Snorkeling & Sand Tobogganing

Trip Start Jul 09, 2013
Trip End Jul 28, 2013

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Flag of Australia  , Queensland,
Monday, July 22, 2013

This morning's itinerary included a walk along the beach. The staff at Tangalooma called it a Starfish Walk. One of the staff members took us on a little tour and gave us details of the various forms of life that would wash up on the shore. He pointed out native plants and marine life, explained a bit about the local ecosystem, and gave us an opportunity to help him to regrow some of the vegetation along the beach that was needed to anchor the sand to the island. We even got to save a starfish that had washed up on the shore by flinging it back into the ocean.

After our morning walk, it was time for everyone to get changed to go snorkeling along the wrecks on Moreton Island. I stayed behind because there were several students who were starting to feel a little sick with stuffy noses and colds. Those that did go snorkeling were given full wetsuits which was good because the weather was quite a bit colder here than it was when we were out at the Great Barrier Reef.

When they all got back from snorkeling, it was time for lunch, then we attended a lecture about marine mammals that are found near Moreton Island. We got to see, up close, a dolphin's brain, a whale vertebrae, and a sea cow's skull. From 1952-1962, Moreton Island was the site of Queensland's only whaling station, with humpback whales being harvested on their annual migration north. During our lecture, we learned that each season, up to 600 whales were processed with a maximum of 11 whales per day. Today, Moreton Island is 95% national park and home to the Tangalooma Marine Education Center.

So apparently Moreton Island, together with it's neighboring Fraser Island, makes up the largest sand structure in the world. After our lecture, we boarded a very unique looking bus and our drivers took us up to the sand dunes so we could go sand tobagganing. The bus was designed to be able to handle the bumpy roads and the sand dunes without getting stuck.

Once we got up to the sand dunes, it was a pretty amazing site! I was pretty excited about this, and had been looking forward to it for a while. Everyone took a look at the thin pressed wood boards and thought, "I'm plummeting down a sand CLIFF on THAT?!?" The excitement and energy was up, but for some, so was the anxiety...

We had to climb to the top (and MAN was it high up!) and it seemed (scratch that, it did not seem... it WAS) to get steeper and steeper as we got closer to the top. Almost like the peak of the sand dune was taunting us, daring us to set foot on the top. Once on top, I thought that the steepness of the slope was not as bad from above as it seemed... until it was my turn.

There is only one way down, and that's stomach down and head first! You have to grab hold of the front of the board and pull up (elbows up) so that you do not catch and spray sand all over yourself. You also have to make sure that your feet are elevated, but dolphin like, and not at a 90 degree angle - elevated so that you don't drag and spray sand, and dolphin like so you don't lose control. Oh, and be sure you DON'T open your mouth to scream!

I only listened to the last part.

About halfway down, after a few hops, I lost control and tumbled and rolled for several feet before coming to a stop. AND... it was all captured on camera. Thanks, Dylan! All 30+ frames of film, making my not-so-graceful tumble look like something out of a stop-motion animation film. I felt fine afterwards, I even got up to do a "tada" once I knew which way was up. Never mind the fact that I couldn't open my eyes and was inhaling and spitting up sand. But man was that fun! I'd have gone again had it not have been such a pain in the arse to get up to the top!

Instead, I cheered everyone else on as they plummeted (I mean slid) to the bottom of the sand dune in a much more graceful fashion than I did. And when the photographer came down to the bottom to take candid photos of everyone, I managed to get enough sand out of my eyes to pose for some photos myself. Some of the crazy kiddos went up 5 or 6 times. Once was enough for this trip. Maybe on my next Aussie adventure, I will be ready to give it another go.

When we got back from the sand dunes, we headed back to the main building for our dolphin lecture. We learned about the different species of dolphins and which ones were prevalent in the area. The instructor told us of the dolphins' intelligence and their ability to communicate. Then the instruction focused on the specific dolphins that come to Tangalooma and have been a part of the nightly dolphin feedings. The instructor gave us the dolphins' names, their family tree, a physical description and how we can tell them apart from each other by their identifying markings, and their personality traits.

Once we had (sort of) a handle on the different dolphins that we would be seeing, we went out to the jetty just in time to see the dolphins start appearing. I think I may have taken about 40-50 pictures (of course, I later deleted about half of them to get rid of the fuzzy, out of focus shots). They were so playful and really enjoyed putting on a show for everyone. I would have loved to do the dolphin feeding again this night, now that I know more about the different dolphins. But alas, it was time to go to dinner.

After dinner, the Tangalooma Resort was kind enough to open their photo shop up exclusively to us so that we could look at and purchase any of the photos that they took of us during our stay. I ended up coming home with a couple of sand dune photos as well as the photo of me with Jan & Kathryn feeding Silhouette, the dolphin, At least I now have the photo to prove that I listened to one of the sand dune rules - I kept my eyes and mouth shut when I took of!
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