Summer in Australia’s wildlife hotspot

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For a Guide, some trips last in the memory with a smile. Early February’s bright sunny Wildlife Journey was one of those. I shared it with 4 wonderful people who brought the best of their cultures with them: 2 enthusiastic, warm, open-hearted Americans, and 2 funny, subtle, gentle Brits. They approached every adventure with williingness, and enjoyed every bird, butterfly and lizard as much as the koalas, kangaroos and wallabies (or almost, anyway!)

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Our 4 day Wildlife Journey travels to East Gippsland – one of Australia’s wildlife hotspots. The Snowy River forms a rough western border, the Pacific Ocean on the east, the Southern Ocean to the south and the New South Wales highlands to the north. In a region that makes up only 4% of Victoria’s land live nearly half Australia’s bird species, 60% of our large mammals and a stack of reptiles, frogs and butterflies.

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The highlights were the wild koalas and kangaroos on the first day at Raymond Island, a small island in The Lakes National Park near Paynesville. It’s a fantastic spot for wildlife generally, partly due to the attitude of the few human residents of the island – they are a very pro-wildlife lot!

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For me, the great highlight was a pair of White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes on the Mooresford Track in the Snowy River National Park on the second day. I hadn’t seen a White-bellied since Darwin, NT in 2011 and that’s a very long way away from East Gippsland. White-bellieds are occasional visitors to Victoria, particularly to the dry forests of the north. One bird was the very distinctive and beautiful dark morph, which I had only seen once before.

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A very cheeky Goanna (Lace Monitor) made our lunchtime very entertaining by prowling around our table hoping for a tidbit. They are magnificent creatures. Big ones get to 2.5metres, but they’re not dangerous to people. This one was smaller, maybe 1.5m.

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As a finale to a great trip, we enjoyed sundowners and dinner while the sun set over the Southern Ocean.

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