Exploring Queensland: Australia Zoo and Caloundra

Thursday (28th January) we arrived into Caloundra (188 miles drive south from Bagara) and, once we arrived on the outskirts of town, did some food shopping in the local mall. It had been raining on and off all morning and the roads were very busy with lots of big trucks driving quite aggressively so we arrived feeling a bit weary. We got to our accommodation at Rumba Beach Resort at just gone 2pm so were able to check in immediately, park in the secure underground car park and then take the lift direct to our apartment. And, wow, what a place. One bedroom, two bathrooms (including a large ensuite with a spa bath), full kitchen, laundry, lounge, balcony the works. An amazing place and fully equipped with everything I could think of that we would ever need.

Having got ourselves unpacked and settled in we headed out to Happy Hour that was being advertised in the resort’s bar which sits behind the pool complex. Well this wasn’t great as the seating was not comfortable and the drinks were served in plastic glasses which would be OK if we were going poolside but not sitting in the bar itself. Oh well, never mind. After a short while we retired to our very comfortable room for dinner and a movie night.

Friday we were up early and on the road to Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, to visit Australia Zoo. We had heard a lot about this place so were excited to finally visit. We were there 10 minutes after they opened the gates at 9am.

As well as animal exhibits there are also regular shows and photo opportunities to have close encounters with some of them. We planned our day around the main Wildlife Warriors Show in the Crocoseum and, first on our list, was to visit Australian animals. We started off walking to see the dingos – but the enclosure was sealed off as they were away on holiday (seriously) – so next stop was the cassowary, but again, the enclosure was sealed off as they were sitting on eggs right now. Next was the Tasmanian Devils and, again, the enclosure was devoid of life. At this point – hot and bothered in the high humidity – we were both wondering whether this was worth the effort and thought about asking for our money back! All we had seen at this point was a few lizards, a cute sleepy binturong and a funny crocodile statue.

But we persevered and this time we came across some crocodile enclosures. Richard was convinced that one was a statue but when we checked later we found his mouth was now closed so clearly a living specimen LOL. We saw native snakes and then checked out the echidnas and a variety of kangaroos, wallabies and koalas.

The enclosures are spacious, well laid out, and beautifully landscaped with many of the animals roaming freely so it is possible to get up close to the many non-deadly species. What made this better (for us) was the lack of visitors so social distancing was easy to maintain. But the lack of visitor numbers must be causing some financial difficulty for the Irwin family right now. Throughout the park there were lots of tributes to Steve and his passion for conservation work.

We headed to the parrot show and I was amazed by the white cockatoo who would jump on demand, come close for a photo while I was sitting on the bench, and would chat away quite happily. He was so much fun and we really enjoyed meeting him.

Then it was time for the main show. The arena was about 20% full and whilst we were getting seated the big screen was on showing Steve in all his glory. It was sad to think of such a charismatic character taken so early. Then it was followed by a video from Bindi’s wedding which, to be honest, was a little much especially when they declared that they would be conservation partners and wildlife warriors for life as part of their vows. They were even selling this video in the gift store….. Oh well, each to their own.

The show was fun with free flying birds followed by some salt-water crocodile action. Was amazing to see these creatures just doing what comes naturally and the rangers were very brave to be in such close proximity to these deadly creatures.

After the show, and some lunch, we passed the children’s water park which was very popular with the toddlers and their parents….and moved on to the wetlands where we came across a range of birds as well as some interesting dinosaur exhibits and saw some more small critters. Check out the colours of this tiny (poisonous) tree climbing frog.

Then we visited more local animals and saw our first wombats who were largely asleep in their shady enclosures. Much bigger than we expected them to be, with huge claws! One family, doing the (very expensive) VIP thing with animal encounters and a personal tour guide / driver, did get to lay on the grass next to a wombat but we saw them moving him to this event walking through the park on a lead just like a dog LOL and then onto a cart. He didn’t seem that happy at having his sleep disturbed.

From there it was into Asia where we tried to see red pandas and elephants but the enclosures were empty. However, we did see some teenage tigers.

Then onto Africa and, first, to Bindi’s island where there are lemurs roaming free. So we enjoyed spotting these little fellows along with their other island inhabitants, giant tortoises.

Moving into Africa properly we saw giraffes, zebras, five southern white rhinos and, finally, the meerkats. The African savannah was huge with lots of room for the animals to move around in and, as is the way here, the animals are not caged so it felt very natural. They must have spent a fortune on the landscaping, it is simply beautiful.

