The Land Down Under

06/22/2012 11:58

I feel very privileged to have made not 1, not 2, but 4 trips to Australia so far.  I am always amazed by the breathtaking scenery and incredible wildlife I come across every time I visit.  Each trip has has a different purpose and has taken me to different places, there is just one state (South Australia), that I have yet to visit.  I'm hoping to make it there sometime soon!

On my first trip I spent a year studying abroad at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland.  This was an amazing time, my first experience with warm water diving after being certified in the chilly waters of Massachussetts in springtime.  Not only did I get to dive for fun, but also for research during the coral reef ecology class.  I also took a painting class, learned about marine megafauna, and aborigional history.  I traveled around Queensland, several trips to Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, Dive on the Yongala wreck, visits to the rainforest and waterfalls, culminating amazing multiday backpack adventure on Hinchenbrook Island.  I ate my first mango (and learned how to cut one), and tasted vegemite.  I met some great people and wished I could stay longer!  I also traveled to Sydney, visiting the temperate rainforests of the blue mountains, and took a week long gettaway dive vacation to Fiji!

On the next trip I assisted with butterflyfish research on Lizard Island, then headed to the West coast for a look at Perth, spending a few wonderful days on Rottnest Island (infinitely better than the name would imply)!

The third trip was inspired by a meeting of the Oceania Chondrichthyan Society.  I headed to Melbourne and attended my favorite scientific meeting of all time held in Queenscliff.  After the meeting I embarked on my first Great Ocean Roadtrip with some awesome fellow shark/ray biologists.  It was an incredible trip, stunning coastline, wild koalas, a dip in the Southern Ocean, and chips with sour cream and sweet chili - heavenly!  Before begrudgingly returning home, I spent a few days exploring Tasmania, just a taste of another beautiful place I hope to return to someday!

My most recent trip brought me back to Melbourne where I lived for ~4 months in the city, then spent another month living at the Phillip Island Penguin Parade research station before making my way up to Darwin.  In Melbourne, we fell in love with the enormous Queen Victoria Market, fresh organic produce 5 days a week, refillable bottles of wine from the barrel, wonderful breads and spreads, YUM!  We also made several excursions, a saling trip through the Whitsunday Islands to the GBR, road trip from Sydney to Jervis Bay, revisiting Townsville and JCU 10 years later, another Great Ocean Roadtrip and a visit to the Grampian Mountans, wine tasting and hot springing on the Mornington Peninsula, not to mention a holiday jaunt to New Zealand!   Phillip Island has it all, beautiful beaches, gorgeous rock pools, incredible marine life, wineries, and an awesome chocolate cafe.  What more could you need?  I loved my time there studying penguin flipper morphology, I had never thought much about studying birds, but penguins are an exception I could easily adjust to.  They are a joy to watch and fascinating to learn about.  In Darwin, I spent my days either out on the water trying to catch the elusive winghead shark, or hiding away from monsoons!  It was place like no other  I had been before, and I'm grateful for my chance to explore a little of the Top End, even though I never saw a winghead shark (alive anyway!).