Tag Archives: tourism

Watch the Australian Total Solar Eclipse Online

13 Nov

In less than 8 hours there will be a total solar eclipse of the sun in Cairns (pronounced cans) in tropical northern Queensland. The rare event, where the moon temporarily comes into perfect alignment with the sun and blocks it from view, won’t happen again in Australia until 2028. Some Australian cities outside Cairns will still see the eclipse but will lose total blockage. Here, in Brisbane, the moon will cover just over 80% of the sun at one time.

The last total eclipse was in 2010 and the next total eclipse won’t occur until 2015. If you’re like me and haven’t properly prepared for this cosmic rarity (or if you happen to be anywhere else in the world besides Queensland) you can stream a live viewing of the eclipse here. Even if you are in Queensland, it’s advised not to look directly into the sun because the irreversible retina damage leads to blindness and watching the eclipse online might be your best option if you haven’t done your research.

Since I waited too long to buy the protective welding glasses that allow you to witness the total eclipse firsthand, I’ll be watching the live stream as well. Also, I don’t really think the pinhole-viewing option, where you have your back to the sun and watch a homemade projection on a piece of cardboard or paper, will really compare. Who knows maybe I’ll make it to Spitzbergen in 2015, Indonesia in 2016, America in 2017 or Chile/Argentina in 2009! Sounds like the perfect addition to my bucket list (and another excuse to travel)!

Australian Wildlife Up Close

21 Sep

The week before I flew back to the states in June, my boyfriend and I had one last road trip from Mackay to Cape Tribulation where the Daintree, the world’s oldest rainforest, and the Great Barrier Reef meet. We stopped at quirky tourist attractions along the way: ordering mango shakes at the Big Mango, stopping for free cheese and yogurt tastings at the Mungalli Creek Biodynamic Dairy, strolling along the Mamu Rainforest canopy walkway and running as fast as we could to see the train as it passed through the Barron Gorge in the Kuranda rainforest village.

My favorite detour, however, was the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary in Townsville. I was leaving Australia and hadn’t seen a koala yet so I begged my boyfriend to pull over when we saw the giant billboard indicating that the sanctuary was only a few kilometers away. He wasn’t interested in going because growing up in Australia provided him with countless run-ins with kangaroos, crocodiles, koalas, dingoes, cassowaries and other exotic birds, so while he had a ‘lay down’ in the van, I ventured into the park, giddy as a schoolgirl, with my camera in tow and some change to buy animal feed.

Once inside I rushed to catch the last few minutes of the croc show and was shocked to find kangaroos wandering everywhere! Not only were there mamas, papas and joeys all around me, but they were incredibly social and persistent. I would stop to feed one kangaroo and then four would surround me, stand on their back legs and shove their way through.

At one point I had three roos eating out of my hand and my heart completely dropped. Time stood still. I’d been in Australia for three months and admired these animals from afar and just as I was about to leave the country I was face to face with them, locked in a cathartic farewell.

I meditated on the experience. I read all the educational signs, I watched the croc, bird and snake shows. I stood in the background as families got their pictures taken with koalas, living vicariously through them. I took videos of my conversations with birds and practically laid on the ground to film a joey making his way out of his mama’s pouch.

On principle I don’t really like going to zoos. It depresses me to see caged wild animals and the thousands of tourists that keep their captivity in demand. But the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary is not a zoo. It comprises 25 acres of bushland, is a certified advanced ecotourism destination and is not overrun by tourists. In the center of the park is a lake, which the birds love to fly over, and the animals, with the exception of the wallabies, kangaroos and ducks who roam free, are kept in spacious, fairly open habitats.

The wildlife sanctuary feels like just that – a sanctuary, and you can easily get lost in the experience of connecting with these animals while spending the day learning about them. If you want to experience Australian wildlife up close, I suggest skipping the overpriced and limiting zoos and spending the day at a sanctuary instead.

For more information on the Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary in Townsville, visit their website here.

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