Wildlife Wednesdays - Tasmania!

Trip Start May 31, 2012
Trip End Aug 08, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Sunday, February 10, 2013

Featuring all of your favourite players! Kangaroos, koalas, snakes, emus, possums and platypus (platypi? platypussy?)! Also some lesser known stars! Wallabies, quolls, bettongs, pademelons and echidnas! And the star of our show... the Tasmanian Devil!! We also petted the Tasmanian Devil, and I petted a kangaroo! And a wallaby smelled my finger!!

OK, enough with the exclamation points, but it was an exciting week in Tasmania. We saw many of the above animals in the wild or on nature hikes, but we also cheated and went to a place called Nature World!, where we petted the Tassie Devil. We also saw our first koala there (well, our first that survived the encounter), but he was sleeping and had his back to us, so it was pretty anticlimactic. And we didn't get to see any wombats, which we've been really looking forward to seeing, so it wasn't all amazing, lest some of our dear readers experience some jealousy.

Our story starts in beautiful downtown Geeveston, famous for it's 'Platypus Walk', but it should also be equally well known for it's fantastic bakery, at which we could have spent all morning and afternoon at. We were determined to see a platypus, so much so that we started faking each other out by yelling 'Platypus!' anytime we saw a body of water, trying to get the other to look. It was funny every time. We did the 'platypus walk' along the river in Geeveston at about 8:30 am on Monday, the 'platypus walk' being the name of the trail that we followed, not our impression of how a platypus would walk. We followed the path to the 'Platypus viewing area', a little wooden platform resting a foot or two above the river bank, where we quietly waited and watched for any sign of the elusive platypus.

First, we saw some rustling along the rivers edge, then some small ripples in the still water and some small bubble surfacing, leading a path away from the riverbank, and then finally a little platypus came up to the surface! He sure was small, much smaller than we were anticipating, but he was just as cute as we had dreamed he would be. He swam around and dove and resurfaced a number of times, and we were just having a nice time quietly watching him (or her). It was a nice sunny morning in Geeveston and we had nowhere else we wanted to be so we just hung out and watched this little critter perform his (or her) morning routine. We got plenty of pictures and Kara got a video on her phone, and then we went off to the bakery for some much appreciated and delicious black coffees. Watch the video embedded below to join in our platypus party, it'll be just like you were there in Geeveston with us.

Our story then picks up later on that evening, where our intrepid wanderers (Kara and I) had settled into a nice camping spot called 'Friendly Beaches' on the Freycinet Peninsula. We were then visited by two grunting wallabies, hopping around outside the fence surrounding our site looking for food. We sat inside and watched them and took some pictures. They were pretty cute, and pretty small. A Bennett's Wallaby is about 3 feet high and pretty much like a little kangaroo. We spent the night there and found a whole bunch of wallaby tracks around our van in the morning, so they did visit us again during the night. Similarly, a few nights later, at a different campground at Cradle Mountain, we spotted a little pademelon (kind of like a cross between a bunny rabbit and wallaby) hopping around outside our van. Anytime I made eye contact with him though he hopped away as fast as he could. It was really quite funny and cute.

After we left the first campground though, we drove down to the end of the Freycinet Peninsula to do a hike around the Wineglass Bay area. There was a little wallaby hanging around the parking lot there, making nice with all the tourists and trying to get some handouts. As we started our hike, this little fella (or perhaps another just like him) had made his way up the trail a bit and was standing right in our way. I got down on my haunches and held my hand out to show him we were no threat. He sniffed it and hopped away as there was nothing of interest in said hand. Kara took a picture of the proceedings and continued to make fun of me for making a wallaby smell my finger, which wasn't my intent.

Now, what else....? Kara spotted a number of echidnas along the road, but since I was driving I didn't see them. They are like Australian version of porcupines, but they're way funnier. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures to show you, you're going to have to google them. Our next stop on the Tasmanian Wildlife Train was Nature World!, just north of Bicheno on the East Coast of Tassie. Nature World! promised kangaroos eating out of your hand, a koala bear sitting in a tree and the widely misunderstood Tasmanian Devil, and it delivered on all three counts. They also had plenty of tiger snakes, emus and wallabies (in separate pens of course), and a variety of nocturnal creatures in Nocturnal World! (among them, our old friends the possums and our new friends the quolls, or tiger cats as they're also known).

As soon as we arrived, we were immediately surrounded by hungry geese. If you pay an extra dollar when you pay your entry fee you can get bag of feed to hand out to the hungry animals, but seeing as that just seemed like a recipe for disaster (although quite an entertaining edition of Dave & Kara, Ramblin', no doubt) we opted not to stick our hands out to a bunch of wild animals. Well, the wild animals didn't get the memo that we opted out of the feed bag and surrounded us anyway. I tried holding out my empty hands to show them that there was nothing in them but that just encouraged the ones further away, thinking I was handing stuff out. Anyway, we survived our first encounter and we kept our hands in our pockets for the rest of the visit. That is, until one lone kangaroo hopped up and basically made me pet him. I don't believe he was actually looking for food, just a little head pat, so I indulged him and Kara got a video. Oooo, and we also saw some baby kangaroos in their Mother's pouches! It looks like a regular kangaroo with two long feet and a little head growing out of her belly. Weird.

We made it to Devil World! just in time for the feeder to tell us a little about the Tassie Devils (we missed the actual feedings). There were two females in the pen. There's a terrible disease that's been ravaging the country's devil population since 1996 (when it was discovered) and they don't know what causes it or how to cure or contain it. It's called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) and it gets passed between them through biting. They're always biting each other so it's been spreading out of control for the last 15 years, killing off about 85% of Tasmania's devil population in some regions. It seems a lot of the regions we visited, (Nature World! included) have programs now in place to try to stem the spread, so that's good.

The two little devils we were watching play with the feeder and with each other were untouched and so hopefully will live a long and healthy life free of the disease. One of them was being awful sucky and was actually jumping up to be held in the feeders arms, so when she had the devil in her arms she walked along the fence and let us all have a little pet. She was really soft (the devil, not the feeder). They're like a cross between a dog and a bear, and the only reason they're called 'devils' is because of the screeching sound they make when fighting with each other. They're not quite as vicious as some cartoons would have us believe. Also, upon us leaving Nature World!, the lady working the desk had a baby devil in a toque! He was a roadside rescue and the woman was raising him herself until he was old enough to take care of himself. He was about 5 months old and hairless! Just like you were when you were 5 months old. We're not so different, the devils and us.

That was about it for Nature World! and our Wildlife Adventures in Tasmania, although one last rare spotting requires mentioning. We met an old guy named Blue at the last campsite we stayed at. He was the site manager and came to introduce himself as we sat in our van and read our books. I shook his hand (which was missing a finger or two) and chatted with him for a bit, even though the alcohol on his breath was clouding up the air considerably. We spotted him a few hours later emerging from some shacks with a beer in hand, heading towards the outhouse. Ahhh nature.

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