Posted on: December 17th, 2018 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
Visit the Great Barrier Reef Between June & July to Swim with Minke Whales
First recognized by scientists less than 30 years ago, the dwarf minke whale is both elusive and super friendly.
There is so much we don’t know about these whales despite their proclivity to search out human company.
Scientists don’t understand why, but these whales are extremely curious and will often spend hours swimming around snorkelers and divers, giving quite a show! They are known to follow a boat around for hours, stopping for a look at each new dive site.
When to Swim with Minke Whales
Minke whales are the most common of the great whale species, found in abundance throughout the world’s oceans. They are mostly found in the North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic Oceans.
They are found off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand between March and December, but the best time to see minke whales is in June and July.
Despite their wide reach, swimming with minke whales only happens in The Great Barrier Ribbon Reefs in Tropical North Queenland, Australia. The great thing about this is that minke whales in the Great Barrier Reef are very social and communicative. Expeditions out to the reef regularly report seeing multiple whales in one day!
These multi-day Liveaboard expeditions depart from Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. These expeditions visit unique reef sites each day, offering more opportunities to swim with these gentle creatures.
This is one of the only animal encounters in the world that is entirely on the animal’s own terms. When a pod is spotted, a rope is tossed into the water. Groups of up to 10 swimmers hold on to the rope and the whales can approach or leave as they like. The whales are very generous with their time and once a pod is spotted, its rare if someone on the boat misses out on the experience while waiting their turn.
Things to Know Before Swimming with Minke Whales
Being in the water with these majestic creatures is described as a life-changing experience. It’s common for people to emerge from the water crying, screaming or just plain speechless.
If you want to add this encounter to your Australia bucket list, here are a few things you should know!
1. Every Australian winter, the minke whales make their annual migration from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef from May to August. Plan your trip between June to mid-July for the best odds of seeing a pod. Peak season is in early July.
2. This special experience might take a bit of effort and luck! Only a handful of tour operators have permits to swim with minke whales and you’re never guaranteed an encounter. Increase your odds of swimming with the genial giants by taking a 3-7 night Liveaboard Excursion. In June and July, you’ll have a 98% chance of encountering the whales. It is recommend that you pre-book your excursion.
3. If you’re not keen on spending nights at sea, you can take a day-trip out of Port Douglas. These day-trips have an encounter rate of about 18%. This decreases your odds quite a bit, but if you do encounter them, you will feel as though you won the lottery! Either way it’s an amazing day out on the Great Barrier Reef. These day-trips often give discounts for multiple days out on the boat and they usually end up at different dive sites each day. So, you could stay a few nights in lovely Port Douglas and increase your odds by taking multiple trips out to the reef without feeling like you’re doing the same thing every day.
4. If you go in July, you might even have a chance to see and/or swim with Humpback whales too!
5. You can contribute directly to ongoing research including photo-identification, behavior research and conservation efforts from your minke whale encounter.
6. Dwarf minke whales are the smallest of the baleen whales. Like Humpback whales, they have no teeth, but a series of baleen plates that they use to trap and filter the food krill.
7. There is still much to be learned about these whales. For example, they have never been seen feeding on the Great Barrier Reef so it is assumed that they feed in Open Ocean while in the tropics, but no one really knows!
8. They are one of the fastest whales. They can travel at speeds greater than 20 knots or about 23 miles per hour.
9. Minke whales seem to prefer snorkelers to divers. They tend to get closer to and hang around longer when humans are not wearing large air tanks.
Want a chance to cross this amazing experience off your Bucket List? Visit Australia with the help of a Destination Specialist at About Australia. We can make your once in a lifetime trip Down Under fun and easy!
Australia’s outback is located in the heart of the Northern Territory. This mystical region draws visitors from around the world to its inspiring and otherworldly desert landscape.
The red expanse of Uluru, the natural and cultural wonders of Kakadu National Park and the tropical backdrop of Darwin are just a few of the captivating sights in the outback.
We’ve rounded up seven amazing stops in this vast territory filled with natural beauty and activities for adventure seekers & leisure travelers alike.
Uluru & Surrounds
Image by jeaneeem on flickr
Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is a world-renowned destination for getting swept up in the majesty of Australia’s outback.
Located a few hours away from Alice Springs, this natural wonder tantalizes visitors with its powerful presence and subtly changing hues.
