Ocean View Motel quite literally lived up to its name.
Hanging out of the window, I’m observing the incredibly loud Cockatoos swooping from Eucalyptus to Eucalyptus, amazed that these large parrots aren’t just escaped house pets.
With the unfamiliar song of native birds in the air, we start the day off with a beautiful stroll along the Merimbula Boardwalk.
After some chats about how native wildlife here is vastly different to my home country, we get on to the topic of Koalas.
“I have never seen a Koala”
So can you guess where our next adventure leads us to?
Obviously, Koalas are found in the wild too, but the likelihood of running into one randomly is quite low. We decided to increase the odds and visit an animal shelter that looks after ill, abandoned or wild animals incapable of surviving in the wild.
The employees at Potoroo Palace treated these native Australian animals as if they were in their natural habitat, and all had plenty of space, the right food and company.
It actually blew my mind how many animals in here were completely native to Australia. I kept asking “and these you can find in the wild too??”
Here’s a few friends I met today:
Kangaroos and Wallabys
You can buy grass pellets to feed the Kangaroos, and of course it gave us the opportunity to get up close to these fluffy marsupials.
It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a kangaroo, and I instantly became fascinated by how strong their tails are. It’s essentially a third leg, they lift themselves onto their tail and hop both feet forward to move.
These guys are pretty small as well. I was told that they can get up to 6 feet tall. As bad as it sounds, it’s partly the reason Australian cars have large “Roo bars” or Bull bars on the front, they can get up to a max of 70 kmph and they can run out in front of cars. They can completely total the car if you accidentally hit one.
My favourite however was a little brown excitable Wallaby called Evan.
He was so cute he followed us alongside the fence as we walked along his entire enclosure with the happiest little face, like a puppy welcoming you back after a while away.
Evan is a brush-tailed rock wallaby, they are pretty common in Northern NSW and Southern Queensland, but numbers are declining in the south and west of the Great Dividing Range about 100 km North-west of Brisbane to Northern Victoria. They reside in cliff lines and rock piles, in vegetation ranging from rainforests to dry sclerophyl forest.
They usually eat grasses, vegetables, leaves and other foliage. We decided to treat him to a couple grass pellets through a gap big enough for his head in the fence 🙂
There are four different types of Echidna; the short-beaked echidna, Sir David’s long-beaked echidna, Eastern long-beaked echidna and the Western long-beaked echidna (New Guinea Echidna). The Sir David’s long-beaked echidna was named in honour of the famous British naturalist Sir David Attenborough, amongst other beetles and spiders in his name.
The funny thing is that they don’t really have beaks at all, they have long fleshy noses that are used to sniff out termite mounds, ants and other soil dwelling invertebrates. The little one we met today had a tasty porridge containing all the nutrients he needed.
It was fascinating watching the long tongue flick around the plate practically licking it clean. Their tongues can get up to 18cm long. Thats pretty long – can you imagine having a tongue the length of a bank note?
That’s not the most bizarre fact about Echidnas though. Only these creatures and the Platypus, both native to Australia, are monotremes. Monotremes are egg-laying mammals. Female Echidnas lay one egg at a time, into a pouch on her stomach to incubate for 7-10 days. When the egg hatches the baby is 12mm long and will stay in its mother’s pouch for a further 6-8 weeks. It’s called a puggle. How cute!!!
The sanctuary also had an albino echidna that needed to be kept in the shade to stop her skin from burning. These guys had been around for a while, and according to the park ranger, they can live up to 50 years in captivity.
Emus move with so much flair and attitude. We met three of these funny, flight-less birds. Swaying and puffing out their chests, they examined us carefully.
Maybe my perceptions of so much character coming from these puffs on stilts has stemmed from watching famous comedian Rod Hull perform with “Emu”, a fluffy blue bird puppet. Observe.
“A Dingo ate my baby!” was the first time I heard about dingoes. A multitude of popular culture shows such as The Simpsons, Frasier, Supernatural and Family Guy uses this line, some of which I had seen as a kid.