Now to the serious question – is this a zoo or a conservation park? Well, in my mind, it is both. Some animals are clearly at risk of extinction (like the rhinos) and others are endangered (like koalas) so the breeding and release programmes are fantastic (with animals that are not able to be released for whatever reason, living out the rest of their life in the park). But others (like giraffes and zebras) are purely there for entertainment purposes. The conservation side is definitely more focused at the on-site hospital. Any wild animal that is found distressed in Queensland can be taken here and is brought back to full health and released free of any charges. This is funded by their own charity so quite a special setup. While we were there we watched a malnourished and rescued sea turtle being checked over by the vets.

Overall it was definitely worth the visit and we had a great time. This zoo is 4,000 km2 so there was a lot of walking involved but, thankfully, it was mainly flat and there were lots of benches and places to take a breather during the day.

We got back to our apartment around 5pm, rested up for a while and then headed out to dinner. First we walked through the twilight market that was set up along the promenade which we expected to be artisan goods – but it was mainly food stalls with lots of people around.

Moving on we decided to go to the Drift Bar which is below our resort, overlooking the beach, but it was absolutely rammed with people queuing for tables. So we continued exploring and ended up in the Aqua restaurant sitting above the promenade. This was a bit of a find and we had a fabulous three course Italian-style meal with Richard enjoying his first glass of wine in nine months. Yum!

Saturday morning we were up early and decided to try one of the resort pools. But OMG it was way too hot as there was no breeze.

I had a dip in the lap pool but we soon called it a day and headed to the beach armed with our new shade tent.

We got ourselves set up and even enjoyed bobbing in the sea – which dropped off into deep water pretty quickly. Then, later in the afternoon, the currents got really strong and we struggled to hold our position. We then realised that people were turning up just to drift along in the currents – so we joined in. It was fantastic fun and we understand why the nearest bar is called the Drift Bar now LOL. It was tough to get out of the water at the end so we just launched ourselves towards the sand bar and, when we hit bottom, we crawled out. I had to get assistance from Richard to stand up but then we walked back down the beach and did it all over again…and again….and again. Was really good fun.

Later on we returned to the hotel pool complex where we bobbed with a cold drink in the jacuzzi but found the water way too hot. So we returned to our room and had a bubble bath in the spa bath instead! Cleaned up we then headed out to the (still busy) Drift Bar for a couple of drinks before returning to our apartment with the best fish and chip takeaway we’ve had for a very long time.

Sunday we returned to the beach for another lovely sunny although windy day. There is a very shallow non-navigable bar (for keel boats anyway) into this beach from the top of Bribie Island to the mainland. That said, we did watch the coastguard going out to sea through the surf and across the bar. Quite exciting! Whilst relaxing on the beach we watched a number of huge ships that were going up the coast – amazing that the ship channel can be that deep so close to the sandbars.

There was a king tide that day so the current was running even faster and we drifted along at about four knots! Here is Richard showing how it is done LOL.

After a lovely day enjoying the beach we headed back to our apartment for another bubble spa bath before going out to the Drift Bar for a couple of drinks before returning back to our apartment for dinner.

Monday morning we packed up our belongings and checked out of our apartment. A great trip and we had thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Caloundra. But we had timed our departure perfectly as the heavens opened and the rain was so heavy we had to pull over to the side of the road for a little while as the visibility was so limited. We got back to Morphie around lunchtime, pleased that all was well, unpacked, returned the hire car, re-opened the sea cocks and that was it for the day.

Tuesday we spent the whole day down below as it was raining heavily most of the day. Richard, in a very small gap in the weather, headed out to buy a longer snubber line, chafe protection and a new hook while I blogged. And that was it!

Wednesday morning we were up early to collect our Boatworks courtesy car and head to the doctors as we both needed to have fasting blood tests done. Mission accomplished we had breakfast out in the mall and did a bit of clothes shopping – a new swimsuit for me and shorts for Richard. The rain had stopped but it was very hot and humid with the threat of a thunderstorm later.

Back on board and I rested up for the rest of the day while Richard swapped out the engine impeller, cleaned the engine compartment, then put in a clean ‘nappy’. Later on, we headed to the Pirate Ship for sundowners and met up with the crews of SV Zofia and SV Mischief. It was a real nice change to have some company. They were staying there for a BBQ dinner so we left them to it and came back to Morphie and listened to a few tunes before turning in.

So that’s it for now. Our plan is to leave the Boatworks on Monday (if the weather forecast doesn’t deteriorate) and go back out on the hook for the month. So we need to provision up again and give Morphie’s topsides a wax and polish before we leave.

We are pleased to see that the vaccine roll out is speeding along at home so we hope that you are all coping well with the restrictions and that there is light at the end of this very long tunnel. Stay safe and well and here’s another Australian hug to make you all smile.