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Treepol posted a topic in WorldwideThis winter I migrated to the 'Top End' of Australia, flying the coop from chilly Hobart to the so-called winter in the “Top End” where August daytime temperatures range between 32°- 34C and 16-21°C at night. I booked a photographic tour with Mike Jarvis of Experience the Wild (ETW) followed by a 3N/4D private charter with Mike from Darwin to Kununurra. ETW is owned by Mike and Jenny Jarvis. Mike is a one man show – you book him and you get him. ETW offer a range of scheduled tours throughout the year and will also do tailor-mades. Mike has an extensive knowledge of Top End wildlife and has been running ETW for 8 years. This year I was seeking the flashy birds of the north – Hooded Parrot, Rainbow Pitta, Gouldian Finches and Fruit–doves were high on my wishlist. Hooded parrots, Pine Creek Red-collared Lorikeet, Mamukala, Kakadu The Top End is not blessed with a diverse array of mammals however all sightings are valued and dingo, water buffalo and black flying fox were all hoped for together with as many reptiles as possible. The flight path was: 5 nights in Darwin, including 1 marathon day (7am – 6 pm) sticky-beaking around Darwin with Mike. 2 nights Mary River 2 nights Kakadu 1 night Katherine 1 night Pine Creek 1 night Victoria River 1 night Timber Creek 1 night Kununurra I had been to Darwin and the Top End twice before in 1988 and 1990, quite a while ago so I was prepared for lots of change. Please forgive this short diversion down memory lane, I quickly scanned some old snaps from 1988 when @GnuGgnu and I drove her Ford Laser from Adelaide to Darwin up the Stuart Highway with stops at Ayers Rock, Katherine and Pine Creek. Somewhere in the Territory, 1988 The Kakadu Highway was unsealed back then and we heard at Pine Creek that some of the rivers were in flood. A guide suggested that we get some advice from the local mechanic about getting the Laser through the flooded Mary River and Barramundi Creek. We bought a can of CRC and a plastic groundsheet and through we drove. Mary River, Kakadu, 1988 Planning After raiding the nest egg the 2016 trip came together very quickly. The photographic tour was a scheduled departure and Mike arranged the charter out to Kununurra. Early birds had nabbed a lot of the cheep flights to Darwin, so I flew on points this year and scored an exit row seat from Melbourne to Darwin. I booked additional nights in Darwin at the Palms City Resort and Club Tropical. Day 1 It was 9C in Hobart when I left - a great day to be flying to Darwin. The flights were uneventful and whilst in the air I mused about the size of Australia, where after 5.5 hours of flying its still possible to be within national borders - it sure is a Big Country. My 2016 flight was a far cry from the experience of Qantas travellers in 1938 travelling on the inaugural flight between Sydney and London. This flight took 9 days, with Darwin being the first stop before the Asia sector on the outbound trip. In addition to flying over miles and miles of Australia, I was also amazed at the variety of habitats that the trip covered. The flight afforded views of Mt Wellington, tracked over rural Tasmania and the mountainous Central Plateau to the north coast, and over Bass Straight to Melbourne. The second sector took in the urban sprawl of Melbourne, to Mildura in the river lands after which we turned and headed over the outback to Tennant Creek, flying east of Katherine due Operation Pitch Black a joint military training exercise involving Australia and other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore and the US. Darwin is a tropical, exotic destination with colourful birds and different wildlife species to cool climate Tasmania. The bounteous and colourful bougainvillea and hibiscus are common around the city as is the fragrant frangipani. Bouganvillea Hibiscus Darwin has 2 seasons - the wet and the dry, in contrast with the 4 seasons experienced in Tasmania. The aboriginal people of the Top End identify 6 seasons linked to hunting, gathering and ceremonial occasions. I visited during August which is one of the cooler dry season months. The Northern Territory is known for 3 outstanding events - the Japanese attacks on Darwin in February 1942 and the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Tracy at Christmas 1974, which explains the relatively recent age of the buildings in the city and the remaining number of historical buildings. The third is the Wave Hill walk off that occurred in August 1966 when 200 indigenous stockmen, house servants and their families walked off the station owned by British company Vesteys in protest over low