Saturday, 20 March 2010

Birth of a Baby Giraffe Caught on Camera in the Masai Mara

A group of tourists in Kenya's Masai Mara have been lucky enough to witness the birth of a baby giraffe.  In a series of amazing photographs in this news article from the Daily Mail, the first few minutes of this tiny giraffe's life have been captured.  The pictures were taken by Paul Goldstein, an award-winning photographer, who was guiding a group of tourists on safari for the tour group Exodus.  Paul Goldstein has lead safaris through the Masai Mara for twelve years, but this is the first time he has been privileged to witness the birth of a baby giraffe.

Birth is a difficult time for giraffe, as it is imperative that they manage to stand and be ready to move around with the older giraffes in as short a time as possible.  While adult giraffes are capable of kicking out and defending themselves from lion and hyena, young giraffes are still vulnerable to predation.  Luckily for this little one, it managed to stagger to it's feet successfully and was spotted a few days later, looking healthy and confident, with his mother.

Read more of the news article and see the amazing pictures of the giraffe's birth

Monday, 15 March 2010

Why Visit Kalbarri in Western Australia

Many people dream of travelling to Australia and having a holiday there.  Usually the famous destinations, such as Sydney, Melbourne, Uluru, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef are chosen, as these are the images that people have seen all their lives and have dreamt about.  But there is more to Australia than these iconic tourist spots, and beautiful Kalbarri is one of the lesser known destinations that have just as much to offer as well as some of the better known resorts.

Kalbarri at Sunset

Western Australia has several thousand kilometres of stunning coastline along the Indian Ocean, and offers miles and miles of silver sand beaches and days of endless sunshine and blue sky.  Kalbarri is 590kms north of Perth on the Coral Coast and is about a seven hour drive away.  If you prefer to use public transport, Skywest offers flights from Perth and Carnarvon and Greyhound and TransWA offer coach services from Perth.

Kalbarri is named after the aboriginal word for ‘edible seed’.  The first Europeans in the area were two mutinous ship’s crew who were put ashore in 1629.  There were many shipwrecks in the following centuries off the cliffs and Kalbarri officially became a town in the early 1950’s and has developed from a sleepy fishing town into a thriving tourist resort.

Nature's Window, Kalbarri

There is a wide range of accommodation available in Kalbarri.  Choose from self catering units, basic backpacker accommodation or beach resorts with pools. There is also a few camping/caravan parks.  There is a range of cafes and restaurants offering Australian, Oriental and European food and a pub. For your shopping needs there are a couple of supermarkets, petrol stations, a pharmacy and a bakery.  There is also a Visitor Information Centre where you can book tours and accommodation.

The resort and town of Kalbarri hugs the shores of the Murchison River where it meets the Indian Ocean at Gantheume Bay.  A natural reef has formed at the channel entrance and on the river side there are gentle sandy beaches with safe swimming. Around the headland it gets a bit wilder with surf, rock pools and miles of sand.  Located right at the river mouth, Chinaman’s Beach is one of the most popular swimming spots in the area.  Situated around the shore in Kalbarri are BBQs, picnic areas, and public toilets.


For those who are looking for an active holiday, there is swimming, snorkelling, water skiing, crabbing, horse riding, camel rides, fishing, kayaking, hiking and cycling on offer.  The path that runs along the top of the cliffs is especially good for cycling and walking and passes the precipitous coastal cliffs, Eagle Gorge, Natural Bridge, Pot Alley, Rainbow Valley and Red Bluff.  You can also try windsurfing or hire a dinghy or paddleboat. For the very adventurous try an Extreme Jet Boat ride, sand boarding or Quad Biking.

If you are a fishing enthusiast you have the choice of river fishing, sea fishing from the beach or going on a deep sea fishing charter.  There are also several cruises that you can take, either inland up the river to spot the wildlife or around the coast watching the whales and dolphins.  Kalbarri is on the annual migration route for several species of whales and their calves from June to December. The sunsets are especially beautiful in Kalbarri, so take a sunset cruise and watch the sun set slowly over the sea.

Kalbarri is surrounded by the Kalbarri National Park, which offers a stunning landscape of red gorges cut out by the Murchison River.   There are many stunning natural rock formations such as Nature’s Window, Z Bend and The Loop.  Great lookouts over the gorges are Hawkes Head Lookout and Ross Graham Lookout.  Kalbarri National Park is rich in wildlife, though much of it is nocturnal, and kangaroos, emus and birds can be seen.  The Park is also famous for its wildflowers that form a colourful carpet of kangaroo paws, grevillias, featherflowers and banksias in the spring (July to October).

