Truly Wild Experiences Down Under

As someone with a keen interest in conservation and zoology, seeing the native wildlife of a place is something that usually features highly on my destination wishlist when I travel. This year hasn’t been easy for me on a personal level but it always lifts my spirits when I think of the amazing things I have seen and done already.

One of my most cherished memories is when I went backpacking Down Under with my husband. Australia and New Zealand are two of my best-loved countries – friendly locals, stunning scenery and most importantly, amazing wildlife. So I would like to share my favourite wildlife experience from each.

Adorable quokka - a native to Rottnest Island in Western Australia

Discovering quokkas on Rottnest Island, Australia

Rottnest Island is a beautiful island off the coast of Western Australia, home to an adorably smiley-looking marsupial known as the quokka. In fact, Rottnest Island was named after the quokka when a Dutch explorer arrived at the island and mistook the quokkas for rats, naming it ‘Rat’s Nest’.

Wild Experiences Down Under

Being almost completely wiped out on the mainland of Australia, Rottnest Island is one of only a few places where you can see quokkas in their natural habitat and due to the lack of predators on the island, coupled with an abundance of food, their numbers are thriving.

Beautiful Rottnest Island - catch the ferry from Fremantle and enjoy a day with the quokkas!

As the island has a strong focus on the environment and sustainability, the best way to explore is by bicycle. So when we arrived by boat we picked up some hired bikes from the dock and went on our merry way.

Rottnest Island is easily one of the most beautiful places I have been fortunate enough to visit, with its white sand beaches and turquoise seas it looks like something from a movie set. Of course, my favourite part was observing the quokkas and I managed to even get a #quokkaselfie too! All flora and fauna on the island is protected by law so visitors must remember not to touch or feed the animals as it could harm them.

The best way to get around Rottnest Island! Hire a bike and explore this beautiful part of Western Australia.

Quokka selfie on Rottnest Island, Australia

One of my favourite things about Australia happens to be its native creatures – I’m completely in awe of it – so to be able to see the happy little quokkas in the wild and not in a zoo was something unforgettable.

Spotting wild seals in Kaikoura, New Zealand

Kaikoura is a small town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island and is famed for its marine life. Due to the weather cancelling any whale watching trips out to sea, we made a spontaneous decision to take a drive to Ohau Point where we could see some wild New Zealand fur seals.

Adorable seal pup at Ohau Point, New Zealand

After a short walk into the woodland, we were greeted by one of the most magical sights I have seen – numerous young seals swimming and frolicking at the bottom of a waterfall! I wasn’t sure what to expect on this spur of the moment adventure but it by far exceeded any expectations I could have had. The seals looked so happy and there were very few tourists at this spot making it feel all the more special. Of course, we kept our distance but a couple of the seals were playing on the path together just a mere metre away from where we stood!

Ohau waterfall - a beautiful place to see seal pups swimming

The seal pups are born in November and December and start making their way to the waterfall in April, where they are then able to develop their swimming and social skills together. They stay in the stream for several days at a time before returning to the coast to feed from their mothers. Once weaned, they then remain on the coast where they can hunt for food at sea.

See New Zealand fur seals - free things to do in Kaikoura

Seal swimming in Ohau stream, Kaikoura

We waited and watched the playful pups for a little while longer but even on the walk back to the car we were able spot a few of them swimming in the shallow waters alongside us. Amazing! Sometimes the best adventures are unplanned.

Note: My visit to Ohau Point happened prior to the devastating 2016 earthquake and although parts of this area are still destroyed, visitors are still able to see seal colonies elsewhere in Kaikoura. Hopefully they will return to the waterfall very soon.

As far as future wildlife adventures go, a safari in Kenya would be at the top spot on my travel bucket list and as a proud recipient of a charity rhino adoption, I would love nothing more than to see them in the wild.

Win a safari adventure in Kenya!

Win an African safari with Audley Travel by sharing your best wildlife photograph or video on your social media channels. To enter write #AudleySafari and @AudleyTravel on your Instagram or Twitter post or share directly on the Audley Travel Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/audleytravel/. To find out more or enter via the website, visit www.audleytravel.com/social.  Entries must be posted between 20th August – 23rd September.