There’s no better way to start your day off than on a morning hike around the base of Uluru, catching the glow of the sunrise brighten the reds and oranges of the rock.
Then board a coach to Kuniya Piti where you’ll learn about the rich, sacred culture of the local Anangu people. See incredible aboriginal rock art in the caves throughout the area.
A scenic helicopter tour gives tourists a bird’s eye view of the magnificent desert. Witness the breathtaking views found only in the Red Centre, including the amazing domes of Kata Tjuta and the Mutijulu waterhole.
Spend your night under the stars and witness the desert illuminate on a Field of Light tour. Internationally-acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light art installation has become a global phenomenon with over 50,000 solar-powered stems crowned with frosted-glass spheres, lighting up as night falls.
This particular piece, named Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku or ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ in local Pitjantjatjara language, creates a glittering field of blue, violet and ochre hues as far as the eye can see.
Enjoy this splendid setting with wine and canapes, or start your morning with a sunrise viewing.
Image by Aldan Jones on flickr
Alice Springs is the perfect base for an outback adventure. This remote town is the gateway to major natural wonders of the outback.
Just a few minutes away are the MacDonnell Ranges, a popular destination for adventure seekers. Natural beauty awaits in this magnificent scenery, housing famous landmarks including the Ochre Pits and Ormiston Gorge.
Enjoy a day trip with a guided tour through the West MacDonnell ranges or stay overnight at one of the many camping spots available.
Alice Springs is also home to the adorable and famous Kangaroo Sanctuary (get ready for cuteness overload on their Instagram). Take a bus to the sanctuary where you’ll meet owner Brolga and hear the story and the passion behind keeping these beautiful animals thriving.
You can also experience the outback from a bird’s eye view on an early morning hot air balloon ride. See local wildlife such as kangaroos and wallabies below you as you silently glide over the outback.
For those seeking more thrills, go on a 4WD cattle station tour below the MacDonell Ranges. Escape to the oldest working cattle station in the Northern Territory as you ride across the ranch through bush tracks and local landscape on an ATV quad bike. You and no more than 9 other riders get to see mountain ranges and wildlife up close. No riding experience required!
As the vibrant capital of Northern Territory, Darwin offers a cool blend of laid-back tropics and exciting outback wetlands.
Tune in to the chilled out vibes at one of many al fresco restaurants or splash into the wave pool in the Waterfront Precinct. Stay out for the famous Darwin sunsets, casting lingering oranges and reds across a deep blue sky.
Just a short one hour’s trip away from Darwin you’ll find Litchfield National Park, home to some of the most breathtaking waterfalls in the Northern Territory.
These spring fed falls attract native wildlife including wallabies, kangaroos, flying foxes and dingoes. Stay dry and enjoy the nature that surrounds you on guided tours to crystal clear waterholes beneath its falls or explore the sandstone relics of the Lost City on a 4WD.
With several waterfalls and rock pools, all you need is a picnic lunch and your swim suit for a perfect day out.
The natural beauty and tantalizing water clarity is irresistible. Swim out to the cascading Wangi Falls or dive into the clear flowing water of the tiered rock pools at Buley Rockhole.
It wouldn’t be an Australian experience without a few crocodiles! A saltwater crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River lets you see these creatures up close as your guide entices the crocs to jump out of the water.
Feeling adventurous? Why not take a dive in Crocosaurus Cove which submerges you in the water alongside the crocodiles! This gem in the heart of Darwin boasts an impressive collection of reptiles with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with crocodiles in the Cage of Death.
If you’re looking for a more laid back nature experience, stop by Mary River National Park. Trek through the wetlands where you can see wildlife in its natural habitat. Lush landscape provides a perfect escape on your way to Kakadu.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu, Australia’s largest national park, is home to rugged escarpments, lush rainforest, ancient rock art galleries and stunning waterfalls.
Set out to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on a 4WD or on a small group tour and dive into their deep plunge pools framed by magnificent cliffs. Relax on the white sand and dip into the cool water of Jim Jim Falls or take a scenic flight above Twin Falls, cascading down sheer rock cliffs.
Explore other swimming holes such as the Gunlom Falls plunge pool or the clear emerald waters of Maguk (Barramundie Gorge) where you can hike to the top of the falls and relax in the top pools.
