In the Herald - Down under is just another world

Date Published 
Wed 10 Mar 2021

I had always wanted to visit Australia, but let’s face it, it’s not exactly on our doorstep!  However, following retirement I finally have plenty of time to go!   It is a massive country and you certainly don’t want to go for a week’s holiday, three or four weeks is much more realistic.  

One of the areas we visited was Queensland in the North East of the country.   Of all the countries I have travelled to, Australia (and New Zealand) have probably been my favourite places to visit.

They are both familiar and yet very, very different.  They drive on the same side of the road and they speak the same language…. sort of!  Plenty of similar food to be had but also plenty of opportunity to be a little more adventurous.  The people are really friendly and very keen to chat especially when they hear the Scottish accent.  While Australia is familiar in lots of ways, it certainly isn’t like being at home.  For instance, nowhere in the UK would you get stuck in a toilet because a kangaroo had decided that the canopy across the doorway was a lovely cool place to lie and refused to move!

Australia is very much geared up towards the outdoor lifestyle.  National parks abound.  The Great Barrier Reef in an obvious example but there is also Atherton Tablelands including the Waterfall circuit (remember that shampoo ad?), Daintree National Park, Mossman Gorge and lots more.

We stayed in Cairns.  Termed a city, but really just a big town. There is a lovely man-made free-swimming lagoon on the promenade because it isn’t safe to swim at the beach because of crocodiles.  Wildlife in Australia is incredible.  Kangaroos, koalas, possums, bats, birds that you have only ever seen in an aviary, right in front of your eyes.   Some of that you have a much better chance of seeing with a local guide.  We went on a Spotlight tour.  We were collected in the afternoon and driven up into the Tablelands.  The guide just stopped, said “come have a look in this tree” and there were dozens of red fruit bats dangling from the branches!   Further along we stopped at a small park for a walk and saw numerous different birds, a Boyd’s forest dragon, a musky rat kangaroo, a tiger skink and amazing cathedral fig tree all on a ten-minute walk.   Next, the small town where we were getting a meal, and in the pond nearby were duckbill platypus.  The part of the tour that I had not fully understood was the spotlighting.  We stopped on a deserted pitch black road and equipped with small torches we went along listening for wildlife then spotlighting them.   We saw, Lumholtz tree kangaroos, common brushtail, coppery brushtail and green ring-tailed possums… a couple with their joeys.  We would never have been able to spot these without a guide.

We went a boat trip to the Barrier Reef and also a river trip at the Daintree and another in a paddle steamer at Port Douglas.  It isn’t all outdoors… how about a night at the races - cane toad racing or, an Aboriginal dinner show?  Obviously with all the wildlife and amazing scenery there are loads of photography opportunities. Being a member of a camera club with all the constructive criticism and advise helps to think about the photos you are taking and hopefully have something you can look back at and enjoy.

Irvine Camera Club continues to meet virtually on Zoom but as we begin to see the light at the end of the lockdown tunnel we look forward to a spring and summer of club outings.  You can find out all about the club at