Australia: The Land Down Under

There is so much to see and do in Australia, it is hard to determine what to do first. TSCPL has books that feature different itineraries that can help aid decide what you might like to see. Highlighted here are three different places that will be an experience you won’t want to miss!

The Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is the only living thing on Earth that is visible from the moon. The Reef stretches across 135,993 square miles. There are over 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 species of mollusks, and many endangered species such as marine turtles, sharks, and breeding whales. The Great Barrier Reef is a great place for both novice and experienced divers. The beautiful Reef shows off its rich colors when there is a lot of light, so you want to be near the surface to receive the Reef’s full beauty. If you find a Reef cruise that offers a guided snorkel tour – take it. These tours are for both novice and experienced snorkelers, and led by marine biologists who can tell you what creatures you are seeing.

  • Heron Island is a great place to stay and experience the Reef. The island is 41 acres and it is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. This island is not for day trips, and only accommodates 250 people maximum. The water is clearest in June and July and usually cloudier during the rainy season of January and February. There are also combination packages available for both Heron Island and Wilson Island, where you can experience turtles during their breeding period in January and February. 
  • Heron Island Marie Centre and Dive Shop provides snorkeling lessons and refresher courses for divers for free. There are also snorkeling boat tips, and a resort diving course with a guided dive. Marine Centre and Dive Shop will help travelers wanting to experience the Reef at its best.
  • Fodor‘s recommends great itineraries for one day, three day, and 7 days or longer itineraries to get the most out of your Great Barrier Reef experience that features Lady Elliot Island, Green Island, Heron Island, and Lizard Island.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is starting to decline due to the human factors and climate change. The best way to reduce your impact on the Great Barrier Reef is to “look – don’t touch”.

Festival of Pearls

In early August, they city of Broome holds the Shinju Matsuri, or Festival of Pearls, which is a 10 day event in which celebrates the history of pearling. Many of the pearlers were from Japan, Malay, and the Philippians, so the festival embraces their cultures along with the history of pearling. If you cannot make it to the Festival of Pearls, there are museums and pearl farms that you can visit to experience the history of pearling. Since this festival is very popular, it is  highly recommended that you book your accommodations in advance.

  • Willie Creek Pearl Farm is great to understand the process of an oyster getting “seeded” to form a pearl. There is a tour that you can drive along and you will even receive your morning or afternoon tea.
  • There is also a Pearl Luggers exhibition in Broome that is a one hour long tour through a museum, which will allow tourists to understand the difficulty and skill that is required for pearl harvesting as well as the equipment required for harvesting. The tour ends with a tasting of pearl shell meat. If you want to learn more about pearling, you should visit this exhibit.

Purnululu National Park

In Purnululu National Park there are striped sandstone domes that range from 656 to 984 feet tall. These domes are called the Bungle Bungles. The landscape that features the Bungle Bungles in the national park have gorges and pools that are surrounded by grasslands. The sandstones have a tiger-like appearance: orange silica interspersed with thin layers of black lichens. The Bungle Bungles have been around for 350 million years, and were discovered by a non-Aboriginal Australian in 1983.

  • The most spectacular part about these Bungle Bungles is that visitors are only able to visit these sandstones by foot or helicopter. The walking trails are dangerous because they follow along rocky creek beds, and climbing is prohibited. Roads are closed leading to the Bungles October through March, so during those months you would be unable to view the Bungle Bungles on foot. Slingair Heliwork and Alligator Airways are great to help you get access to the air. APT Kimberley Wilderness Adventures and East Kimberley Tours are great for viewing them on the ground.
  • Camping is available in some areas of the park as well, but they only have fresh drinking water. Be aware that access to Purnululu National Park is by air or 4 wheel drive vehicle and help you with your supplies.
  • Purnululu National Park is a remote 750,000 acre area, so be sure you contact the park before visiting to make sure they are available for you to visit.

Visit TSCPL’s catalog to find some great material to guide you as you explore Australia!

National Geographic Traveler: Australia

Fodor’s Australia 2009

Frommers Australia 2011