Our flight back to Melbourne was not until 6pm, allowing us to have almost a full day to explore the surrounding areas of Hobart; I was keen to get to Mt. Field National Park, while Jay was equally keen to see some Tasmanian Devils. Our initial idea was to rent a car and drive to Mt. Field and the Valley of the Giants and then head to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and up Mount Wellington on the way back.
However, it proved to be much more cost effective to book onto a day tour at the Tourist information centre in Hobart. I’ve never been a huge fan of arranged tours; I much prefer to look at the proposed itinerary of a tour and then do it myself at my own pace; However this tour (tourstogo) was fantastic and well worth the $85.
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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
We were picked up early at our hostel- The Brunswick – which I haven’t yet mentioned; It was an absolute shack of a place- complete shite, but was also the only/ cheapest option for accommodation at a last minute in Hobart- the place we really wanted to stay and were we hung out most of the time was a popular place called the Pickled Frog Hostel.
We joined the 6 other people in the van and made our way to a small farmers town outside Hobart were we hopped out to get some breakfast and lunch. I forget the tour guides name, but he talked to us in depth about the history of Hobart and the farmers markets- all of which I have now forgotten.
We arrived at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary just before public opening hours, so had the park to ourselves for about a half hour- not that it is a hugely busy place anyway. On our way in we were given a bag of seeds and then were met by a ranger who guided us around each of the paddocks, showing us the wombats, koalas and parrots. The wombats were boisterous and energetic, whereas the koalas stank and did little, all the time one of the parrots kept saying hello and another whistled to the tune of ‘moves like jagger’ which was pretty impressive!
We were then shown to the Tasmanian Devils and watched them feeding on dead chicks; Now, my image of a Tasmanian devil has always been a ferocious little predator; A quick, stealthy hunter- almost fox like but, more malicious like a boxer dog; The truth is that it is one of the most useless animals on the planet and as a result is expected to be extinct within the next 10 years; Reasons for this- It doesn’t hunt: instead it is a scavenger relying on roadkill etc. to feed- even the small, dead chicks proved to be a handful for them; It is prey to just about every other animal and thing in the ecosystem- dogs, birds, foxes and most commonly, cars; Finally they almost all have some sort of cancerous tumor which is rapidly wiping them out. They do however at least have a pretty menacing scream- which is how they got their name by the European settlers- I can only imagine the faces of the settlers when they realised the source of the terrifying screams was a small, timid, scruffy, hedgehog mess- even the wombats were more menacing and feisty than them!
Moving on, our final stop on our guided tour was to the Kangaroo feeding zone, hence the bag of seeds. There were about 15 small kangaroos stretched out in the sun; Another 15-20 hopped over from the other side of the park and joined in once they realised we had food. Hand-feeding the kangaroos was definitely the highlight of the sanctuary and something we could tick off from our Australian bucket-list. We spent a good half hour up close and personal with the kangaroos who were not at all camera-shy and perfectly comfortable around us and pawing us for more food. A great experience and more than made up for the uselessness and disappointment of the Devils.
Land of the Giants: Mt. Field National Park
Back in the van, we headed to further north to Mt. Field National Park- another hour from Bonorong. We were dropped off at the start of the hike through ‘the land of the giants’ an easy 40 minute downhill walk amongst the largest hardwood trees in the world. The largest of these were the Eucalyptus Swamp Gum trees and were pretty impressive- although obviously not quite as substantial as the Redwoods across California (softwoods).
The forest was everything that I had imagined and seen in books- huge overgrowing ferns, bundles of moss and draping canopies that fragmented the light into rays.
Walking through the forest we followed the river, bumping into several hopping wallabies, before reaching the first set of waterfalls; Horseshoe falls. The river then opened up into an even more impressive set of tiered falls and one of the main attractions of the walk; Russell Falls. We spent about 15 minutes down by the falls before eventually making our way out of the forest where we had lunch in an opening. As we ate, the tour-guide retailed the interesting history of settlers and the convicts who were sent to Tasmania.
After our lunch we departed the National Park and drove back through the rolling Derwent valley countryside- home of many wineries and fruit farms. We passed a cherry farm and asked the guide if he could pull in so we could have a look- he obliged and were offered up a big of ripe cherries to share between the van- a pretty sweet way to end the tour…Couldn’t resist!
We were dropped back at Hobart by 3pm and while the rest of the group, on the full day tour, headed up Mt. Wellington we had a plane to catch back to Melbourne.
Our visit to Tasmania was very spontaneous- nothing had been planned or ever considered when heading down to Australia, but we were really happy we were given the opportunity to visit the small island; We crammed a lot in 5 days, but it was well worth it and we’ve seen a hell of a lot and understand the natural charm and attraction of the place- its has been a great addition to the Australia leg of our trip and definitely one of the highlights thus far!