Along the Great Ocean Road in Australia

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

The trip to see the Twelve Apostles and the Great Ocean Road, near Melbourne, Australia started at Federation Square (across from St. Paul’s Cathedral) where I got to see the possible tour options at the tourism office located there.

Melbourne, Flinders, train station, Australia, photo, travel

Flinders Train Station, across from Federation Square

I returned there to take the bus on the day of the tour and a long but rewarding day began.  Along the way we stopped to see some of the flora and the wildlife (koalas, kangaroos and birds).  It was amazing to see koalas and kangaroos just freely roaming around, not in a zoo or animal park.

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Close-up of a fern in the park where we stopped to see the koalas

Kangaroo, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Kangaroos roaming (or hopping) free along the Great Ocean Road

bird, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Colorful bird!

koala, Australia, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, tour,

Koala doing what they do best: sleep. Tons of sleep.

The Twelve Apostles (who knows if there are really 12 at any given point, one of the more famous ones had collapsed not long before my visit) are fascinating as they “show” the process of water and wind shaping our landscapes.

Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Australia, Great Ocean Road, park

A nice park has been set up to help see the Twelve Apostles

As the water washes away softer terrain, these “islands” of stone become separated from the mainland.  Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

You can tell where new ones will appear:  any of those fingers or peninsulas are apostles-in-the-making.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

At some point, the underside of a finger begins to hollow until an arch forms.  The arch eventually collapses separating part of the former peninsula from the mainland (see next photo).  In turn, an arch may form on the newly-formed “island” and, when the arch collapses, it will just leave just a column which over time will also collapse leaving nothing behind.  The cycle of life!

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Here is a finger where a part collapsed creating an “island” arch

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

By now, this “island” has become quite isolated and is developing an arch that will further weaken it

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Columns in the water: former arches, former fingers, former mainland!

Now, the park has very easy trails to walk and get good vantage points, and the tour goes to other interesting spots such as Loch and Gorge.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Loch and Gorge

But what really captivated me was the brief helicopter ride to see the apostles from above.  I had never ridden a helicopter before so there was a double thrill aspect to the experience for me.

Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Australia, sea, photos, Twelve Apostles

Viewing them from high was a real treat

Finally, if you decide to drive the Great Ocean Road and you are not from Australia or the U.K. (or some other places like them), please mind what this sign says as you explore this beautiful road!road sign, great ocean road, australia, driving, photo

Photo Essay – Hungry Hippos

hippopotamus, hippos, safari, wildlife, Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa, birds, photos, Canon EOS Rebel

While visiting the Serengeti in Tanzania on safari, we ran into a few pools of hippos.  They are one of the many incredible sights in the Serengeti along with things like a lioness kill or a beautiful sunset.  Hippos look cute but these animals can be quite dangerous.  Our drivers and guides clearly knew where to take us to be able to look at them yet be safe.  I have to say they were quite a sight even if the baby one went to town eating stuff that came out of another hippo…  Also, it was cool to see how birds co-exist with the hippos.

I thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures of these incredible beasts!

A Wild Time in the Serengeti – Safari!

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, sunset

The Serengeti is the epitome of the national park offering what we call a safari experience (“safari” actually means “journey” in Swahili).  Its vast expanse and, of course, the natural beauty and wildlife offer a very unique experience to us who don’t love in remote areas of Africa.  I had done a one day in-and-out visit to this incredible site a few years ago.  Work activities only permitted that one day.  I KNEW I had to go back someday….

That opportunity came on the trip I made to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.  After 7 days of working the mountain and a few days of working with a local orphanage with Trekking for Kids, 13 of us from the climbing group devoted 4 days to Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro, and the Serengeti.  Oh, and a visit to a Masai village!

These parks are very different from each other, even if some of the wildlife is the same.  If you do this circuit, start with Lake Manyara.  Leave Ngorongoro and the Serengeti for after it.  We used Zara Tours who had also been the operator Trekking fro Kids had chosen for the Kili hike.

Here is an overview of our visit and some pictures.  Clearly  I have too many pictures and many are very good so to not overload you here, I will continue posting those over time in different posts be it photos of the week or photo essays.  Keep checking in!

