ecoDestinations - Australia

ecoDestinations - Australia

 

Welcome!

The Aboriginals first arrived on the Australian continent about 50,000 years ago from Southeast Asia. The first Europeans came exploring during the 17th century, but it wasn’t until 1770, that Captain James Cook took “possession” of the east coast in the name of Great Britain. A policy of convict colonies was established to rehabilitate criminals and to develop the Australian colony. By 1901, the colonies became the Commonwealth of Australia. In recent decades, Australia has become an internationally competitive and advanced market economy. As the driest inhabited place on earth, it is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

 

Biodiversity

Australia’s biodiversity has developed in isolation over millions of years, creating 10% of the world’s biodiversity. In addition, 85% of Australia’s plant species are endemic, making Australia one of the world’s megadiverse countries.

 

Australia is home to some of the most dangerous creatures in the world. It has more deadly snakes than any other country in the world, including taipans, tiger snakes, and brown snakes. Some beaches in Queensland are off-limits due to box jellyfish, polkadot stingrays, blue-ringed octopuses, and dozens of species of species of sharks. Then there are venomous spiders, such Huntsmens and redbacks. There are also saltwater crocodiles, known in Australia as salties, which can grow to 6m (20 ft) long. Not to worry though, you’re more liking to be stung by a bee, then be attacked by any of these creatures.

 

Australia is also home to many iconic mammals, such as the Koala. It should be noted that Koalas are not bears, but rather marsupials, a mammal that carries its young in a pouch. You can find them in eastern Australia, where they doze in forks and nooks of eucalyptus trees, sleeping for up to 18 hours a day. Koalas require a lot of space, about 100 trees per animal, which is a problem as Australia’s woodlands continue to shrink due to human encroachment.

 

Another of Australia’s iconic animals include the Kangaroo, the largest living marsupial. Found in continental Australia and Tasmania, they live in varied habitats from woodlands to grassy plains and savannahs. They live and travel in “mobs”, or organized groups, which are dominated by the largest male. Besides humans and dingos, a type of wild dog, kangaroos face few natural predators.

 

Then there are echidnas, which resemble a porcupine or a hedgehog. They are 30 cm to 45 cm in length and weigh between 2 kg and 5kg (4 lbs and 11 lbs). The body, except the underside, face and legs, is covered with cream-colored spines, which can reach 50 mm in length. They move very slowly at a rolling gait. They are solitary creatures except during mating time, when several males may follow a female.

 

Another well-known creature is wombats, a large pudgy marsupial. They use their claws to dig burrows in open grasslands and ecualptus forests. At night they emerge to feed on grasses, roots, and bark. Burrowing can cause field and pasture damage, so for this reason, they are often hunted by ranchers and farmers, who considered them a pest. Some species, such as the northern hairy-nosed wombats are critically endangered.

 

Indigenous Peoples

There are about 500 different groups of Aboriginal peoples in Australia, all with their own language and territory. It is believed that the Aboriginals first came to the Australian continent about 50,000 years ago. They were a hunter-gatherer society, although there is evidence of light irrigation for gardens and artificial dykes for fishing. It is estimated that there were once a million Aboriginals.

 

Now the Aboriginal population numbers at 60,000. Many were either killed by disease brought by the Europeans or were massacred. During the 20th century, Australia had a policy of removing children from their homes and giving to white families or placing them in missionary schools, in order to eradicate Aboriginal culture and language.

 

In 1976, the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act for the Northern Territory returned Arnhem Land, an area of 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) to its traditional owners. Similar legisltration has repatriated tracts of land to the Aboriginals, though few as pristine as Arnhem Land. Today more than half of all Aboriginals live in cities or towns, often on the outskirts and in terrible conditions. Many suffer from alcoholism and other diseases. Others, particularly in the Northern Territory, have managed to keep their traditions, and often eat healthier, live longer, and are exposed to a fraction of the violence.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Australian Convict Sites: Spread across Australia, from Fremantle in Western Australia to Tasmania in the south and Sydney on the East Coast, these eleven penal sites incarcerated around 166,000 men, women, and children who had been condemned by the British to the convict colonies. These convicts were transported far from their homes, deprived of freedom, and subjected to forced labor. The Australian convict system evolved through a combination of how to serve colonial development, the abolition of slavery, and how to rehabilitate criminals. Many were convicted for relatively minor crimes, such as expressing certain opinions or having membership in a banned political group.