With Aboriginal rock art dating back 20,000 years, a stop at Ubirr and Noulangie art sites is a must. See a striking depiction of the extinct Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, as well as paintings of fish, turtles, goanna and other important food animals. Marvel at the depictions of creation ancestors on the rock walls of Burrungkuy (Nourlangie), including Namarrgon, the Lightning Man.
Keep an eye out for native wildlife on a Yellow Water Billabong Cruise. As Kakadu boasts Australia’s most diverse bird population, this is a great way for twitchers looking to tick a few birds off their list and even see a crocodile or two!
Katherine & Surrounds
Home to thirteen stunning gorges and cascading waterfalls, Katherine Gorge & Notmiluk National Park calls out to many who want to experience the tropical setting of Australia. Glide along the deep blue water, as your tour guide describes the lush lands in the comfort of a relaxing boat ride.
Love to kayak or canoe? Grab your equipment and push yourself out in the river bank to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds you. Get an up close view of Katherine’s stunning landscape that is sure to make you fall in love with the Northern Territory.
For nature lovers, Daly River provides a promising destination for camping and fishing. Take a dip in the swimming holes, experience the breathtaking gorges, go fishing for the plentiful barramundi and enjoy your catch over a fire as you camp alongside the wildlife.
Tennant Creek & Barkly Region
Image by Werner Bayer on flickr
Tennant Creek offers visitors a cultural escape to the real outback. Experience the gold rush era of Australia on an underground tour of Battery Hill Mining Centre. You can even try your hand at fossicking to take home your own gold!
Love hearing about local history? Immerse yourself in Aboriginal culture as you listen to stories of ‘Nyinkka’, the spiky tailed Goanna that is responsible for shaping Tennant Creek and the ancient myth that surrounds Karlu Karlu/Devils Marbles, the mysterious rock formations in the area.
The rugged beauty of Barkly Region is home to some of Australia oldest cattle stations. Plan your trip in June and experience a bush race and rodeo event at Brunette Downs Races.
Image by Mark Roy on flickr
With its white sandy beaches and clear Arafura Sea, the paradise setting of East Arnhmen land is a gorgeous escape into the wilderness. After a stroll on the gorgeous beach, visit art and craft centers to learn from the locals.
West Arnhem houses Gunbalanya, a large Aboriginal town surrounded by spectacular rock formations. See native artists work and purchase artwork and crafts at the Injalak Art and Craft Centre. Experience how the indigenous people live and take a piece of history home with you.
Ready for an Outback Adventure?
Whether it’s your first trip or your 5th, there’s never been a better time to plan a trip to Australia. The awe-inspiring Northern Territory, one of the best places to visit in Australia, is calling out to you!
Give our destination experts a call 1-888-359-2877 (Mon-Fri 8:30am -5:00pm Central US) and experience Australia’s Outback for yourself.
Posted on: June 9th, 2016 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
How to see the best of Australia on a short vacation to Melbourne.
We are working on our Things to Do in Australia blog series where we outline how you can see all the major Australia Highlights in a short vacation, staying in just one or two Australian cities.
We’ve shown how you can see Beaches & Aquatic Life, Wildlife, Rainforest, Outback, Food & Wine, Modern City Culture & Art and Indigenous Culture in the city of Sydney. Today we look towards the world’s most livable city, Melbourne.
Here are things you can do in Melbourne to see major Australia highlights.
Beaches & Aquatic Life
Hang out on the coast of Port Phillip Bay with the peninsula’s iconic rainbow-colored bathing boxes providing a colorful backdrop.
A short tram ride from the heart of Melbourne, you’ll find St. Kilda Beach. It’s not only a great place for a swim, but a wonderful seaside community where you’ll find great bars, restaurants, shops and even some little penguins in the rocks.
Take a day trip out to Ninety Mile Beach, one of the most natural and unspoiled beaches in the world. It is ideal for a variety of activities, from beach fishing and swimming to walking, whale and dolphin-spotting or just relaxing in the sun…
Head to Healesville Sanctuary, a world-renowned spot to see Australian wildlife in their natural habitat. Located in the heart of the Yarra Valley, Healesville centers on local conservation and indigenous culture.
