Magnificent Birds of the Kimberley

An extremely geographically diverse region, twice as large as Victoria, many bird-watching enthusiasts would regard the Kimberley as an absolute bird paradise. Almost one-third of Australia’s 900 or so species of birds can be seen at some time of the year in The Kimberley. The area boasts a remarkable diversity of habitats, from coastal and inland salt-pans to wetlands, from inter-tidal mangroves to rugged sandstone escarpments, and from eucalypt woodland to seabird islands. 

The convoluted coastline with a tidal range approaching 10m in places provides feeding and roosting areas for migratory shorebirds that breed in Siberia and spend the Spring and Summer in the region, such as Common Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Far Eastern Curlew. The diverse habitats in combination with the annual wet and dry seasons allow a rich bird fauna present in a relatively small area throughout the year. 

Even in the dry season, there is plenty of food for birds throughout the Kimberley. The seabird islands support nationally and internationally, significant breeding populations of Brown Booby, Roseate and Bridled Tern, Lesser Frigatebird and Common Noddy. Resident shorebird species such as Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers nest above the tide line, with Crested and Caspian Terns nesting close by.

The mangroves and river systems provide rich feeding areas for fish-eating birds such as Osprey, Brahminy Kite and White-bellied Sea-eagle, Striated Heron and Eastern Reef Egret. Azure and Collared Kingfishers are readily seen in mangroves throughout the region. Comb-crested Jacanas can be seen walking on river plants whilst feeding. Black-necked Storks and Australian Pelicans, Intermediate and Little Egrets are frequently seen around river edges.

Woodland areas support populations of Little Corella, Black Kite, Brown and White-throated Honeyeaters, Red-winged Parrot, Yellow Oriole, Figbird, Rainbow Bee-eater and Silver-crowned Friarbird.  White-quilled Rock-pigeon and Spinifex Pigeon are seen in the drier areas, as are Zebra, Double-barred and Gouldian Finches.

While some are unique to certain areas, many species can be found throughout the Kimberley. One of these is the spectacular Eastern Osprey, the ultimate predator along the Kimberley Coast skyline. When you visit we also suggest you keep an eye and an ear out for the Sacred Kingfisher with their distinctive calls. This region is also home to the Eastern Reef Egret and if you are lucky you may spot a dancing Brolga!

Ashmore Reef

Located on Australia’s North West Shelf, 610 kilometres north of Broome is Ashmore Reef. This incredible life-sustaining reef provides several marine habitats and species in and out of the ocean.

It is here you will find around 50,000 breeding pairs of various kinds of seabirds, including colonies of Bridled Terns, Common Noddies, Brown, Red-footed and Masked Boobies, Eastern Reef Egrets, Frigate birds, Tropicbirds, Roseate, Crested and Lesser Crested Terns.

The Rowley Shoals

Another stunning destination to observe birds is The Rowley Shoals, about 260 km northwest of Broome. The Rowley Shoals is a group of three atoll-like coral reefs on the edge of one of the widest continental shelves in the world. It is home to many ocean bids as well as a nesting site for the Red-Tailed Tropicbird, home to one of only two of Western Australia’s colonies, and the rare, newly discovered White-tailed Tropicbirds.

Other beautiful species found at Rowley Shoals include the Wedge-tailed Shearwater, Brown Booby, Eastern Reef-egret, White-breasted Sea Eagle, Ruddy Turnstone, Large Sand Plover, Crested And Sooty Terns And The White-throated Needletail.

Browse Island

Browse Island also is a spectacular destination to observe breeding seabirds and migratory shorebirds including the Brown Booby, Frigate Bird And Eastern Reef Egret.

As the Kimberley is so extensive, it’s important to keep in mind that many species migrate or are nomadic and move with the seasons, so if you are really keen on spotting a particular species you may need to do a lot more in-depth research.