Where we stayed

Due to the route we were taking, we stated at two different places:  the Highview Hotel Karatu on our first and fourth night, and the Ikoma Tented Camp the middle two nights.  Two very different experiences and worthwhile in their own way.  The best part:  both offered good views of neighboring areas – and both sold wine and beer, something we were ready to partake in since we were eager to celebrate our climb of Kili.

The Highview Hotel, offered more standard hotel rooms which was nice from a normalcy standpoint.  Of course, being in Africa, A/C is not a common amenity and this hotel was no exception but the building does sit high on a mountainside so there was a little more chance for a breeze.  You could sit in the hallway which was one large, open porch and view the land around the hotel.  Or you could go downhill to the hotel main building and sit there, sipping a glass of wine (likely South African) and watching the sky’s colors change.  When our last day of safari ended, we loved getting back to the hotel to jump in the pool which, oddly, was very cold!

hotel, tanzania, highview, karatu, serengeti, ngorongoro, vista, view, safari, zara tours

Headed up to the rooms at Highview Hotel Karatu

The Ikoma Tented Camp was a great place to stay right outside the northern boundary of the Serengeti   The advantage of staying here is the proximity to the park (less time driving).  The camp’s tents are not small thing:  our tent had two full-sized beds with plenty of room around us to spare.  Each tent also had its own bathroom which though not luxurious were the size of a normal bathroom

hotel, tanzania, highview, karatu, serengeti, ngorongoro, vista, view, safari, zara tours, ikoma, camp, tents

Our tent. Zippered windows and doorway to help keep critters out

The restaurant was perched on top of a small hill, offering EXCELLENT sunrise and sunset views over the plains of the Serengeti.  See for yourselves!

Ikoma, tent, camp, Serengeti, safari, sunrise, vista, view, Olympus, photo, tanzania

Sunrise view over the Serengeti from the restaurant

Ikoma, tented camp, Serengeti, sunset, safari, sunrise, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, Tanzania

Sunset view

You can stay in lodges inside the Serengeti too (if you want to dish out a lot more money) and that may be convenient but I have nothing but good things to say about where we stayed!

Wildlife watching

Of course, the reason you came here was, first and foremost, animals!  So let me share a little on that…  First, let’s debunk that you have to be up at the crack of dawn.  Yes, less people out and about and yes, the animals don’t like the heat of the early afternoon.  However, we managed to see lion kills and all the animals we wanted to see without an absurd wake-up time.  Now, if you want to maximize how many hours of daylight you spend out there, then yes, wake up really early.  While having a lot of vehicles can be a nuisance at peak times, it also helps your driver pinpoint where there may be something interesting as there are more driver-eyes looking out for things!

We saw everything… Here are some of my favorite shots.

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, zebra, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Double the pleasure; butt shot

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo,, Olympus, camera

So majestic whenever we saw them

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, wildebeest, gnu, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

A former wildebeest (aka gnu) left up in a tree by a cheetah

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, hippo, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Hungry hippos nesting on each other. More on this scene in a future post as an “event” happened…

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls,lions, acacia, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Lions resting before or after a kill. One of my favorite pix

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo, Olymmpus

There is other entertaining stuff going on besides the wildlife!

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, elephant, school, outdoors, nature, photo, Canon EOS Rebel, acacia

One of my favorite scenes: a school of elephants grabbing a shady spot!

But that’s not all…

OK, the lion kill I saw will go in another post as this one has become quite long.  But I will leave you with two beautiful parting shots as we left the Serengeti one day… Breathtaking.

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, giraffe, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, sunset

Look at that sky!

Safari, Serengeti, Tanzania, wildlife, animls, elephant, outdoors, nature, photo, Olympus, sunset

Now THIS is what I call an “elephant sunset”!

Along the Great Ocean Road and within Melbourne

Distances in Australia are enormous and, perhaps, they feel more so because there are a lot of vast empty lands in the middle (as opposed to us in the US where we have Kansas in the middle!).  Yet my trip to Melbourne from Sydney felt short indeed as it does not require traversing the country.  I wanted to get a good feel for Melbourne and no better way than visiting people who actually live there.