This post is my entry into the Trips 100 & Audley Travel blogger challenge.

A girl's guide to volunteering in Costa Rica

A girl’s guide to… volunteering in Costa Rica

Volunteering in Costa Rica

I’ve always had a fascination for the animal kingdom, so being rich in nature and wildlife, Costa Rica has been on my travel wishlist for a while. Costa Rica covers just a tiny proportion of our planet yet is host to 5% of the world’s biodiversity, something that the nation is particularly proud of. And you don’t have to venture too far to see some of its native creatures. Just relaxing by the pool at our hotel in Manuel Antonio we managed to spot lizards, capuchin monkeys and various birdlife, including toucans!

As someone developing a keen interest in all things zoological, I decided that I would like to combine my sightseeing holiday with volunteer work, so spent a week at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center, around 20-30 minutes from Juan Santamaria International Airport.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - spending a week at an animal rescue centre was a very rewarding experience.
One of the many murals decorating the walls at the centre

We were picked up by a driver at the airport, along with 3 other jetlagged Brits. We arrived at the centre late afternoon and were shown to our 12 bed dorm. There are around 5 dorms in total and most were almost full, accommodating over 50 volunteers in total – alot more than I was expecting!

We met the owner Bernal and his howler monkey, Feluco. Feluco is an orphan whose mother was killed by a dog. Because he lost his mother at such a young age, his immune system is very weak. He also has a cleft pallet which gives him breathing problems. Feluco would stand no chance of survival out in the wild but luckily he is very well looked after at the centre. We learnt more about the other animals and the centre itself, but I will tell you more about the story of the rescue centre in another post.

An orphaned howler monkey being cared for at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
Feluco

The next morning we were given a tour of the centre which at the time of our visit is home to an assortment of birds including parrots, owls, a peacock, a curassow and some chickens and ducks. There are also pigs, goats, 3 types of monkey (howler, spider and capuchin), two and three toed sloths, a tortoise, porcupine, marmoset, opossum, hedgehog, squirrels, two kinkajous, an olingo and a couple of pet dogs. There was also a toucan but as it was going to be released back into the wild, only the resident biologist was allowed anywhere near it.

Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center - rescue, rehabilitate and release Costa Rican wildlife.

As volunteers, the only animals besides the toucan that we were not responsible for were the spider monkeys, capuchin monkeys and some of the baby creatures inside the animal hospital.

A baby three-toed sloth being rehabilitated at a wildlife rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of the baby sloths from the hospital with her teddy bear <3

For your first two days volunteering, you must shadow someone and not enter the enclosures, with the exception of the goats and pigs. I must admit being a little wary of Oscar the male goat, but the mama and two baby goats were sweet. I did enjoy going into the pig pen and we were encouraged to go visit the pigs to stop them from getting lonely.

Feeding the resident pigs on a Costa Rican volunteering holiday!
Feeding my piggy pals

A typical day

7am – Breakfast in the common area.

8am – Meeting in the common area – this is to go over any points of discussion and extra duties (one day every single person got involved in shifting a spider monkey cage, for example). Each volunteer is put into one of five teams and then each team has set tasks for the day on a morning and afternoon rota. The rota is repeated every 5 days so everyone has a chance to be involved with different animals and different aspects of the work.

Food preparation at a wildlife rescue centre
Food preparation for the animals – one of the rota tasks

A typical day may go something like this…

AM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh food and water for: the goats, the sloths beside the goat enclosure (aka The Goat Sloths), the owls, peacock, curassow and parrots.
  • Collect grass for the goats.
  • Tidy the garden.

The morning shift would usually last until 11am.

A scarlet macaw in Costa Rica
A cheeky scarlet macaw – the parrots were always entertaining the volunteers!

12 noon – Lunch in the common area.

Free time.

1.30pm – Meeting in the common area.

