Bio 417 - Natural History of Australia
This summer we were fortunate enough to lead a group of 15 students to Australia. Our group flew into Cairns, Queensland, which served as a base camp of sorts. Our goal was to explore three distinct ecosystems found in close proximity to Cairns.
We began our adventure with a six day stay at Lizard Island Research Station. Our three guides were Dr. Andy Lewis, Mike Emsile, and Dave Williamson. A typical day on Lizard consisted of a morning snorkel, a late-morning lecture by Andy, and an afternoon snorkel. The remaining time was spent working on journals, attempting to identify what had been seen, or exploring the island. Andy brought his two sons with us to the island. Many times later in the trip I heard a student muttering that they wished Ty and Felix were still with us, as they were great kids and fun companions.
The day before we left Lizard, we hiked up to Cook's Lookout, the highest point on the island. It required only an hour to hike to the top. The view from the top was simply awe inspiring. Its name was derived from Captain Cook who climbed to the island's highest point to find the best route around the local reefs. This site was also one of Aboriginal significance; it was the location of their manhood ceremonies. Learn how the island got its name here...
We said our goodbyes to our 'aquatic crew' after returning from Lizard Island. We spent the rest of the day in Cairns. The following day we traveled by bus to Mungalli Falls to meet our rainforest guides - Ant Backer and Leonie Valentine. Our typical routine for the three days at the rainforest site was to bird watch before breakfast, a morning or evening lecture by Ant, and a day hike through the rainforest often involving a swim at a local waterfall. After dark we would try spot lighting for animals. We did run into a bit of bad weather on this portion of the trip. It was overcast much of the time and often was raining or at least drizzling. This did affect our itinerary some days, but we were still able to see lots of amazing things in the rainforests.
Pictures from the rainforest
We then proceeded into the outback via bus to Undara National Park. This area is noted for its past volcanic activity and the world's longest lava tubes. We ventured into the tubes one day, which was combined with a hike around an old volcanic crater. At this stage of the trip we allowed students to explore the outback on their own instead of in one large group. The park has many self-guided trails that allow you to experience the outback at your own pace.
Pictures from the outback
After two days in the outback we bussed back to Cairns for the final night of the trip. Six individuals in the group returned to the U.S. the following day. Seven traveled to Sydney for an extra week. Four stayed an extra week in Cairns to finish their dive certification and another week in Sydney. If we're fortunate enough to run this trip again we'll probably try to make it a three week trip, with more time at the terrestrial sites. Many students suggested trying to get deeper into the outback, perhaps even to Ayers Rock. We were also told that it is possible to snorkel with whale sharks on the west coast of Australia. It's a big country with lots of possibilities. I think its' safe to say that everyone left with memories that will last a lifetime.
Page last modified September 11, 2007