Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back From Down Under!

Well, we are back from Australia and all our animals seem to be both healthy and happy to see us again! Overall it was a great trip and I'll blog about the wildlife we saw in the days ahead. I prefer to see wildlife in the wild as opposed to zoos or sanctuaries, but I ended up doing a good bit of both this trip for various reasons. It was fascinating to see and learn about marsupials and the array of them is spectacular.

As usual, the details about each place we stayed and restaurants, etc. is not reviewed in detail on the blog but is on TripAdvisor if you are interested. The blog will feature wildlife info and photos and reviews of zoos and sanctuaries and outdoor activities, primarily, with a little commentary here and there.

Australia was very pleasant to travel in. It's so huge it is hard to plan a trip there so I picked three areas along the East Coast to see - the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest and Tasmania. It's nice to have first world comforts in wildlife travel, which is new to me. Also, Australians seem to like Americans, and these days international travel has changed a bit thanks to the Bush policies that generally, the world hates. So it was nice to get no flak about politics in Australia, but everyone was up on the election here and every single person liked Obama except one lone Hilary supporter (McCain was a total zero).

I will say if you plan a trip there, allow alot of money and TIME for food. The food is very expensive as the waiters make a lot per hour ($18 and up I was told). You don't have to tip, if you do, 5% - 10% is great, not like the nearly mandatory 20% here. However, Aussies take time - they don't start one course in the kitchen until the other is done. So if you order an appetizer, it could be an hour before the entree and then another hour before dessert comes. (Also, they call appetizers "entrees" and entrees "mains". There are a lot of other words relating to food that mean something different there than here too, so watch out). So, plan at least 3 hours for dinner!

Quantas airlines was great to fly and we flew on an Aussie Airpass that gets you both international and domestic flights for a package and that was literally thousands less than buying just the domestic flights from them. So, if you plan a trip, look into that hard. I planned my trip through a company called Epic Private Journeys and asked them to take care of details, send me to remote areas with as few people as possible, focus on hiking and wildlife, and use local labor and independent hotels rather than chains. Also, to use only ecologically responsible accommodations and excursions. They did a good job with the trip and working within those parameters, as well as with handling last minute things that developed en route, so I would recommend them.

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