If you have extra time and are feathered friend keen then we recommend you take a look at the Broome Bird Observatory in Roebuck Bay, a super passionate organisation dedicated to educating visitors about the birds that live and visit the area. 

Click here to find out more about our life-changing journey in 2020 with Ponant and National Geographic.

Thank you to Dr Eric Woehler for his insight and incredible knowledge.

Epicurean Delight at Sea

Definition – Epicurean: a person devoted to sensual enjoyment, especially that derived from fine food and drink.

 

Often referred to as the best cruise line for lovers of great food and wine, Oceania Cruises has carved out an impressive epicurean niche for itself in this often competitive foodie industry.

Comparable to world-class dining destinations in New York, London and Paris, Oceania has won numerous food industry awards from Town and Country, Fodor’s Travel, Cruise Critic and Travel Weekly’s Readers Choice.

Oceania

Offering the finest cuisine at sea™, Oceania’s legendary Master Chef and Executive Culinary Director, Jacques Pépin believes in sourcing the best food from around the world. Chefs onboard all Oceania ships are committed to the highest quality authentic cuisine, believing that our connection with dining experiences lasts long after a meal has ended.  

Previously a chef at the renowned five-star Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris, Pépin has also created incredible gastronomic dining options in the La Reserve dining rooms onboard Marina and Riviera. The new seven-course gastronomic experience, called La Cuisine Bourgeoise, is limited to 24 guests and features classic French cuisine such as lobster souffle, cream of porcini with sautéed duck foie gras, and 72-hour slow braised short rib with gnocchi au jus.

Oceania offers numerous cuisines and dining venues to suit every palate and dining mood, ranging from European inspired cuisine of the Grand Dining Room to steaks, chops and seafood at Polo Grill, gourmet Italian at Toscana, country French at Jacques or the contemporary flavours of Asia at Red Ginger.

Don’t miss the vintage wine and gourmet menu pairings, uniquely designed by the onboard sommeliers or simply indulge in Oceania’s well respected and varied wine cellars at sea with wines to suit every palate and occasion.

Enhancing the culinary experience onboard Oceania’s O-class ships, Marina and Riviera, is The Culinary Center, a hands-on cooking school at sea, with fully equipped state-of-the-art teaching kitchens for hands-on cooking lessons. Culinary Discovery Tours™ are offered at selected ports where passengers have the opportunity to accompany Chefs to shop for fresh ingredients at local markets and experience authentic meals in private homes or local restaurants.

With all meals included onboard all Oceania voyages (including complimentary room service), the multiple open-seated fine dining options and decor will have you disbelieving you are dining at sea!

Call us today on 1300 766 537 to find out what offers we have available with Oceania Cruises.

How would you like to travel to Antarctica?

This ultimate bucket list destination has never been more accessible…

It wasn’t that long ago Antarctica was only accessible to explorers, researchers and scientists – fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its spectacular rich wildlife, can now be reached by almost everyone.

An exhilarating trip of a lifetime to one of the world’s most inhospitable and remotest of destinations can be achieved in several ways dependent on budget, tastes and other requirements. The options now available vary to suit intrepid explorers, to luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly. Alternatively you can just fly over the continent for several hours!

With so many options to choose from, there’s almost nothing stopping you… Outlined below are a few of our favourites:

EXPEDITION CRUISING

Imagine immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on a smaller, more intimate expedition ship. One of the beauties of this style of cruising is that it allows you to get up close and personal when seeing the icebergs, glaciers, seals, penguins and whales.

Carrying between 50 and 200 passengers, expedition vessels are able to travel through smaller waterways, and their zodiacs are take passengers right onto the shore. As they have less passengers (and tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time) everyone will ultimately have more visits to ashore.

If you love cruising with all the bells and whistles of parties, shows, discos dancing, gambling and shopping, then expedition cruising may not be for you.

  

Expedition holidays are more about immersion and education, suiting travellers who are there to really get into the destination and prefer a challenge. It’s important to keep in mind that expedition ships vary from ex-Russian research vessels with shared accommodation and facilities. Current expedition ships are much more modern and luxurious!

The luxurious Ponant line ships, including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts who know about the destination. These experts are available to you throughout your journey and they include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.

Super-fit and ultra-adventurous? We suggest you look into the cruises offering kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides and camping!

CRUISE SHIP VOYAGES

Large cruise ships are generally more comfortable in rough seas (particularly the Drake Passage) and offer more facilities and activities onboard. Approximately ninety percent of cruise ships depart from the very southern ports of Ushuaia in Argentina or Punta Arenas in Chile.

One of the downsides of the larger ships (those with less than 500), is that because there are very strict guidelines limiting the number of people that are permitted to embark onshore at one time, the opportunities for you to land are ultimately limited.

The ‘over 500-passenger’ cruise ships are not permitted to land passengers at all, so the views can be appreciated from the ship decks only. This may suit some (probably not most), particularly those with mobility issues.

Although the length of cruise holidays can vary, they are usually between 10 days and three weeks, with longer voyages incorporating South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.

FLY & SAIL

If you are time poor or suffer seasickness, the best way to see Antarctica would be to fly directly to the Antarctic Peninsula. By doing this you can save on the ‘lost’ days at sea and avoid notoriously arduous waterways. The best part is that you then get to enjoy sailing in the regions calmer waters.

Fly and sail is almost always a more expensive option, but it does cut out a lot of time and enables you to tick one off the bucket list in merely a week or so while still experiencing so much of the majestic landscape and wildlife.

The most popular departure option is from Punta Arenas in Chile, one of the southernmost cities in South America. From there it’s a mere three-hour flight to King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Although this is a highly appealing way to visit Antarctica, we do suggest you keep in mind that flights to Antarctica are less frequent and less predictable than regular flights.

FLY OVER

Chartered Qantas 747’s have been flying over Antarctica on day trips for over 20 years. The approximately 12-hour trip only operates in summer from either Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne. As the warmer weather brings temperatures that start to break up the ice, it’s a great way to put the grand scale of Antarctica into perspective.

It’s an easy way to enjoy the scenery as the planes can descend to around 11,000ft and slow to 240 knots. With a glass of bubbles in hand, you also have the opportunity immerse yourself with onboard Antarctica education, documentaries, as well onboard environment and history experts.

From Australia, it’s a mere three and a half hours until you’ll see the first glimpses of ice sheets and icebergs. Up for something even more remarkable? Go for a 31 December departure from Melbourne to welcome in the near year!

For more information on booking the trip that bucket list dreams are made of, call the travel experts at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537 or email info@cruiseexpress.com.au. 

 

Legendary Rail Nostalgia

The California Zephyr – Heritage Rail Journey of a Bygone Era

zephyrvˈzɛfə/noun
  1. a soft gentle breeze
  2. Zephyrus, the Greek god of the west wind

On 19 March, 1949, outside the Embarcadero in San Francisco, as Soprano Evelyn Corvello sang the Star Spangled Banner, San Francisco Mayor Leland Cutler gave a welcome address and actress Eleanor Parker, stepped up to Western Pacific locomotive 803, smashing a bottle of champagne to launch of the “California Zephyr”. Few attending realised they were witnessing a legend in passenger train history being born. 

California Zephyr

Departing on its inaugural run the following day, every woman on the train was given silver and orange orchids especially flown in from Hilo, Hawaii for the occasion. Soon dubbed “the most talked about train in America” with its glass-domed carriages, the California Zephyr (also known as the Silver Lady) operated along some of the most spectacular scenic routes in the USA.

Run by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) from Chicago to Denver, Colorado, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) between Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Western Pacific Railroad from Salt Lake City to Oakland, California.

The trains were carefully scheduled to enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of the Feather River and Rocky mountains during the day, while the Nevada deserts and plains states were crossed at night.