My friends in Melbourne lived in a penthouse pretty much in the central business district of town, enjoying a view of the Yarra river and the Crown casino.  I think my friend Matt chose this apartment for a reason…

Melbourne, Australia, CBD, Crown casino, Yarra river, travel, photography

The view from the pad!

The next morning after my arrival I made my first stop the information center in Federation Square, a relatively new and modern square next to the Flinders train station by the river.  There I found way more information than I needed but that would have been very helpful had I decided to spend 2 months in Victoria, the state where Melbourne is… I wish I had had all that time!

Melbourne, Flinders, train station, Australia, photo, travel

Flinders Train Station

The information office was very well organized and the folks there were extremely helpful.  My first objective was to see the Great Ocean Road that heads out west from outside Melbourne by the ocean so I scheduled it for the following day.

The Great Ocean Road and my first helicopter ride to see the 12 Apostles

The tour on the Great Ocean Road ends at the Twelve Apostles which are remnants from the mainland that water has eroded over time so they look like massive columns of rock coming out of the water, no longer connected to land.  The number 12 is just used ’cause it sounds cool but now there are <>12 (I don’t even remember how many they said).  In fact, 2 days before I went, one collapsed so I missed ever seeing it – well, I saw it in a pile of rocks.  Hence, it is safer to say <> 12 since the number could change any day!

Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road, Australia, photo, travel, Canon EOS Rebel

The Twelve Apostles (well, some of them)

I decided that a neat way to see the apostles was to get in a helicopter for a 15 minutes and fly around.  I had NEVER been in a helicopter so the exhilaration went beyond seeing the Twelve Apostles.  I soon found out how hard it was to admire the view and take pictures at the same time while trying to look around fellow passengers and also not blocking their own view!

Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles, Melbourne, Australia, helicopter, travel, photo

An apostle as seen from the helicopter! Great vantage point!

Wildlife along the Great Ocean Road

An unexpected surprise in the drive along the Great Ocean Road was seeing kangaroos, koalas and birds.

Koala, Australia, Great Ocean Road, wildlife, Canon EOS Rebel

Koala in the wild – asleep!

Australia, wildlife, bird, colorful, Great Ocean Road, Canon EOS Rebel, photo, travel

One colorful Australian bird along the Great Ocean Road

Using the free city bus is a great idea

After booking the Great Ocean Road tour, I took advantage of the free bus the city has for tourists to hop on and hop off at the various important sights in the city. Taking a bus is a great way to orient oneself in a new city, to see some places that one may have decided “check, don’t need to come here”, and to actually get off and visit places that seem interesting or make a note to come back another time.  With this, I discovered the Victoria Market which sold just about everything but, unfortunately, as closing right as I got there.  I did manage to get a couple of souvenirs and fruits and made my way back to the city center proper.

I did not get to visit the art gallery in Federation Square which I was hoping to see but got to see the Immigration Museum where I gained a good understanding of the Australian immigrants’ story.  What a long-ass and possibly horrible journey to make it to Oz through the roaring 40s!!

Some food was enjoyed too

Other things I did was enjoy chocolate at the chocolate stores in the Arcades (the city center has this beautiful arcades from early last century with shops and that’s where this chocolate shops are).  I also, based on my friends’ recommendations, enjoyed great soup from a little chain store called Blue Bag – the red lentil soup was excellent.

Witnessing a sports match – with all that it entails…

On my final night in Melbourne (and Australia), I got to go to a football/soccer match at the MCG between Australia and Japan.  It was great to be able to watch such a match with the local crowd though that required being careful on leaving as we had to walk through a minefield of a kind…  Let’s just say, there seems to have been over-drinking during the match 🙂  I got to try one of the famous meat pies during the match which was good but by the time we were done with the match, I was hungry again – should have had 2!   That’s when I tried vegemite – on the salty side but the butter made it better.

I can help but compare…

Anyway, I have struggled in my mind to compare the cities of Sydney and Melbourne but can’t find a way to properly explain how they felt.  Sydney has the harbor right there which was more in your face than Melbourne‘s proximity to the ocean.  Sydney felt fast-paced, Melbourne more laidback.  I enjoyed them both and feel like I need to go back to keep studying what makes them different – how conveneeeeenient!  🙂

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