 

Blue Mountains: Comprised of eight different protected areas, the Blue Mountains are known for its sandstone plateaus, escarpments, gorges, canyons, waterfalls and eucalyptus forests. There are more than 140 km (460 ft) of hiking trails. Popular lookout spots are Sublime Point, where you can see 29 km (95 ft) on a clear day, and Echo Point.

 

Fraser Island: At 122 km (400 ft) long, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Fraser Island features tropical rainforests and freshwater dune lakes, and over 230 species of birds, which use it as a resting place during their long migrations between Australia and Siberia. There is also a large dingo population.

 

Great Barrier Reef: As the world’s most extensive coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef is a site of great beauty and importance. It is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusk. It is also the habitat of the dugong (sea cow) and green and loggerhead turtles, all of which are endangered. In addition, it is an important breeding area for humpback whales.

 

Ningaloo Coast: Located in a remote region along the East Indian Ocean, the Ningaloo Coast comprises of a 604,500 ha marine and terrestrial area that includes one of the longest fringing reefs in the world. Popular towns to stay at are Exmouth and Monkey Mia, where there are pearly-white beaches that are perfect for swimming, relaxing, and sea kayaking. The marine area stretches 300 km (984 ft) and is the home of more than 500 species of fish, whale sharks, turtles, dugongs, dolphins, and humpback whales. This site is a must-see for all divers, snorkelers, and nature-lovers.

 

Sydney Opera House: A masterpiece of architecture, the Sydney Opera House was inaugurated in 1973 and built by Danish architect Jorn Utzon. The building consists of three interlocking shell-like structures and is surrounded by a terrace along the beautiful Sydney Harbor.

 

National Parks

Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair: Subjected to severe glaciation over thousands of years, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park is characterized by its steep gorges, blind valleys, and icy streams cascading down rugged mountains into glacial lakes. It is the start point for the world famous Overland Track, a 6 day hike through a UNESCO World Heritage site. For many, the highlight is Cradle Mountain, a jagged, dolerite peak that dominates the view.

 

Kakadu National Park: The largest National Park in Australia, Kakadu is also one of the least impacted areas in northern Australia, and as such, has a huge diversity of flora. Its unique ecosystems include extensive areas of savanna woodlands, open forests, floodplains, mangroves, tidal mudflats, and monsoon forests. One-third of Australia’s bird species and one quarter of its fish species are found in Kakadu. It is also the most important breeding habitat in the world for saltwater crocodiles and pig-nosed turtle, both of which are endangered. In addition, Kakadu has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 50,000 years and is well-known for its Aboriginal cave paintings and archaeological sites.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta: Also known as Ayer’s Rock and Mount Olga, Uluru and Kata Tjuta are two immense geological formations amidst the vast red sandy plains of central Australia. Uluru has a circumference of 9.4 km (5.8 miles), smooth sloping sides with a number of caves and overhangs, and a relatively flat top. Kata Tjuta meanwhile, consists of 36 steep-sided rock domes. There are 22 native mammals found in the park, including dingo, red kangaroo, and the occasional short-nosed echidna. The traditional owners, the Anangu Aboriginal people, ask that you do not climb Uluru and instead walk around it, as it is a spiritual site for them.

 

Whitsundays: Lying in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays are 74 tropical islands. Most of the islands are deserted but eight offer a variety of accommodation including Hamilton Island and Daydream Island. Whiteheaven Beach, world famous for its white sands, stretches for 7 km and was named Queensland’s cleanest beach the world’s most eco-friendly beach.

 

Other Highlights

Cape Tribulation: Located within the Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics World Heritage Site, Cape Tribulation is a unique mixing of floras and faunas after the collision of the Australian and Asian continental plates 15 million years ago. Wet tropical forests, woodlands and mangroves characterized the cape. There are nine endemic species including ringtail possum and tree kangaroos. Compared to other destinations in Queensland, Cape Tribulation is off the beaten track.

 

Great Ocean Walk: One of the world’s great drives, the Great Ocean Road is awe-inspiring on foot too. The trail is a 96 km (60 miles) walk, passing through three three National Parks: Great Otway, Port Campbell and Twelve Apostles. It is the perfect way to explore deserted beaches, hidden waterfalls, old shipwrecks, and Aboriginal middens. Look for migrating whales between June and October.

 

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