PM

  • Clean enclosures and supply fresh water for the porcupine, hedgehog, squirrels, opossum and teen sloths.
  • Feed the squirrels.
  • Give the porcupine, hedgehog and opossum their snacks at 4pm.
  • Give the teen sloths their branches at 5pm.
  • Feed the porcupine, hedgehog, opossum and teen sloths at 7pm.
Squirrel at a rescue centre in Costa Rica
One of these inquisitive squirrels decided to climb on me and run round my legs!

The afternoon shift would usually last until 4pm. Of course, every day was different as if your team were responsible for some of the nocturnal animals that day, you had a few jobs to do after 4pm, but who’s complaining when you have a kinkajou climbing on your head at the 7pm feed! You aren’t supposed to touch the animals but an excitable kinkajou did decide my head looked like a fun place to climb!

Vet feeding a pair of kinkajou. These animals are nocturnal but required veterinary attention during the day, giving us a rare glimpse of them during daylight hours.
Normally nocturnal, the kinkajou woke up to receive their electrolytes from the vet

6pm – Dinner.

Free time.

10pm – Lights out.

There was a swimming pool and some hammocks for chilling during down time. The living conditions were basic and I didn’t mind the cold showers and sharing a dorm, however the sleeping wasn’t easy due to the various, and quite loud, noises of the local wildlife and vehicles on the nearby road. My body also ached for somewhere comfortable to sit – yeah yeah I’m an old granny alright!

The people at the rescue centre, both staff and volunteers, were really friendly and the work felt very rewarding. As someone who volunteers at a cat rescue centre close to home, it was a great learning experience to be so close to the native animals of a different country, and I could tell that the other volunteers felt the same.

Volunteering in Costa Rica - caring for howler monkeys among other animals.
Chew with your mouth closed! – Me in with the Howler Monkeys

I would like to thank Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center for being the wildlife warriors that they are and for allowing me to play a small part in their story.

And I would urge anyone who wants to make a difference, no matter how small, to get out there and do it!

Pura Vida!


If you would like to help the CRARC you can donate money, supplies or your time by following this link. And for more information, including the best time to visit Costa Rica there are some great resources online!

Famous for its wildlife, Costa Rica is a great place to spending some time volunteering with animals. This is my personal account of when I spent time at the Costa Rica Animal Rescue Center. Pin for later!

Kangaroo Dundee – An Australian Hero

Today’s post was partly inspired by the new series of Kangaroo Dundee which aired on BBC2 this evening, but also the WordPress weekly photo challenge with the theme: admiration.

When I visited Australia last October, the Northern Territory was at the top of my visit list for 2 main reasons – Uluru and The Kangaroo Sanctuary.

Having seen all of the episodes of Kangaroo Dundee back home in the UK, I knew that I couldn’t be in Alice Springs and not visit the sanctuary which is run by Kangaroo Dundee aka Chris ‘Brolga’ Barnes. Incase you were wondering, Brolga got his nickname – the aboriginal word for ‘crane’ – because he is 6ft 7 tall!

Brolga, who refers to himself as a ‘kangaroo mum’, rescues orphaned and injured kangaroos and cares for them at his sanctuary in the Australian outback. His passion for rescuing wildlife began while he was working as a tour guide and discovered a kangaroo lying in the road. When he went to check it, he found that although the kangaroo was sadly dead, she did infact have a tiny joey in her pouch that was still alive. Brolga saved this little kangaroo and the rest, as they say, is history.

Having rescued over 200 kangaroos, Brolga has also begun to start caring for other creatures great and small – from emus, wallabies and wombats – to camels! He is also a really lovely guy who I was fortunate enough to meet when I visited the sanctuary, which was my absolute favourite place I visited in Australia. I could gush and fangirl on about it forever but I think I will save that for another post!

But for now, from one animal lover to another, I take my hat off to you Brolga – a true Aussie hero!

Kangaroo Dundee - an Australian Hero. I was lucky enough to visit his sanctuary in the Aussie outback. It was my favourite thing!

Cats around the world

Today is Good Deeds Day and as you know, my good deed for 2016 is my volunteer work at my local cat rescue centre. It’s only cleaning pens, monitoring and socialising the cats for a couple of hours a week but I like to think it makes a small difference to the cats’ well being and also helps the awesome, hardworking staff out a bit too.