Just 45 minutes outside of Melbourne, see the wildlife in the wild. The national parks near Melbourne have a surprising diversity of wildlife: Kangaroos, Koalas, Emus, Swamp Wallabies, Cockatoos, Parrots, Galahs and more!
While Victoria isn’t the #1 destination for rainforest tourism, you can find rainforest just an hour outside Melbourne in the Yarra State Forest. Walk through myrtle beech rainforest to the Ada Tree, a giant mountain ash that is one of Victoria’s largest trees and also one of the largest known flowering trees in the world on the Ada Tree Rainforest Walk.
With a stay in Melbourne, you’ve hit the jackpot in amazing food & wine! Melbourne’s eclectic dining scene offers a wide array of the world’s great cuisines. Enjoy a wonderful dinner on the water with the Spirit of Melbourne.
Speaking of Federation Square… this famous spot hosts over 2000 events each year! It buzzes with cultural festivals, exhibitions, event launches, performances, forums, films, concerts and fashion shows. There’s sure to be something hopping at Fed Square whenever you visit.
Things to do in Australia | A Brisbane Vacation with All the Australian Highlights
Things to do in Australia | A Adelaide Vacation with All the Australian Highlights
Things to do in Australia | A Cairns Vacation with All The Australian Highlights
Things to do in Australia | A Perth Vacation with All the Australian Highlights.
Posted on: January 18th, 2016 by Melissa Maxwell No Comments
South Australia’s Natural Wonderland
Kangaroo Island is truly an amazing experience for anyone who enjoys wildlife and nature. The island is just half an hour from Adelaide by air or a scenic three hour drive and ferry ride. Once you arrive on the island you’ll be surrounded by a lush unspoiled natural haven inhabited by friendly people and large populations of unique Australian wildlife. The island is roughly 96 miles in length. As you travel, you’ll find it to be surprisingly diverse. From soaring cliffs to dense national parks, to huge sand dunes, wetlands, and of course, untouched white sand beaches.
There are so many amazing things to do on Kangaroo Island, that it was pretty hard to narrow down the list to just fourteen of our favorites. Be sure to ask your Destination Specialist about their favorite so you don’t miss out on something you might love!
The Journey- Getting there is half the fun!
Kangaroo Island is an incredible road trip! There are many great tours that will take you to the island and provide insightful and interesting commentary, but Kangaroo Island is also a great place to explore on your own. We often recommend that you rent a car in Adelaide, drive down to the island and take your time discovering it on your own. As you drive along this friendly coast, embrace the locals’ welcoming spirit by partaking in the ‘Kangaroo Island Wave’ – a friend gesture, produced by lifting your index finger to acknowledge passing cars.
One of Australia’s Top National Parks, Flinders Chase National Park is located on the western end of Kangaroo Island. Flinders Chase is a must see for any KI visit. Here you’ll find the world renowned Remarkable Rocks- wild-sculpted rock formations that sit atop a smooth granite dome, Admiral’s Arch- a perfect sweep of rock along the coast where long-nosed fur seals play, West Bay- an amazing beach and great hiking trails such as the Snake Lagoon Walk.
Image by: Alan & Flora Botting on flikr.com
The Remarkable Rocks are a collection of enormous eroded granite boulders atop a giant dome of lava. They have been shaped by the erosive forces of wind, sea spray and rain for over 500 million years! The golden orange lichen covering some of the rocks and the many different shapes offer plenty of photo opportunities at different times of the day.
The Admiral’s Arch is located at Cape du Couedic. The natural wonder is a remnant of the ancient cave that was broken by ocean waves and transformed into a natural bridge. Stalactites still cling to what’s left of the cave’s roof. You can walk down the boardwalk around the cliff face to a viewing platform to see the arch. In the summer, you can observe a colony of New Zealand fur-seals on the rock platforms under the arch. Be sure to be on the look out for fuzzy seal pups!
Cape du Couedic Light House
While you’re checking out the arch, take a moment to cast your eyes upon the Cape du Couedic Light House. Constructed between 1906 and 1909, it consists of a tower made from 2,000 pieces of local stone. During it’s early years, the lighthouse was inaccessible by land. The materials used to build the lighthouse were brought by boat and hauled up the cliff face by a flying fox winching system powered by horses. This system was later used to haul supplies and the only method of getting keepers and their families on and off the Cape. Today, the lighthouse still warns ships of treacherous waters and an underwater reef off the Cape. There are also accommodations available.
