There is nothing we like better than taking a week off in the middle of a Sydney winter to drive up to Queensland. During part of that time, we spent four glorious days on Minjeriba or North Stradbroke Island. I love that it used to be a traditional meeting place of the Quandamooka people for at least 21,000 years prior to European settlement. Aussies refer to this island as Straddie and my partner Steven and I love camping here. It’s a short ferry trip from the mainland, which allows us to come over in our Motorhome and camp at one of the many options available.
Minjeriba is the second largest sand island in the world. Australia, in fact has all three of the largest sand islands and they are found just off the coast of Queensland. We’ve both spent time on Fraser Island, but we have not been to Morton Island yet. These sand islands formed from sand which travelled from south-eastern Australia over hundreds of thousands of years. The unique vegetation and ecosystems evolved over time.
Our first stop after landing was to drive to Brown (Bummeria) Lake. It is a perched lake and an example of a coastal non-flooplain sand lake. The water is quite acidic, and the rich dissolved organic content has stained the water brown. Perched lakes are replenished only through rainfall infiltration but thanks to the high rainfall totals we have been experiencing this year on the East Coast, the lake levels are healthy. We do a bit of exploring, I take some images of the beautiful reflections, then cook lunch before we head off to find our campsite.
This time we chose to base ourselves at Cylinder Beach and did various day trips from there. It isn’t far to drive to the areas of interest from here and I love that we are close to the main cafes and North George walk from our campsite. We had a bit of an early morning ritual which involved cooking brekkie from a lovely viewpoint in town, then walking over for a morning coffee. I could get used to this. The last time we were here, we split our time between Amity Point and Cylinder Beach. There are pros and cons of doing this, but Straddie is such a relaxing place, that you will have fun no matter where you are based.
As we reverse into our campsite, the first thing I notice is a group of Bush Stone-curlew. I don’t recall photographing these birds before and am entranced by their behaviour. They freeze when I approach, hoping their camouflage will hide them well. They are ground dwelling bird’s endemic to Australia and are mostly nocturnal. While they blend well into the brown dirt, my discerning eyes had spotted them quickly. I have read they are nocturnal birds but after we have been there for a while, one of the birds decides to approach us and warns me off when I get close. I keep my distance but get some great images of it. At night I would lie awake, listening to their eerie high-pitched wailing sounds. It was strange but I felt happy, listening to the sounds of the Australian bush. While I saw them a fair bit on this trip to Queensland, I have read their numbers have declined in NSW and that experts worry they may be extinct in a few decades.
That afternoon we set off to do the North George Walk. It isn’t a difficult walk and presents some stunning views of Moreton Bay. The last time we were here we had been treated to some dolphins surfing the waves. We kept looking out for a similar performance but that wasn’t to be.
The sun is setting when we reach Headland Park, at the end of the walk. Two kangaroos are boxing each other. I am thrilled and hurry to get closer but by the time I am close enough they disperse. I make a mental note to come back here tomorrow before we head back to camp.
We spent Day 2 at Amity Point. I remember seeing koalas at our campsite when we here previously and I wander through in search of them. A few inquiries from some residents who appear to be here long-term, and I am pointed in the direction of some eucalypts. I find them shortly after, high up in the trees and fast asleep. It isn’t till later that day, when we are driving around that I spot a mum and baby up a tree. I spend the good part of an hour, observing and photographing them, thrilled to bits. It isn’t often that you spot an active koala in the wild, complete with a little one in the middle of the day as they are nocturnal beings! The gum leaves they eat provide little nutrition so they actually sleep for about 20 hours of the day!
When I come to places like Straddie and see the abundance of wildlife, I find myself wondering what the rest of the continent must once have been like. It’s such a privilege to see these guys in the wild. Just this year, koalas were listed as endangered by extinction in the EPBC Act for NSW, Queensland, and the ACT. The biggest threats to these gorgeous creatures are habitat destruction and fragmentation due to urbanisation and agriculture. There are other causes like collision with vehicles, dog attacks, bush fires and a changing climate. They are also vulnerable to various infections. I can’t imagine a world without them. It’s hard to find a definitive number of how many koalas are left in the wild but I know that we once shot millions of them for their pelts and the fur trade.
We do one of the walks at Blue Lake on Day 3. It’s another glorious day and a wonderful walk. We relax, enjoying the sunshine. After lunch we head back to the park with the kangaroos. I don’t think I’ll ever be a serious wildlife or nature photographer, but I do enjoy giving this genre a go. It’s hard to believe there is so much activity in the wild, even though it is winter! I’d like to say that nature photography is all about getting the right combination of shutter speed, aperture and nailing your focus but that would be a lie. You need to have a good dose of patience; understand the behaviour of the bird/animal you are observing and have a bit of luck on your side. I realised yesterday that coming to the park at sunset was standard behaviour for these roos, so I am back to try my luck again.
This time I have a better luck as I am a bit earlier than yesterday and there are quite a few of them around. Many of the mums have little joes with them, so that is a plus. Unfortunately, many of the kangaroos are at the shady side of the park, so the light isn’t the best. There’s always something that isn’t quite perfect with photography. That’s where your patience comes into play.
Just before coming here Straddie, we had spent a day at Osprey House, on the mainland. We spent a day, watching and waiting for the Osprey and chatting to a local who gave us the low down. Somehow, he managed to fly back to the nest, fish in its claws by passing me. We also did a whale watching tour from Redlands beach, only to photographing two whale breaching that happened right in front of me, but my camera was pointing in the other direction!
The highlight of our drive back home was stopping at the Koala Hospital at Port Macquarie where we adopted a koala. It was hearbreaking to hear there was no government funding for places such as this. The good news was that they had finally got some funds from the bushfire grants and were looking forward to upgrading the centre. I would recommend paying a visit if you are passing through.