Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 2nd and 3rd - Days 7 and 8

It's hard to believe that we've been in Australia for a full week now. We returned  from our overnight trip to Moreton island this evening and most of us will be spending the rest of the night getting sand out of our hair and clothes. 

Moreton Island was amazing and we had some really unique experiences, probably many 'firsts' for most of us. The island is about 37 km long and is basically a sand bar that formed over thousands of years when ocean currents deposited sand on a granite outcrop. Even though the soil is low in nutrients, the island is covered with dense vegetation in many parts, in fact it boasts the world's tallest vegetated  sand dune - 250 m. We saw many different habitats from beachy sand dunes to desert scrub, mangroves and even a freshwater lagoon. Some of the plants were striking and unusual like the foxtail fern (a bushy vibrant green fern), bangsia ( a tree that produces flowers that look like bottle-brushes) and tree ferns which have a long black flower that looks like a spear going right through their middle. The island is also home to many species of birds and we saw an Eastern curlew who visited us during dinner and pied oyster catchers searching for their next meal on the beach.

Our day started early with an 8 am ferry ride to the island which took about 90 minutes. As soon as we arrived, our guide Grant took us out in see-through kayaks to explore the reef. We then went snorkeling to get a closer look at the coral and sea life and it was amazing to see things that previously we had seen in the aquarium, but now just a few feet from us. 

After a delicious lunch we were off to the dunes for sand tobogganing. Basically you lie on your stomach and slide down a dune on a thin piece of plywood that is about about 30cm by 1 m. We all tried it at least once and some of us went back down the hill 4 times (the trudge up a steep incline was a deterrent to more attempts). Everyone seemed to enjoy it and it was something that none of us has done before. 

After another scrumptious meal it was time to go back out for one more outing - night kayaking in the see-through boats that were now lit up so we could see into the water. We went back to the same spot that we snorkelled at earlier and it was a really different look compared to the day time. We could see the different colours of coral that weren't visible in the day - pinks, greens and yellows. The highlights were seeing a turtle that a few students got to touch while it was swimming, several wobbegong sharks, a stingray (which some students saw) and lots of beautiful coral. 

By the time we returned to our accommodations for the night everyone was exhausted and ready to turn in. This morning started with some excitement as our bus wouldn't start but after a short delay we went on a drive around the north shore of the island. We saw some beautiful beaches, a lighthouse where we learned about much of the history and ecology of Moreton, stopped at a freshwater lagoon for a swim and lunch and then made our way back to wait for the ferry. 

Tomorrow we go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where the much anticipated holding of koalas and associated photos are to take place. More on that later. 

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