The trains were carefully scheduled so passengers could enjoy the breathtaking grandeur of scenery including the Feather River and Rocky mountains during the day, while the Nevada deserts and plains states were crossed at night.

As air travel had air-hostesses, so to did the Zephyr. Affectionately known as “Zephyrettes”, they debuted on the Denver Zephyr in 1936. They were trained to perform a wide variety of roles, including welcoming passengers, making announcements, sending telegrams, making dinner reservations, babysitting, and generally serving as a liaison between the train’s passengers and its crew.

Like many railways, by the mid to late 1960s The California Zephyr was experiencing rapidly falling numbers. Airlines and bus routes had begun to make serious cuts to rail travel by offering faster or cheaper transportation.

The last westbound California Zephyr to the west coast left Chicago on March 22, 1970, and arrived in Oakland two days later. The California Zephyr had operated for 21 years and 2 days.

Although the original train ceased operation in 1970, it continued to operate as a passenger service, as the Rio Grande Zephyr, between Salt Lake City and Denver using the original equipment until 1983. Since 1983 the California Zephyr is used by Amtrak service, which operates daily and is a hybrid of the original route.

For more information on how you can embark on this historic rail experience, please call one of our Travel Specialists today on 1300 766 537 or click here!

Why We Love Alaskan Huskies

More than a working dog

We all know and love a sleigh-pulling cuddly Alaskan Husky, but they are not all the same, very far from it. Below are some interesting facts and figures to enjoy, particularly if you are heading on a trip to Alaska.

The Northern Lights

Did you know…

  • Alaskan mushers bred the dogs they found in Inuit villages with Siberian Huskies, Greyhounds and German Shorthaired Pointers to create the Alaskan Husky.  
  • Because they were bred as working dogs they are classified as a category rather than a breed.
  • There is no standard breed; each breeder selects for the qualities that are most important including speed, stamina, a particular gait, and a particular size or coat type.
  • They have a larger and leaner body than the Siberian Husky.
  • Alaskan have brown eyes, while the Siberian has blue eyes.
  • They Are renown for being one of the fastest dogs in the world: recorded as traveling at 45km per hour!
  • Alaskan Huskies are also known for extreme endurance, with particular breeds able to race for up over 1,500kms.
  • Unsurprisingly, being from Alaska where temperatures can drop as low as -62.2°C, Alaskan Huskies can’t live in very hot climates and shouldn’t be exercised in temperatures above 20°C.

Working Dogs

  • Different types of Alaskan Huskies do different jobs and are bred for different types of sledding.
  • Freighting dogs pull heavy loads. Sprinters go fast for short distances. Other dogs have the stamina to go longer distances. They are used to haul logs, deliver supplies to remote locations, transportation in general, and even competing in races for money.
  • Alaskan Huskies who are top sled racing dogs may be worth US$10,000-$15,000 or more.Alaskan Husky

Just for Fun!

  • The howl of an Alaskan Husky can be heard up to 16kms away and they can be particularly talkative!
  • Their claws help them grip on the ice and they will scoop out holes in the snow for a place to burrow and shelter themselves from the wind.
  • Huskies are NOT all the same – the Alaskan Husky is much more chilled and playful than Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes – many believe making them a wonderful family pet.
  • They are very friendly and love strangers so don’t count on them being a good guard dog.
  • An odd fact but here goes anyway – NEVER shave an Alaskan Husky. It may seem a good idea to help cool down but it will only increase their risk of sunburn and eliminate her ability to regulate temperature.
  • Because Alaskan Huskies are highly intelligent, gentle with people and have a strong pack instinct, they make excellent companion dogs.
  • HOWEVER…like any wild animal if provoked, not disciplined or mistreated, they can become aggressive.

Alaskan Husky

 

For more information on several of our cruise packages for Alaska and the region, please call one our Travel Specialists on 1300 766 537 or visit wwww.cruiseexpress.com.au