The end of the trimester is rapidly approaching, and I’m really starting to look forward to the break! I’m planning on checking a few more things off of My Top 5 Australian Must-Do’s, and first up is Sydney! When I first flew in to Australia, I did land in Sydney briefly before boarding a plane to Melbourne. I can say I have seen the Sydney Opera House, but I’m pretty sure that doesn’t account for much when you’re a few thousand feet in the air!
My mom is flying in to Sydney at the end of exams, and I’ll be meeting her there. I did some research and after a few Skype conversations we were able to narrow down our options and choose our favorite sites and tours. Technology definitely comes in handy sometimes!
I have always been fascinated with the ocean (hence the Marine Biology major) and passionate about ocean critters. Lately, I’ve also done a lot of research and reading about cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). Their intelligence and communication structures are simply fascinating! Despite my interest, I have never seen one in the wild! I remember going to Sea World and seeing the orca when I was quite young, and I have seen the dolphins multiple times at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, but somehow I don’t think that’s quite the same as seeing a humpback whale surface from the depths.
The first full day we have in Sydney, Mom and I will be going on a 2 Hour Whale Watching Adventure Cruise! I have been practicing my whale-speaking skills with Dory, so hopefully we’ll be able to see some!
Humpback whales are reportedly seen on almost ever trip, since about 20,000 of them migrate past the coast of Sydney each year from May to December. It’s one of the longest whale migrations in the world. I have a feeling I’m going to be shocked at how large they are. It’s so difficult to imagine something that massive if you’ve never seen it before. From May to August the whales are on their Northern Migration, moving from the southern antarctic waters to their breeding grounds near the equator. Apparently, there are a lot of breaching whales (jumping) and the males are quite active, showing off to the females in attempt to seduce them.
Other species do make an occasional appearance. There’s about a 50% chance to see dolphins such as the Bottlenose and Common Pacific. Southern Right whales, Blue whales, Minke whales, and orca can make a rare appearance. I would flip if we see an orca! (I have a special interest in them). Right whales generally start to make an appearance in July, and we’ll be there at the very end of June, so maybe we’ll have a chance to see some! Fur Seals, Sea Birds, and other species such as sharks, False Killer whales, Pilot whales, sun fish, rays, and turtles might also show up. It seems like a flip of the coin as to what animals we’ll see, but as long as we see some sort of cetacean, I’ll be happy!
One of the neat things about the company we’ll be whale watching with is the research they’re supporting with Professor Robert Harcourt and Megan Kessler at Macquarie university. They’re working to examine the Australian whale watching guidelines in relation to the anthropogenic (human) impact whale watching has on the whales. For example, they’re working to answer questions like, how close should a whale watching vessel get to the whales? How does it impact their behavior? They’re also focusing on other aspects of whale behavior, communication, and anthropogenic noise pollution. For more information about their research, check out their website hyperlinked to the researchers names above.
Okay, enough about whales! I could probably go on forever…
The next day, we’re planning on heading over to Manly SEA LIFE Sanctuary. They have a diving program, called Shark Dive Xtreme where you can dive with their Grey Nurse sharks, turtles, and stingrays. I’ll be suiting up and jumping in for this one, while mom enjoys the dryness and less-toothy observation area. I’ll be doing the Tune-Up Dive, which is targeted for people who have logged less than 15 dives or haven’t dived in the last 6 months. I fit both categories! I haven’t dived since I did my open water dives in 2011, so it’s time for a refresher course! I thought it might be a good idea to run through everything again before heading out to the open ocean and checking out the Great Barrier Reef! This dive includes a refresher training course, reminder of the SCUBA equipment, and run through of the dive skills. You are required to demonstrate your skills to an instructor in a training pool before going on a 30 minute dive in the aquarium.
Grey Nurse sharks are an endangered species, and it is estimated that less than 500 remain along the east coast of Australia. Hunting has been the major pressure on their populations. Sharks often have a fearsome reputation due to their predatory nature, but they’re not all man-eaters. Looking at the situation in reverse, humans hundreds (if not thousands) more sharks each year than sharks kill humans. Often, when shark attacks do happen, it’s a bite and release phenomenon. Sharks don’t have hands like we do to investigate things. Their mouth is what they rely upon to tell them what things are. Much of our fear of them comes from misunderstanding and media-skewed perspectives. Grey Nurse sharks cannot actually prey upon large, fleshy items. In fact, their teeth are designed to grab fish and anything much larger than that will not fit into their mouths.
Diving with sea turtles is a plus too!
Day #3, we’re planning on doing the Sydney Bridge Climb! I don’t know much about it, other than you climb the bridge, and everyone I’ve talked to who has done it in the past has highly recommended it!
We’re planning on doing The Discovery Climb at night. The entire climb takes about 3.5 hours, walking up the lower arch of the bridge to the upper arch over Sydney Harbour. It looks like we’ll have some spectacular views.
And how can you go to Sydney without visiting the Sydney Opera House? On our 4th day, we’ll be going on a 1 hour walking tour of this iconic landmark. On the tour you get to take a peek inside the buildings multitude of rooms and corridors, hearing stories and secrets along the way. They talk about the architectural design and the vision of the architect, Jorn Utzon. I’m not one for opera, but looks like it’ll be pretty interesting.
For our 5th and last full day, we’re going to head over to the Taronga Zoo to participate in their Wild Australia Experience. We’ll have the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the inner workings of the zoo.
It includes a tour of the zoo’s kitchen, Australian Nightlife house, hand-feeding kangaroos and wallabies, and a photo opportunity with koalas in their enclosure. It also includes all-day access to the zoo and the Sky Safari cable car. Overall, it looks like an interesting experience. I’m crossing my fingers for being able to hold a koala! (If my Grandma Betty were still alive, I’m pretty sure she would totally fly over to Australia just for that experience! She absolutely loved koalas.)
I’ve heard the zoo is pretty awesome too from multiple sources, so I’m looking forward to having the time to check it out. It’ll be interesting to see how Australian and American zoos compare.
And that wraps up our trip to Sydney! Before you ask, I did google P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, and no, it does not appear to exist outside of Finding Nemo. Oh, well! I think we’ll be busy enough with our little excursions! Hopefully I’ll be blogging again soon with some of my own pictures to illustrate our adventures!
After Sydney, mom and I will be flying to Cairns. Dad’s planning on flying over to meet up with us for a few days, so now it’s time to nail down the planning for Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef!