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Master: Josh Expedition Leader: Damon Ramsay Assistant Expedition Leader: Karla & Marie Guest Lecturer: Anne O’Dea & Steve Winderlich
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After navigating the long Covid 19 related Sailsafe Plan protocols, we were relieved and excited to board Coral Discoverer in Hobart. With passengers all aboard, the ship headed down the River Derwent leaving behind a view of Hobart’s Mt Wellington – known to the Palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal people) as Kunanyi – and the journey began.
Soon after we were called to the Bridge Deck lounge for a safety briefing with Purser Arron and to meet the crew. We enjoyed our first pre-dinner drinks and a sumptuous seafood buffet in the evening. Due to a cold front, we anchored in a sheltered bay overnight and enjoyed our first night onboard.
After our first hearty breakfast onboard, we headed back to the Bridge deck lounge as the Coral Discoverer headed towards Adventure Bay on Bruny Island. Our Expedition Leader Damon introduced his team, which included his Assistants Karla and Marie and Guest Lecturers Steve and Anne who would be responsible for expeditions and sharing information about the destinations en-route. He also filled us in on what to expect on the trip.
By mid-morning we were boarding the expedition boat Xplorer for the first time on a scenic cruise to view the spectacular dolerite columns of the Fluted Cape coastline. We found an Australian fur seal which had just hauled itself up onto the rocks. Soon after a smaller female laboured out of the water demonstrating amazing dexterity for such a chunky animal. The sea was a little choppy for our flat-bottomed boat on the way back, but she made her way diligently through the sea and brought us back to the ship in time for a delicious lunch.
In the afternoon the Xplorer took us to the Adventure Bay township from where we walked along the beach to the trail head of our trek for the day. Along the way we saw a large brown gull which we were told was a juvenile of the white and grey Pacific gull we had seen on the cruise.
Some expeditioners strolled via Grass Point Bay whaling station ruins, then walked the steep track with Anne and Karla to a viewpoint on Fluted Cape. A couple of us were lucky enough to spot a Pademelon and Bennetts wallaby above Grass Point. On the way up to the Cape we were able to look back along the isthmus that joins north and south Bruny island.
The rest of the group enjoyed a slower wildlife walk with Steve and were rewarded with a close encounter with a delightful small echidna probing the soft ground for termites and other invertebrates.
That evening we joined Captain Josh for a lovely evening of Welcome Drinks, which was followed by a scrumptious dinner.
Wildlife: Australian fur seal, Echidna, Tasmanian pademelon, Bennetts wallaby, Pacific gull, Black-faced cormorant, Kelp gull, Green rosella, Grey fantail, Dusky woodswallows, Tasmanian native hen
As we enjoyed breakfast the Coral Discoverer made her way down the D’entrecasteaux channel to the township of Woodbridge on mainland Tasmania. The Xplorer took us to a bus which travelled south to the Birchs Bay Art Farm. The working farm hosts an annual sculpture competition and exhibits an array of unusual sculptures purchased over the years. They also sell a selection of native plant products which we had an opportunity to taste including Native pepperberry fruit and leaves.
After lunch, walkers were back on the Xplorer for a hike in the National Park on the southern end of Bruny Island. The Luggaboine Circuit took us on an enjoyable meander through coastal heath with a variety of birds. It was a little windy on the western side of the peninsula, which a small flock of petrels battled as they flew overhead.
Returning to the beach, we found an Armada of Soldier crabs in the shallow cool water’s edge where we were glad to dip our feet.
The day was capped off by good company of our fellow travelers and new friends at Sunset drinks and dinner.
Wildlife: Green Rosella, Grey fantail, Petrels, Soldier crab
After breakfast, we ventured out to historic Darlington in pleasant sunny conditions. Maria Island’s rich history began with the Palawa people who frequently made use of the Island’s
resources. Darlington started out as a convict and probation station and phased through an industrial hub producing cement, growing grapes, and producing silk – all of which failed by the depression. The Island was farmed by various families before becoming a National Park and an Ark Island for Tasmanian wildlife by 1971. It is now home to a disease-free population
of Tasmanian devils introduced in 2005.
Darlington settlement’s most famous convict resident was William Smith O’Brien. He was convicted of sedition for his role in the Young Irelander Rebellion, an offence punishable by death. Instead, he was transported to Van Diemen’s Land where he was first incarcerated in a cottage at Maria Island. When he attempted to escape the Island, he was sent to Port Arthur where he was imprisoned in another cottage, both are preserved today in their 19th century state.
As we explored the old settlement, some of us were mystified by the sound of an animal under the old café verandah until a young Bare-nosed wombat popped out from the end of the verandah to graze happily nearby.
We had time for a quick cuppa before enjoying a presentation by Anne about Tasmania’s Biogeography. This gave us a basic explanation of how the geology, geography, biology and ecology combine to make Tasmania such a unique and special place.
As the tide ebbed in the afternoon, we approached the Painted Cliffs from two different angles – on foot and by Xplorer. This interesting geological feature of iron oxide-stained sandstone with Tafoni pockets is world-renowned by geologists. The expeditioners on the Xplorer were surprised when the crew spotted a flying fish crossing the bow.
The Island is a wildlife menagerie and we really enjoyed seeing wombats, pademelons, Cape Barren geese, Tasmanian Native hens and Hooded plovers. A highlight for the Painted Cliffs walkers were a little wombat lying in its burrow entrance and a bandicoot heavily laden with a pouch full of young. Then just to top off the day, a dolphin greeted us as the Xplorer returned to ship.
Wildlife: Bare-nosed wombat, Common dolphin, Tasmanian pademelon, Southern brown bandicoot, Cape Barren goose, Tasmanian native hen, Hooded plovers, Pied Oystercatcher,
Breakfast was called as we sailed by Freycinet National Park’s granite Hazard ranges, named after black American whaler Captain Hazard. The National Park is named after the French
navigator, Louis Claude de Saulces de Freycinet who joined a French expedition in 1800 to explore the west and south coasts of Terra Australis. The expedition, commanded by Nicolas
Baudin in the ships Naturaliste and Geographe, named many coastal features. As Baudin died in Mauritius during the return passage to France, it was Freycinet who had the map of the explored coastlines published in 1811. They were published in Voyage de découvertes aux terres australes, 3 years before Flinders published his book and atlas, A Voyage to Terra Australis.
After breakfast the Xplorer took us to Hazard’s Bay. From there we walked across the Peninsula’s Isthmus to Wineglass Bay. The track took us through an arbor of stunning flowering tea trees and past a swamp echoing the sound of frogs. Some of us also spotted three Tasmanian endemic bird species – a Yellow throated honeyeater, Yellow wattlebird and a Green rosella. From Wineglass Bay, the more energetic walkers took the steep climb with many steps to one of Tasmania’s most celebrated views. The scenes were very worthwhile. A feature on the climb was a beautiful Rose hyacinth orchid with its impressive crimson-coloured flowers.
Those who preferred a shorter, more leisurely walk finished up with a stroll along the Bay after some people explored the colourful lichen encrusted granite rocks. Meanwhile, Coral Discoverer sailed around the Peninsula giving the remaining guests a tour past the Granite rock formations and Schouten Island as she traveled through the Schouten Passage and into Wineglass Bay. A few people took the opportunity to stretch their legs on the beach when Xplorer picked up the walkers.
After lunch we were treated to stunning views from Coral Discoverer on the journey along the Freycinet peninsula and around to the southern side of Schouten Island. We boarded the Xplorer for a live drop so that we could get close to Australian fur seals hauled up on Taillefer Rocks nearby. As our eyes adjusted, we could see more and more of the seals draped over the rocks or lifting their heads to puzzle over what we might be. Nearby, a couple of Shy albatrosses caused a stir as they soared close to the Xplorer.
As our voyage continued south, we found Coral Discoverer was surrounded by thousands of short-tailed shearwaters gliding over and sitting on the sea. We enjoyed another flavorsome dinner anchored off Maria Island’s Return Point, with a pleasant sunset backdrop. Dinner was followed by a few giggles at Damon’s Nautical Quiz which was won by team POSH (Port Side Over Starboard Home).
Wildlife: Australian fur seal, Shy albatross, Pacific gull, Black-faced cormorant, Yellow throated honeyeater, Green rosella, Grey fantail, Beautiful firetail, Common Eastern froglet (heard)
We awoke to see the magnificent dolerite cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula through the windows of Coral Discoverer as we made our way to Fortescue Bay. After breakfast, a dozen of us travelled to shore on Xplorer ready to tackle the 4500+ steps of the Cape Hauy walk. A lively group set out with Damon and Anne on the 5-hour return walk, experiencing the typical 4-seasons-in-an-hour Tasmanian weather – from bright sunshine to horizontal showers of rain. All in all, we were lucky, with the stunning views lit up by rays of sunshine at just the right time. From the viewing platform we saw a man tackling the vertical climb of the Totem Pole – a slim, dolerite sea stack. Some people peered down the cliff walls to see albatross soaring below. The walkers were all happy to see the Coral Discoverer rolling gently in the Bay as we returned weary but exhilarated.
For those interested in a more leisurely morning, the Xplorer poked out of the Bay to see Cape Hauy before going ashore. Some guests walked with Steve and Marie along the first section of the Cape Hauy track to see an impressive sculpture representing the rich Natural and Cultural history of the Cape. A few others went with Karla for a short amble along the beach and discovered a delightful little creek.
After lunch some guests had the opportunity to go with First Engineer Mark on a fascinating Engine Room tour. It was amazing just how much goes on below deck, handled by the least-seen members of the crew. For those with energy left to burn, there was yet another expedition. A short trip on the Xplorer took us up close and personal to some short dolerite columns in Bivouac Bay and then to nearby Canoe Bay. There we walked along a short track and over a swing bridge to a pocket of rainforest featuring some man ferns. Guest Penny spotted and told us about some Mother Shield ferns nearby, so it turned out both genders were represented. As we made our way back north, the day was topped off with entertaining Common dolphins leaping from the water alongside the Coral Discoverer during both evening drinks and dinner.
Wildlife: Common dolphins, Albatross, Pacific gull, Kelp gull, Pied oyster catcher, Chestnut tern with ducklings, Superb fairy wren, Yellow-tailed black cockatoo, New Holland honeyeater, Tree martin
Following a hearty breakfast, our more ambitious and energetic walkers went with Damon and Anne to climb Bishop and Clerk – a five hour and challenging hike to a rocky and slightly precarious summit. Tasmanian endemic spotted skinks sunned themselves alongside the triumphant but weary walkers on the summit. Soon after, the rest of the guests had the opportunity to see the vast fossil cliffs on an Xplorer expedition. The walkers and the Xplorer passengers gazed at each other across the distance, each enjoying their adventure. The extensive Fossil Cliffs are recognised by geologists as the best example of their type in the world. A small portion of the 290-million-year-old limestone was once mined for cement works on the Island.
After a lunch at the Bishop and Clerk summit, the group passed the afternoon walkers who went with Steve, Karla and Marie to visit the fossil cliffs by foot and view the fossilized shells up close. Steve’s group returned on a loop track past other historical features of the once thriving Darlington township, including the second oldest building on the Island (a huge old brick barn) and the cemetery where a Maori prisoner was buried during the convict days.
In the afternoon, everyone was invited by Purser Arron to enjoy a wine tasting with Tasmanian cheese samples on the A Deck Lounge, followed by pre-dinner drinks and
another mouthwatering dinner.
Wildlife: Bare nosed wombat, Tasmanian pademelon, Cape Barren goose, Yellow wattlebird,Black currawong, Pacific gull juvenile Grey fantail, Tasmanian native hen, Hooded plover, Spotted skink
After a slightly rolly night we awoke to find ourselves anchoring off the sleepy little seaside village of Southport.
Soon after breakfast, Steve gave an interesting presentation entitled Wild Encounters about wildlife we had seen, and might yet encounter on our trip, as well as some of the signs of more elusive wildlife. He also enlarged on the state of wildlife in Australia and some of the initiatives to protect threatened species.
We then quickly prepared for our morning expedition. As usual Damon had catered for people with all levels of fitness and walking enthusiasm. Some enjoyed the trip on the Xplorer and a short wander on the beach. The rest of us started off on a wander through some bracken heath and up to a button grass area before returning to the shore and a quick dip in the sea for a few. Others continued through to Southport Lagoon where hundreds of birds were feeding in the water or on the mudflats. With the help of binoculars, we were able to see even more birds off into the distance, including masses of black swans.
A highlight on the walk was a large reddish coloured spider orchid, and a furry Tasmanian devil pooh. As we enjoyed our lunch, the Coral Discover moved a little south to Recherche Bay named by explorer D’entrecasteaux after his Ship. The voyage was a Scientific expedition which was also searching for the missing Captain Peron and his crew.
Our journey to the Bay continued as Anne gave us an interesting presentation about the lives of some Aboriginal, convict and pioneer women. Their stories gave us a taste of life in the days when Tasmania was known as Van Diemen’s Land. Next, we boarded Xplorer again and cruised across to a large bronze Southern right whale sculpture. Large as it was, it was only one third the size of a fully grown whale, and life-size for a calf at just 3 months old.
The onboard activities continued after dinner with a dance night in the Lounge organised for us by Marie and Karla. Many of us joined in the dancing or simply sat back and watched some of the others strut their stuff. Meanwhile the Coral Discoverer left the last sheltered bay at Recherche to navigate through more open water to Port Davey.
