is a gap in a long strip of land called Gippsland Lake Coastal Park, which the Tasman Sea feeds the Gippsland Lakes.
Along this long strip of land on the sea side is a beach named after its impressive length, The Ninety Mile Beach.
There is a great 2 hour loop circuit called The Entrance Walk which will take you through dry bushes along sandy paths and out along the soft golden sands of the Ninety Mile Beach.
On this beautiful blue sky day of 22 degrees, I was feeling the full effects of British Summertime.
I recalled from my childhood that it’s about at this temperature that gaggles of pasty white Brits made headway to the coarse grey sandy beaches in an attempt to “get a tan”. They would remove all of their kit down to their speedos, ignore the sunscreen and desperately try to roast their skin until it changed colour. Usually resulting in a painful to the touch scarlet “glow”… ouch.
…But it’s in my blood so I could resist a dip in the sea. I was expecting a shockingly uncomfortably bitter cold that I’m used to back home, and bracing for the impact, I was instead met with a soft warmth like a cool bath instead.
It was perfect.
Passers by wrapped up in 3 coats and Ollie thought I was insane, running into the sea in April in my underwear… but I guess they don’t quite realise how lucky they are to have literally the best beaches in the world on their doorstep.
Drying off and heading onwards, our plan was to visit Croajingolong National Park for the night.
‘Til next time…