Newsflash: Tasmania has nearly all of Australia’s most adorable animals, concentrated in one small island state! What’s more, they’re cuddle-sized, non-poisonous, and they’re not out to kill you. That last bit might sound a bit extreme if you haven’t been travelling in the Aussie outback for the past six months. Believe me, a lot of Australian wildlife IS out to get you, and it’s quite nice not to have to deal with that on a daily basis.
Having spent the past month in Tassie, I’ve been wondering why people ever choose to settle in Queensland (sorry Queenslanders, you’re not going to like this!). Seriously, why? I know it’s beautiful, and it’s sunny and hot, but it has killer crocs, killer jellies and killer snakes. And they’re everywhere. Yes, it’s hot, but it’s furnace-hot, not nice-hot. In summer, it’s stew-in-your-sweat hot, and that kind of hot gets tiresome. Tassie on the other is cold enough in winter to need a coat, but the summer climate is lovely: warm enough to spend most of your days outside, and cool enough to enjoy walking in the magnificent wilderness and not need air-conditioning at night.
I’m wondering how conversations go when people decide that emigrating to Queensland is a good idea. Maybe something like this:
Doug (from Manchester): Look at this, Janet! Queensland has over 300 days of sunshine a year. How many do we get here?
Doug: And every street has a drive-through bottle shop. Ace! Let’s move to Queensland!
Janet: But don’t they have deadly saltwater crocodiles over there?
Doug: Don’t worry about them, Janet. The Aussies fight them off with their flip-flops.
Hmm…something like that, I think! In any case, one of the interesting discoveries we’ve made is that Tassie is full of Queenslanders who decided to escape the heat and the killer wildlife and move down here. They’re a sensible bunch, those ex-Queenslanders.
Anyway, let’s get back to the adorables, the subject of this blog post. Mainland Australia has koalas, I’ll give it that, but Tasmania has smaller, cuter, fluffier, tamer versions of just about everything else. Queensland and New South Wales have giant eastern grey kangaroos, which look so muscular they should be harnessed for energy generation; Tasmania has tiny kangaroos and wallabies that look like they’ve just hopped out of a Disney cartoon. We saw so many of them, including the Bennett’s wallaby, bouncing around in the wild in Mount William National Park, north of the Bay of Fires. They were unbelievably sweet and friendly.
There is something even cuter, though. I know, it seems unlikely, but there is: a wombat! Here again, the contrast between the mainland and Tassie is striking. Mainland Australia has nocturnal wombats that hide out in their riverside dens, and which you never see in the day time, except dead on the roadside. Tasmania has diurnal wombats, which snuffle around in broad daylight and are willing to walk right up to the camera lens of even the most obsessive photographer. “Sure, you just go right ahead and get all the cute shots you want,” they say. “I’ll just be over here munching these roots. You want a shot from this side? Want me to shuffle over here a bit? No worries!”
We were so lucky to see a group of friendly wombats foraging around up at Cradle Mountain, in Central Tasmania. We’d read that we would have a good chance of seeing them if we headed up to the national park, but having lived in wombat territory for a few years, and never having seen one, we were very sceptical. But as we rounded a corner in the road, one crossed right in front of us. I thought he’d scurry away the moment I jumped out of the car, but instead he kept walking in my direction. So I sat down on the grass and photographed him to my heart’s content. It was such an amazing experience that Cradle Mountain itself, which is known for its rugged beauty, almost paled into insignificance. Still, we did enjoy walking around Dove Lake, at the base of the mountain, and even had a small “I’ve finally seen a wombat” celebration while we were at it.
Now for Tasmania’s pelicans. You might not think pelicans are cute exactly, but I’ve loved them since I was a child. To me, they look almost comical, and I adore their expressive faces. Believe it or not, mainland Australia has the biggest species of pelican in the world (sorry America, but this is true – Aus does beat you on this one). They’re so huge that they’ll even eat small animals when fish supplies are scarce. I talked to a ranger in Northern New South Wales who witnessed a pelican gulp down a small dog in a Sydney park a few years ago. He’s been traumatised ever since, and I have to admit my lifelong pelican obsession suffered a major crisis when I heard his story. I stopped trying to befriend the gigantic birds that hang around Sydney Fish Market, that’s for sure. But all is well again since we arrived in Tassie, which has sweet, little non-dog-munching pelicans. These chaps, which we met in a little seaside village called Musselroe, on Tasmania’s northeast tip, were willing to give up a spot on a prime roosting post to a black backed gull, and even seemed to welcome him into their happy pelican family. That’s right, we’re talking inclusive, tolerant pellies here, not those mainland thugs.
So, to sum up: Tasmania – spectacular scenery, lovely weather (if a wee bit chilly in winter), and some of the cutest, fluffiest creatures on the planet. Queensland – spectacular scenery, deadly “I’m-gonna-swallow-ya-whole” wildlife, and please-kill-me-now heat and humidity. Which is it to be?
This little fluffy fella?
Or this guy?More photographs of beautiful Tassie: