Go to­tally wild

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Tooth and nail: Shark cage div­ing, South Aus­tralia From the com­mer­cial shows of the Queens­land Gold Coast’s Seaworld to the wild but heav­ily reg­u­lated pop­u­la­tions at Mon­key Mia in West­ern Aus­tralia and Tan­ga­looma in Queens­land, there’s no short­age of nat­u­ral and man-made lo­ca­tions to see dol­phins at play. For un­for­get­table hu­man-meets-Flip­per mo­ments, how­ever, you’ll need to visit Baird Bay on South Aus­tralia’s Eyre Penin­sula.

Al­lan and Tr­ish Payne’s Baird Bay Ocean Eco Ex­pe­ri­ence is renowned for giv­ing na­ture lovers the chance to swim with sea lions, but just across the pro­tected bay there’s a res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of dol­phins that also en­joy frol­ick­ing with hu­mans.

Twice-daily four-hour tours head to the sea lion colony, then to the dol­phins. Snorkellers are dropped among a pod and left to in­ter­act freely with th­ese friendly mam­mals. For best re­sults, dive be­neath the sur­face and swim along­side them; their nat­u­ral cu­rios­ity will re­ward yours. $120 adults or $60 chil­dren. More: (08) 8626 5017; www.baird­bay.com.

Swim­ming with dol­phins is also guar­an­teed in sub­ur­ban Ade­laide aboard Temp­ta­tion, a sail­ing cata­ma­ran that op­er­ates from Glenelg. It takes 50 pas­sen­gers and is the first ves­sel in SA to ob­tain a dol­phin swim li­cence More: www.dol­phin­boat.com.au.

SHARKS

Koalas al­ways make good photo ops Her­vey Bay and they are ar­guably still the best in the busi­ness. Un­like other east coast whale-view­ing spots, Her­vey Bay is the one place where the leviathans are in limbo rather than mid-mi­gra­tion, en­sur­ing a cap­tive pop­u­la­tion and easy view­ing.

The first whales ar­rive quite punc­tu­ally in mid-July and leave by Oc­to­ber 31; the av­er­age pop­u­la­tion in the bay dur­ing this pe­riod hov­ers be­tween 50 and 100 whales, so every­one gets an eye­ful. The best way to beat the crowds is to board a 7am sail­ing aboard the fast new ves­sel That’s Awe­some; it’s first on the bay each day and passenger num­bers are lim­ited to 32. $110 adults or $70 chil­dren; tick­ets aboard the larger, wheel­chair-ac­ces­si­ble Quick­Cat are $100 adults or $60 chil­dren. More: 1800 653 775; www.her­vey­bay­whale­watch.com.au.

TAS­MA­NIAN DEVILS

More than a half-dozen Tas­ma­nian wildlife parks of­fer up-close en­coun­ters with the is­land’s most iras­ci­ble res­i­dents. But for a truly au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ence head to the far north­west, south of Mar­rawah, where Ge­off King’s Run Wildlife Tours takes small noc­tur­nal groups into a hide to wit­ness devils au na­turel. King pegs road­kill car­casses (usu­ally pademelon, a devil del­i­cacy) out­side the hide on a rugged fore­shore south of Smithton, giv­ing guests a gory, front-row seat to a car­ni­vore’s feast.

Tours run just five nights a fort­night to pre­vent the an­i­mals be­com­ing de­pen­dent on food hand­outs. Sight­ings are 95 per cent guar­an­teed, King says, though for some un­known rea­son the an­i­mals rarely show them­selves in early March. Tours from $100 to $125 a per­son. More: (03) 6457 1191; www.kingsrun.com.au.

DOL­PHINS

Who’d want to climb into a cage sus­pended in an ocean sea­soned with blood and guts, then wait for a great white shark-feed­ing frenzy? Plenty of peo­ple, judg­ing by the pop­u­lar­ity of Ca­lypso Star Char­ters Shark Cage Div­ing. The action takes place 21/ hours off the coast of SA’s

2 Port Lin­coln at the Nep­tune Is­lands fur seal colony, a fast-food joint favoured by killer sharks. Guests aboard the Ca­lypso Star Char­ter en­ter the cage four at a time, cam­eras at the ready, and wait.

Op­er­a­tors claim there is an 85 per cent chance of shark en­coun­ters year-round, al­though the mon­ster fe­males, some up to 6m long, are more preva­lent in win­ter. The 12-hour out­ings are re­stricted to 19 pas­sen­gers, each of whom gets about 45 min­utes in the drink. The cage is par­tially open, al­low­ing un­ob­structed film­ing of like en­coun­ters while pre­serv­ing body parts in­tact. $495 a per­son. More: (08) 8682 3939; www.ca­lyp­sostar­char­ter.com.au.

TUR­TLES

From Novem­ber to April tur­tles wad­dle ashore on the Queens­land coast for their an­nual egg-lay­ing marathon. Among the best places to see them are Heron Is­land or Mon Re­pos Con­ser­va­tion Park near Bund­aberg, home to the east­ern seaboard’s largest con­cen­tra­tion of nest­ing marine tur­tles. More: www.hero­nis­land.com; www.bund­aber­gre­gion.info.

The Abo­rig­i­nal town of Mapoon on the west­ern Cape York Penin­sula al­lows tourists to work along­side rangers study­ing tur­tles dur­ing the July-Novem­ber nest­ing sea­son. Four marine tur­tle species — olive ri­d­ley, green, hawks­bill and flat­back — are found there; vol­un­teers mea­sure and tag tur­tles, de­stroy lethal fish­ing nets and col­lect data for the Marine Tur­tle Con­ser­va­tion Project. Five nights at Camp Chiva­ree costs $2125 a per­son, flights to and from Weipa not in­cluded. More: (07) 4069 9978 or 0428 283 380; www.capey­ork­turtleres­cue.com.

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