Kalbarri also has a range of tourist attractions to visit.  One of the most famous is the feeding of the pelicans on the beach every morning at 8.45am.  The pelican feeding was started in 1970 by a local called Cliff Ross, who would feed the birds on the scraps left over from cleaning the fish he had caught.  Other local people had to join in and help and so the tradition still carries on today. If you like parrots a visit to the Rainbow Jungle is a must.  It is a unique parrot habitat and features the largest free-flight parrot aviary in Australia.  There are many rare species of parrot on display and the Rainbow Jungle plays an important part in parrot conservation.  The Rainbow Jungle is also home to Kalbarri’s cinema – ‘Cinema Parrotiso’ – an open air cinema where you can combine watching a film with pizza and a beer!


If you prefer marine life take a trip to the Seahorse Sanctuary and find out all about the fascinating world of seahorses.  One of only a few seahorse breeding facilities in the world, the Seahorse Sanctuary takes you through the entire lifecycle of the seahorse and shows how they are adapting seahorses so that they can successfully be kept in home aquariums.  The tiny newborns are especially cute!  At the Kalbarri Marine Centre you can see the local denizens of the sea in the Oceanarium and interact with fish, sponges and anemones in the touch pool.

To see stunning wildflowers, go to The Kalbarri WildflowerCentre where there is a 30 minute nature trail.  Over 200 species of flowers can be seen in this beautiful botanical garden setting.  If you have children to amuse, you can take them to the Kalbarri Family Entertainment Centre which has Mini Putt Putt, trampolines, The ‘Spider’ climbing tower and a 4 in 1 Bungy Trampoline.

So unless your idea of a holiday is upmarket shopping and wild nights clubbing, Kalbarri has everything that you could wish for in a holiday destination.  What more could you want than wonderful scenery, hot sunny weather, gorgeous beaches, plenty of activities and a good choice of eateries!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Choose Broome For A Great Holiday in Western Australia

Have you ever thought of visiting Broome? If you are planning your dream trip to Australia and do not know which amazing destination to choose, this pearling town surrounded by turquoise seas and silver sand beaches is a brilliant place for a perfect, tropical vacation?  Broome sits 2200 north of Perth on Australia’s amazing western coastline. It combines blue skies and hot sun with amazing beaches.  The town also has an interesting history, is surrounded by beautiful scenery, has a wide range of accommodation to choose from and lots of activities on offer. The contrast between the colours of the pale turquoise seas, the silver sands of the beaches and the deep red of the pindan soil, create a visual feast and are a gift to the photographer looking for stunning images.

Pioneer's Cemetary, Broome, WA
Pioneer's Cemetary, Broome, WA

Broome is an isolated town with a standing population of about 15000 people which swells to around 45,000 people during the tourist season, and is a gateway to the vast Kimberley region.   It has been home to the indigenous Yawuru aboriginal people for many thousands of years and the first Europeans to sail down the coast were Dutch traders in the seventeenth century who called the west coast ‘New Holland’.  The first documented land fall was by William Dampier in 1688 and 1699, and the Dampier Peninsula and Dampier Terrace in the town were named after him.

The area was visited by various ships and pearling boats in the following years and Roebuck Bay was put forward as a suitable port for the pearl luggers in 1879 by Charles Harper.  Broome officially became a town in 1883 and was named by John Forrest after the then Governor of Western Australia, Sir Frederick Broome.  The new town took some to grow and develop, but the arrival of the undersea telegraph cable in 1889 from Singapore and the burgeoning mother of pearl fishing industry soon saw the town expand and grow.

The pearl shell was initially fished for the mother of pearl it contained, which was used to make buttons, jewellery and decorative articles.  Initially the divers were Aboriginals who had been tricked or kidnapped and forced to dive without diving suits or equipment, in a practice known as ‘blackbirding’.  With the development and introduction of diving suits and heavy helmets and boots, the Japanese, Malaysians, Koepangers, and Chinese came to dive in Broome, with the Japanese being regarded as the most highly skilled. The onset of the First World War and the development of the plastics industry were major hammer blows to the industry, and it was at that time that the market in cultured pearls began to be developed and is still going strong today.

The region has two seasons, the dry season and the wet season.  The dry season from April to November is the best time to visit as the days are clear, sunny and warm.  The temperature rises in the wet season and the weather is very humid with heavy rainfall.  Many of the tour companies stop taking tours out in the wet season as the roads become impassable due to flooding and it can take several weeks for the waters to subside.

Pearl Luggers, Broome, WA
Pearl Luggers, Broome, WA

The easiest way to get to Broome is by air and Broome International Airport has services from most of the major Australian cities and a good local schedule operated by Qantas, SkyWest, Virgin Blue, Airnorth and Golden Eagle Airlines.  If you want to drive you can take the Great Northern Highway or the North West Coastal Highway from Perth or come from Darwin, via Kununurra and the Great Northern Highway.  If you have a sturdy 4WD and are experienced at driving on unsealed roads, you can travel the famous Gibb River Road.  The main thing to be aware of is that the distances you will have to cover are vast and it is likely to take you several days to reach your destination.  Greyhound Australia also runs regular daily services to Broome from both Perth and Darwin.