Wildlife: Pacific gull, Silver gull, Black swan, Pied oystercatcher, Green rosella, Crescent honeyeater
Some guests braved the cold to see the ancient white quartzite phyllite schist mountains that surrounded the Coral Discoverer as she cruised from Port Davey into the Bathurst Channel. The peace and grandeur made the wait for this part of the journey well worth it already.
It wasn’t long after breakfast that we boarded the Xplorer for a slow journey through the rest of the channel and the Bathurst Narrows and into Melaleuca. The pristine tea-coloured water is a unique habitat created by freshwater layered over saltwater. Tannins from the peaty soils in temperate rainforests and the buttongrass plains stain the water making it too dark for most plant life, so we learnt from Steve that we were floating over a weird and wonderful array of small invertebrate animals. We spotted a couple of Bennett’s wallabies grazing on what is known as Marsupial lawns at the water’s edge.
From the landing we split into two groups. Anne took her group on a short interpretive walk which highlighted the culture of the Palawa people of the South West – the Needwonee.
Steve’s groups started at the Deny King bird hide and Museum. Around a dozen Orange-bellied parrots were feeding on the provided seeds – mostly young birds from this year’s crop. This is a great sign that the work started by Deny King and continued by dedicated researchers and volunteers might be gradually paying off. This group also spotted a tiger snake disappearing into the bush near the museum and another juvenile one after passing Anne’s group and heading onto the cultural trail.
Anne’s group then went to view the parrots and found the diligent volunteers carefully cleaning the feeding table to prevent disease spread among the birds. Anne and Steve worked with the parrots in December so Anne was able to describe what was going on.
As soon as new seed was provided on the table some Beautiful firetails came down for a feed sporting the bright red tail and intricate pattern that gave this finch its name. A large colourful pigeon called a Brush bronzewing sat patiently in a nearby tree.
In the afternoon, some of us trekked from Clayton’s Corner up to the top of Mt Beatty and took in the wonderful views of Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey, set off by two soaring Wedge-tailed eagles.
The rest of the group returned to the ship after a visit to the small home of Cray fisherman Clyde Clayton and his wife Win (Deny King’s sister) and a short walk up Television hill – Clyde’s favourite lookout. A white bellied sea eagle was a highlight of this trek. It was also interesting to see a small (1 metre) huon pine tree planted 50 years ago. They are a slow growing tree, only reaching maturity after 600 years, and sometimes living for 3000 years or more!
The night was capped off with the much-anticipated Coral Expeditions Quiz hosted by Damon. Guests pitted their memory, trivia knowledge and eaves dropping skills against each other in pursuit of triumph. The winning team was Phil’s Fault – well he always got the blame so it might as well be for winning too.
Wildlife: White bellied sea eagle, Wedge tailed eagle, Orange bellied parrots, Beautiful firetails, Brush bronzewing, Green rosella, Yellow throated honeyeater, Tiger snake
In the morning, Coral Discover moved through the Wilderness Area from the Bathurst Channel into picturesque Bramble Cove where we dropped anchor just inside the entrance to Bathurst Channel.
After breakfast our steadfast walkers took off up Mt Milner for some spectacular views of the Coral Discoverer, the Breaksea Islands and Port Davey. In the bay, Steve showed us a Native plum tree and an historic marker where some whalers were buried – testimony to the harsh life of whaling. Whaling captains took advantage of the remote area to deter men from absconding if they decided whaling wasn’t for them after all.
Highlights along the way were an adult and two young White bellied sea eagles and two Wedge tailed eagles. Then on the way back past a freshwater spring we saw an adult and three juvenile Black-faced cormorants sitting like “shags on a rock”.
After lunch some took to the water for a paddle on kayaks, enjoying some spectacular lighting in the sun.
In the evening Karla screened an impressive set of trip photos taken by the expedition team Steve, Anne, Karla and Marie and then Captain Josh kindly shouted the bar before dinner with his farewell drinks. Meanwhile we had a relatively gentle passage out of the harbour and back towards Hobart into the night.
Wildlife: White bellied sea eagle, Wedge tailed eagle, Black-faced cormorant, Silver gull,
Early in the morning, the ship proceeded up the River Derwent for the last few miles of our journey. The ship berthed at Hobart’s wharf and the Coastal Treks of Tasmania cruise was at an end. It was time to say goodbye to old and newfound friends, having thoroughly enjoyed cruising the Tasmanian coast on the Coral Discoverer. During our shared adventure, Coral Discoverer steamed 704 nautical miles in ten days.