wages, poor conditions and the loss of tribal land. More on this later. Day 2 Before starting the safari, I opted to do a half day tour of World War 2 sites around Darwin. I knew that Darwin was bombed in 1942 but I didn't know the extent or timeframe of the Japanese attacks across the Top End. Here are some quick facts: 188 aircraft attacked Darwin at 10 am on 19 February 1942 and a second attack by 54 planes occurred at 11:45. These unexpected raids on the unprepared city caused the death of 235 people; The Northern Territory was raided 64 times between February 1942 and November 1943. The Top End was raided 107 times during the same period. A 6.25 km submarine net stretched across the mouth of Darwin harbour. The net could be lowered to allow access to shipping. The wreck of one 80 man submarine (I-124) still lies outside the harbour. The tour began at 8:00 am with a drive around the significant war and historical sites of Darwin that included Government and Parliament Houses, the Admiralty buildings, the site of the former China Town and two cathedrals. Nearby Charles Darwin NP was an ideal site for ammunition storage bunkers due to its undulating landscape. This bunker has been re-opened as an interpretation centre. We visited the Darwin Military Museum which had wartime vehicles such as this Willys Jeep We visited the Darwin Military Museum which had wartime vehicles such as this Willys Jeep [photo] Displays included uniforms, weapons and many other things I didn't recognise. One of the aspects of this museum that resonated with me was the focus on the war as experienced by locals - a policeman, a typist and tax office clerk. This added a personal dimension to the maps, dates and official documents. I found the propaganda aimed at Australian soldiers fighting overseas particularly insidious. The tour concluded with a one hour cruise around Darwin Harbour which gave a different perspective to Parliament and Government Houses. The guide pointed out the sites of the wrecks of Catalina Flying Boats, the USS Peary, the current naval base and several historic and well concealed gun emplacements. The four outer pillars of Parliament House are shaped like falling bombs with fins at the top to commemorate this aspect of the city’s history. I spent the afternoon out of the sun, emerging for a walk along the Esplanade once an afternoon sea breeze cooled the city. There are many shady trees, viewpoints and commemoratives. Birds seen included Orange-footed Jungle Fowl, Whistling Kite, Double-barred Finches, Bar-shouldered Doves and Magpie Larks. Orange-footed Jungle Fowl Magpie Lark Double-barred Finch Bar-shouldered Dove
Ever since my father almost took a job in Perth when I was 9 or 10, I’ve been intrigued by the country. I’ve been trying to plan a trip to Australia since roughly 2007, but have always had a difficult time coordinating our schedules to have sufficient time to get a decent (3+ weeks) amount of time to appreciate the county. Last year it finally worked out, and we were able to arrange 24 nights Down Under. Because we were going in the Southern Hemisphere winter (end of July through most of August), I decided to focus primarily on warmer destinations. I also wanted to focus on more wilderness areas than cities, since to me that is of more interest, and in many cases represents the more unique parts of countries. Since I’d been planning for so long, I had ended up with a fairly well-researched plan, which ended up being as follows: 1 night Los Angeles as a stopover 1 night en-route over the Pacific 7 nights Port Douglas, in tropical Queensland 8 nights in the Top End (1 night Darwin, 1 night Batchelor, 2 nights Katherine, 1 night Cooinda, 2 nights Jabiru, and 1 night Darwin) 5 nights in the Red Centre (2 nights Alice Springs, 1 night Kings Canyon, 2 nights Uluru) 4 nights Sydney With this itinerary, we were able to see some of the well-known natural sites in Oz, including the Great Barrier Reef; the Daintree Rainforest, which is known as the oldest rainforest in the world; Kakadu National Park; and Uluru and Kata-Tjuta. We did spend a lot of time outdoors, and certainly spent a fair amount of time in the wild, but this certainly wasn’t a safari as you’d get in Africa or India. However, hopefully this report will be of interest to some people here. I should also point out that a lot of my favourite wildlife pictures have already been posted in the appropriate “Show us your…” threads, so some of those won’t be new on this site. Also, I’m going to write this semi-chronologically, but will jump around a bit if I think it helps the narrative. Having said that, let’s get this started.
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