It was actually worded “a dingo took my baby” and was reportedly cried out by Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton to her then-husband. This incident took the life of their baby daughter Azaria Chamberlain, in 1980 at Uluru in the Northern Territory. The Chamberlain family had been holidaying at Uluru when Azaria was taken from their tent by a dingo, but the parents were later accused of murder by the authorities. After three court cases, the parents were found innocent when the coroner discovered that Azaria’s death was in fact the result of being attacked by a dingo.
Dingoes are Australia’s wild dog. They arrived in Australia about 5,000 years ago – brought to Australian shores by Indonesian Seafarers. Dingoes are not actually a dog breed, but are closely related to wolves, and have a yodel-like howl instead of a bark. Some Australians keep them as pets, in NSW you can own one without a permit, Victoria with a permit, but in Queensland it’s illegal to have a dingo as a pet.
They are mostly considered pests though, as they were introduced as semi-domesticated canids from Indonesia or Southeast Asia, they became predators to a huge variety of prey – 117 different species to be exact, including mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, crabs, and frogs. While most dogs are considered man’s best friend, dingoes are decidedly an enemy of the Australian farmer, as after the English introduced sheep to Australia, they became the much more tasty target for the dingoes.
Dingoes are pretty talented though, they can turn their head around to about 180 degrees almost like an owl, and they have rotating wrists, like humans. This means that they can catch prey with their front paws like hands, climb trees and even open doors, unlike a dog.
The reason I was taken here in the first place was to see fluffy bundles of adorable grey teddy bear. You can pay at many places for a “koala experience” which may get you close enough to cuddle one of these marsupials, and tourists from all over the world will come to see them, as they only live here in east Australia.
This is Blinky, he was sleeping for the whole time we were there, but they do, for 18-20 hours over the daytime actually. Koalas have to conserve heaps of energy as they spend the other 4 hours eating up to 1kg of toxic, fibrous, low-nutritious eucalyptus leaves.
There are over 700 different types of eucalyptus trees in Australia. Sounds like a lot of choice for Koalas, however Koalas will only eat around 30 different species of these trees. They’re picky too, each Koala only has 1-3 preferences, and will refuse to eat the others.
Koalas could be stranded on an island with 5 different types of eucalyptus, and only like eating one of them. Once that species of gumtree has been completely decimated, they would be too stubborn to eat the other trees leaves, and die of starvation… True story.
Also, Eucalyptus leaves are highly poisonous. The only way the Koala are able to digest this is via the bacteria in their stomachs. They gain this special bacteria by eating their mothers fecal matter, called pap, at a young age.
An incredible thing about Koalas is once the baby, only 2cm long, is born, it has to crawl blind, earless, pink and furless up the front of the mothers stomach into the pouch. It then stays in there for 6-7 months.
My heart literally melted when I saw this sleeping Koalas face, apparently a couple of years prior a huge bushfire threatened the sanctuary and all the animals needed to be rescued. The mother of baby Sapphire died due to the stress of moving, and left her to be bottle-fed and reared by the park rangers.
Bega Cheese Factory
Cruising on, we hit the wide, green rolling hills of NSW; farmland for as far as the eye could see. Dairy cows whizzed past in a blur of blacks and whites.
We discovered that there are actually tonnes of cheese factories all over this region, the cows roaming the green pastures were part of the many dairy farms in this area. High Valley Wine and Cheese Co., Bega, Hunter Valley Cheese Company, South Coast Cheese, Tilba Cheese, Unicorn Cheese, are only a few of the big cheese factories in NSW.
We decided to visit Bega, one of the bigger brands of cheese commonly found on the supermarket shelves in Australia.
Bega Cheese Factory is mostly a large museum building with a cheese shop and ice cream cafe. There is a multitude of different cheese making equipment in here which is worth a look at if you want to get an ideal of how farmers used to make cheese.
They even had an original cheese making/milking shed in there. Just in the middle of the exhibit. They used to milk cows and make cheese in a small wooden shack. Pretty impressive if you ask me.
Not unlike #ThatWanakaTree in New Zealand, this rock formation “Glasshouse Rocks” is apparently one of the most photographed rocks along the Eurobodalla coastline in Australia. Of course we had to keep that streak going!
Our last stop before crashing at Pebbly Beach Campsite for the night was Batemans Bay.
Scattered with fishing boats peacefully sleeping on the shore, it was a good end to my favourite day so far on this road trip.