The town is also included in the itineraries of many tour operators and you will be able to find a tour to suit any budget.  The tours range from basic backpacker camping trips to luxury tailored trips in top accommodations and transport.  Many of the tours going out into the Kimberley also originate in Broome and again are designed to suit all tastes and budgets.  There are also various cruise lines that specialise in sailing through the gorges of the Kimberley coastline, which operate out of the town.

Camels on Cable Beach at Sunset, WA
Camels on Cable Beach at Sunset, WA

Getting around the resort itself is easy, as there is an excellent and frequent local bus service that operates around town and out to Cable Beach.  For any information you need about the town and the surrounding Kimberley region and about all of the tours and activities that are available, you can go to the Visitors Centre.  There are many day tours that you can choose from, ranging from town tours, to tours going out to Cape Leveque, Tunnel Creek, Windjana Gorge, Geikie Gorge and the Horizontal Falls.

There are many types of accommodation that you can choose from, ranging from basic backpacker hostels, through caravan and camping sites, self-catering units to hotel rooms and five star resorts. The main tourist accommodation areas are out at Cable Beach and in the town itself around Roebuck Bay.  The first resort to start up in the Cable Beach area was the Cable Beach Resort and Spa which was opened in 1988 and is the only resort hotel that fronts directly onto the beach.

Town Beach, Broome, WA
Town Beach, Broome, WA

There are many shopping opportunities in Broome.  As would be expected from a pearling town, there are many fine pearl showrooms, showcasing their luxurious pearl jewellery.  Look out for Paspaley Pearls and Willie Creek Pearl Farms, who also run tours to their pearl farm along the coast where you can learn about how cultured pearls are produced and the history of the pearling industry.  You can wander the historic lanes, such as Johnny Chi Lane, and shop for souvenirs or visit the modern Paspaley Plaza Shopping Centre or the new Boulevard Shopping Centre on Frederick Street.

If you enjoy eating out there are many cafes and restaurants to choose from.  They range from convenience food outlets like McDonalds through to fine dining.  One of the most unique restaurants in the resort is Matso’s Broome Brewery, which is an award winning microbrewery and restaurant.  You can enjoy great food while sampling the ‘Hit the Toad’ premium lager or their famous alcoholic Ginger Beer.  Most of the big hotels and resorts also have their own restaurants, and if you are out at Cable Beach you should give the Old Zoo Cafe a try.

Cable Beach is situated 6km outside of the town centre and offers around 22 km of soft, silver sand and warm turquoise waters.  It got its name from the fact that it was point where the undersea telegraph cable from Singapore reached the Australian shore and it is rated as one of the world’s top five beaches.  Apart from swimming, surfing, fishing and other usual beach activities, Cable Beach also offers the famous camel rides, watching and learning all about crocodiles at the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park and you can also search for the famous dinosaur footprints discovered in 1935 at Gantheaume Point.

Johnny Chi Lane, Broome, WA
Johnny Chi Lane, Broome, WA

There is also a smaller beach, called Town Beach, situated in Broome itself on Roebuck Bay.  The Pioneer’s Cemetery sits on a little promontory overlooking the ocean, and there is a cafe, toilets, showers and a camping/caravan park.  On a few days of the year the tide goes far enough out that the remains of the Flying Boats that were bombed in Broome in 1942 during World War II, with a great loss of life, are exposed.  If you want to know more about the town’s history then The Broome Museum is just around the corner from Town Beach in the little Seaview Shopping Mall.  It is situated in the building that used to be a general store called Newman Goldstein & Co and contains exhibits from the region’s colourful history, including local aboriginal history and culture, the history of the pearling industry and the role of Broome in World War II.
What is now The Courthouse started life as the telegraph cable station, which enabled this remote town to communicate directly with other major Australian cities as well as the rest of the world. The cable station was converted to a Courthouse in 1921 and is still used to this day.  On Saturdays and Sundays there is a popular market in the Courthouse Gardens, selling jewelry, souvenirs, local art and handicrafts.

Willie Creek Pearl Farm, Broome, WA
Willie Creek Pearl Farm, Broome, WA

One of the things that Broome is most famous for is the natural phenomena known as the ‘Staircase to the Moon’.  The ‘Staircase to the Moon’ is an optical illusion that looks like a golden staircase of light is reaching up to the moon through the night sky and is caused by the full moon rising and reflecting off the mudflats in Roebuck Bay at low tide.  It occurs between March and October on different dates every year.  Good viewing spots are Town Beach and the garden of the Mangrove Grove Resort Hotel.

So if glorious sunny weather, stunning beaches, turquoise ocean, loads of activities to try, great tours, and a good selection of accommodation, eating places and shopping mixed with a big dollop of history is your thing, look no further than Broome.  It could be your vacation of a lifetime!