West Bay is a remote beach in Finders Chase National Park. It supplies spectacular seaside views and is never overcrowded! Camping sites can be found nearby.
Snake Lagoon Walk
This scenic walk starts at Snake Lagoon and winds through Sugar Gums and mallee before descending into the Rocky River Valley. The trail crosses Rock River and meanders along its band to the Southern Ocean Coast. You can find the trail head about five and a half miles from Flinders Chase Visitor Center off West Bay Road.
Cape Borda Light-station
Cape Borda is about 1 hour drive from the the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre, but worth the trip for those interested in history, amazing scenery and bush-walking. The light house tour is very informative and interesting. Not only will you learn about the history of the lighthouse, but you’ll be taught some navigation skills and see a real canon fire. Accommodations are also available.
Vivonne Bay- One of Australia’s Best Beaches
Located on Kangaroo Island’s south coast, near Kingscote, Vivonne Bay is no stranger to “Best Beach” Lists. Visit Vivonne Bay and you’ll experience soft white sand, clear seas and few people. If you have snorkeling gear, be sure to bring it along, the water is great! Vivonne Bay is known for it’s surfing and strong currents, so it’s best for experienced swimmers.
Sand-boarding in the Little Sahara
Not far from the lush shores of Vivonne Bay, you’ll find a desert called the Little Sahara. For about fifty dollars you can rent a toboggan and a sand-board so that you can spend the day running up and sliding down giant sand dunes. It’s a great activity for the whole family.
See Sea Lions at Seal Bay
Seal Bay has been home to an Australian sea lion population for thousands of years, and offers one of the most exceptional nature-based experiences in the world. This is the only place in the world where you can see Australian sea lions at close quarters and walk on a beach where pups play, bulls fight for supremacy and resting mothers suckle their young. Take a guided tour to get up close to the action or take your time and observe from afar on the boardwalk. Australian sea lions are unique to South Australia and Western Australia. They are an endangered species – their total population is about 14,700. Seal Bay is the third largest colony of this magnificent, wild creature.
Feed a Roo
While on Kangaroo Island, you’ll likely see plenty of wild Kangaroo Island Kangaroos. But if you want to get really close to the cute little guys, head to the KI Wildlife Park. Here you’ll find friendly kangaroos that have been hand raised since they were orphaned in the wild. There are usually opportunities to feed and pet the kangaroos.
Birds of Prey Presentations
“Raptor Domain” on Kangaroo Island is a very personal up close experience. You have the option to see one to three wild presentations. These presentations are very interactive and very informative. You have the opportunity to hold most of the birds and reptiles featured. There is also an opportunity to purchase a private viewing to interact with the birds one-on-one for about an hour.
The Pelican Man
The Pelican Man provides you with an entertaining and informative talk about pelicans and other sea birds while encouraging their participation with fish treats. It’s quite the photo op!
Swimming with Wild Dolphins
Slip into the clear calm waters off the North Coast of Kangaroo Island and enter the amazing world of KI’s wild dolphins. This very special experience can be a bit unpredictable since the dolphins are not trained or captive. But that’s half the fun! Your tour guides will watch, wait and tell you the best time to jump in so you’ll have the opportunity to get as close as possible to these majestic creatures. You can also opt to stay in the boat and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot dolphins jumping and playing in the surf.
Still looking for things to do on Kanagroo Island? Be sure to check back next week for “14 More Reasons Why Kangaroo Island is a ‘Must Do in Australia'”.
Posted on: August 17th, 2015 by Lexie Cargile No Comments
The Healesville Sanctuary in Australia received this adorable baby koala, a lucky little joey, very dehydrated and limping after being hit by a car; it was later found that Arthur had a broken femur and arm. The veterinarians of the non-profit organization spent hours repairing his fragile, broken femur. He is said to be healing well, being spoiled with his favorite foods, and has been paired with a teddy bear to comfort him and give him security. Arthur, the cute & cuddly koala, is expected to make a full recovery and return to climbing trees in no time!
Join Healesville Sanctuary in an effort to combat wildlife extinction and donate, or adopt an animal, so they can continue to perform heartwarming miracles, like this one, on more of these special critters.