So as a bit of a tenuous link I thought I would post some photos of cats around the world that I have met…

Tabby cat asleep on a green chair in Lanzarote, Spain

This kitty cat was sleeping on the bizarre green chair outside the shop at the Monumento al Campesino (farmers monument) on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. I was drawn to him/her because this sweetie looks alot like the cat I had growing up.

3 little kitties outside the Bahia Palace in Marrakech, Morocco

This adorable trio were among several other cats hanging around outside the Bahia Palace in Marrakech, Morocco. I just wanted to bundle them all up and take them home with me because I felt sorry for them, I just hope someone at the palace is looking after them!

Grey and white cat in Morocco

Special mention to this cat who I met en route to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The guides wanted us tourists to stop and buy pottery and trinkets from the shop but I was more interested in making friends with this cutie.

Cat hiding in a box at a Cat Cafe in Tokyo, Japan

This pretty kitty was one of the pampered felines at the Cat Cafe I visited in Tokyo, Japan. There were lots of lovely cats there but I chose to feature this one here as it was the only cat who sat on my lap and took treats from me, the rest were too busy snoozing!

Cat poking its tongue out while sleeping at a Cat Cafe in Tokyo

Although shout out to this cheeky kitty, who although slept the entire time we were at the Cat Cafe, looked so adorable poking its tongue out!

Pickles the Hobbiton cat lives at The Green Dragon Inn at The Hobbiton movie set in New Zealand

This beauty is Pickles the Hobbiton cat. After a rough start in life, Pickles soon found a wonderful new home – at The Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata, New Zealand. We went to get a drink in The Green Dragon Inn after our tour of the set and found Pickles curled up on a chair infront of the fireplace. It was a hot day so I really didn’t need to sit infront of a blazing fire, but the lure of petting a snoozing kitty was just too much to resist!

Cat sitting on a giant chess board in Alice Springs, Australia

This sweet creature was one of the resident cats at the hostel we stayed at in Alice Springs, Australia. I think the owner said her name is Tink and she’s an impressive 21 years old! We didn’t see much of the other (much younger cat) at the hostel as she was out exploring but Tink could often be found chilling out in the kitchen or garden.

Black cat sitting on decking in Fiji

This fur baby was probably my favourite. Her name is Friday and she lives on Robinson Crusoe Island in Fiji. We found her chilling on the decking outside our bure one morning and she kept on coming back for a fuss. We more or less made her our island cat and she even came to say goodbye to us when we left.

This purrfect post is dedicated to all the Crazy Cat Ladies and Gentlemen out there x

National Black Cat Day

I learnt something new today. October 30th is National Black Cat Day.

Now there seems to be a National Day Of Something-Or-Other every day – everything from awareness days for serious causes to random stuff like Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19 if yar be interested, arr!) and I don’t normally pay too much attention to these sorts of things BUT I adopted a black cat this year so now National Black Cat Day is something that speaks to me.

Why do black cats get their own special day?

Because they are the least adopted colour of cat, generally because of superstition because people believe them to be unlucky, but also because in this vanity and selfie-obsessed society, they are deemed to be “less photogenic”. Black cats are the last ones to be adopted because people favour other coloured cats and according to Cats Protection, black cats make up almost a quarter of all cats in Cats Protection care.

It does puzzle me that this national day is the day before Halloween, when I’m pretty sure that some animal shelters halt black cat adoptions during October to prevent people just adopting them for ‘Halloween props’, I’m guessing that’s why there is also a Black Cat Appreciation Day in August too!?

Let me tell you a few things about black cats-

1. They are NOT unlucky
2. They are NOT Halloween props
3. Ok so they might be a little more tricky to photograph but they are stunning creatures all the same

We adopted our 2 year old cat Rodney from our local Cats Protection centre and he is a proper little character. He is a very chatty cat, enjoys his food, enjoys our food (he stole a jacket potato skin from my plate the other day!), he looks smart in red and his favourite tv show is You’ve Been Framed!

How can you not love that face?!

If you have space in your house and your heart, why not consider adopting a black cat? Or alternatively, donate to the Cats Protection.

cats-protection-lucky-black-cat