Saturday, June 11, 2011


Beerwah was really just a free rest stop for us. We went there just to spend the night, make some food and then head to the Australia Zoo. We were excited as this was the first free rest stop we were staying at which we had found in our new book. We stayed there overnight and while getting ready to make something to eat we met a guy named Phil and started chatting with him. It turned out Phil is in the Australian Navy and was on a 2 week leave for a vacation. He was very friendly and even marked all the places we had to see all over Australia in our camping book. While talking with him we made breakfast and by the time we were done it was already 11:30am so we knew we had to get going to the zoo. We exchanged contact info with Phil and said goodbye.

We arrived at the Australia Zoo near noon. We were worried we wouldn’t have time to see everything we wanted to see but the ticket agent said we would need at least 4 hours to see everything, and since we’re quick tourists we knew we would have plenty of time to see everything. The entry tickets were $59 each, which we thought were quite expensive but we really wanted to visit the zoo. In addition we paid another $2 each to visit the animal hospital the zoo had set up.

The Australia Zoo was started by Steve Irwin’s (Crocodile Hunter) parents. Steve Irwin met his wife while they were both working there and then took over running the zoo later on. After Steve died his wife took over running the zoo. This is very much a family place and it’s especially evident in the letters, pictures and awards which are on display in Steve’s memory. I also found it to be a very personal place for Steve as you can see how involved with the zoo he really was. Everywhere you look there is a story from Steve’s perspective about each animal or from someone else’s perspective on how Steve was involved with that animal. An example of that are the crocodiles. Each croc has a plaque that says how it was saved or captured by Steve or his father. You can read about each adventure of how each animal arrived at the zoo. On display there are also items with stories behind them. For example, Steve’s boot with scratches on it from a croc bite where he explains how the bite happened. I loved reading all the firsthand accounts. Of course there is also a lot of information about Steve and his death and the letters the zoo received from his fans after he died.

Because we had spent so much time talking with Phil, we missed the “big croc feed” at 11am. That’s the big show the zoo puts on “Crocodile Hunter Style”. We were able to see the elephant show where they get washed and fed. Background information is provided about how the animals arrived at the zoo and how they are kept entertained. Apparently an Elephant’s mind is like that of a human 7 year old, but as the elephant keepers said “You don’t want a 2 ton 7 year old getting bored as they can cause a lot of havoc”. They keep them entertained by creating walking tracks for them by spreading peanut butter on the grass, or they go swimming in their pool, or they teach them commands to help with the grooming process. Basically they need to keep their minds stimulated so they don’t start getting bored.

We liked this zoo a lot more than the Featherdale Zoo we had visited while in Sydney because the grounds were much better maintained and you could tell the animals were well cared for. In Featherdale zoo the kangaroo’s had a small space where they could walk around whereas here they had acres. Also, here the staff walked around with some animals so as you were walking from one exhibition to the next, you could stop and pat a wombat (officially my new favourite animal), or you could pet and partially hold a baby crocodile. You could also tell all the trainers loved their job and were very dedicated to what they do. The tiger handlers get right into the tiger area and wrestle with the tigers. It takes years to build up a relationship like that with them. It was amazing to watch.

We then attended a croc feeding show. This was not as large as the one at 11am but we still were able to learn a little about how crocs hunt and watch the handlers feed them.

After the croc feeding we walked around the rest of the zoo and at the end we visited the animal hospital. It was great to see because the procedure/operation rooms are all behind soundproof glass and you are able to see as the vets work on animals and you can see right into the area where animals are recovering. While we were there the vets were working on a brown snake (one of the top 10 venomous snakes in the world) and another vet was walking around with a baby koala in her arms. The koala was sleeping but it had various tags attached to it which meant it was recovering from something. The koala was super cute and he looked like a little baby in the vet’s arms.

Once we left the zoo we started driving north once again. Since it’s winter here in Australia it gets dark fairly early. So when we arrived in Noosa around 7pm it was already very dark. We didn’t know very much about Noosa but had been told by some people it was worth a visit. The town looked nice enough. A very typical beach town. We parked at the beach and discovered they had free showers. I was very excited since we hadn’t showered in a couple of day. Living in the car is not that difficult except for the lack of certain amenities. Namely the toilet and the shower. The toilet situation we can typically figure out, but free showers are harder to come across. That’s why we were excited. And it looked like we weren’t the only backpackers with the same idea. There was only one shower stall and I had to wait for it to free up…and then there was a girl waiting after me. There was also a guy sitting right at the entrance with a laptop on his lap. I guess he needed to charge up his battery and this was the only plug he could find. The life of a backpacker…sitting around in shitty public bathrooms.

After we had both showered we drove around Noosa for a bit but it was a small town. The homes in the area seemed to suggest it wasn’t a poor town either. We didn’t plan on staying there mostly because we were heading towards Tin Can Bay to see some wild Dolphins.

We arrived in Tin Can bay around 10pm and decided to spend the night in the marina parking lot. Tin Can Bay is a tiny town which normally doesn’t make it on any tourist map. The main reason people come here (like us) is to see some wild dolphins. I guess the term “wild” is open to interpretation but basically these are dolphins that live in the wild but every morning come to the marina for a feeding.

We spent the night at the marina parking lot which wasn’t too bad because it was also right next to a public pool and therefore access to free bathrooms. Unfortunately they didn’t have showers but the running water where we could brush our teeth was nice. We woke up early in the morning and made our way over to the spot where the dolphins come. It’s near a café and I swear it’s almost like the café planned it this way. It was Sunday morning, 7am, and there were already at least 50 people there. I’m sure a lot of them had bought their breakfast there this morning. More importantly, the dolphins were already there was well.

The two dolphins were just hanging around in the water by the beach with one of the volunteers standing in between them. We could all get in the water with them and touch them if they would let us. Which they didn’t. There were too many excited kids splashing around for them to approach anyone too closely. The volunteer said our chances of the dolphins letting us touch them would increase if we would hold still. He also explained how this feeding started taking place. Apparently in the 1950’s a hurt dolphin was found in the marina by some fisherman and over a 2 month period they nursed him back to health. Once he was well he swam away and they thought that was the end of him in the marina. However the next morning he showed up again and that is how the morning feedings started. Over time he would bring his “girlfriends” and his kids. Once he died his oldest child, in this case a female, took over and she started bringing her family to feed. Once she passed away her son took over and now he brings his family to feed every morning. He apparently has 5 girlfriends but only 1 of them accompanies him to the feedings along with his son. The volunteers think his son will take over once this dominant male dies. This morning it was only the dominant male and one of his girlfriends. His son did not come in. At first I thought it wasn’t a good thing to keep feeding the dolphins because then they don’t learn how to hunt for themselves but apparently they only feed them 25% of their daily required food intake. They still have to hunt for the remaining 75% alone. In addition, the dominant male must hunt for food for all of his girlfriends.

I loved learning about the dolphins and their “lifestyle”. Around 8am we could feed the dolphins if we wanted to by purchasing a $5 bucked that contained 1 fish. We could then take the bucket, walk into the water and hand feed the dolphin the 1 fish. It was more like throwing it to him. Andrew and I chose not to participate. It wasn’t worth the money and we had at least gotten to see the dolphins whether we fed them or not. The surprising thing to me was how many people did want to participate in the feeding. There were at least 100 people lined up to purchase the buckets. And that’s not counting the buckets they were also buying for their kids. This café must make a killing on these fish.

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