HAL 2019 World – Day 48-51 Darwin, Australia

March 15, 2019 Paul Groves

Just a quick note before we talk about Darwin.  In our Cairns post we mentioned the danger of swimming in the ocean beaches because of saltwater crocodiles.  However this also applies to freshwater crocodiles in rivers.  We made this sound like its only a problem in Cairns.  That’s not true.  We started seeing warning signs in Townsville.  The crocodile problem seems to be prevalent all along the northern coast even in Darwin.  Seems sad that Australia has all those beaches and can’t use them without taking safety precautions.

On to Darwin!

Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory of Australia with a population of about 150,000.  It is named after naturalist Charles Darwin.  The two largest sources of income are mining and tourism.  The city has been destroyed and rebuilt 4 times due to cyclones and Japanese air raids.  The latest was Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Our tour today was to the Territory Wildlife Park about an hour outside of Darwin.  This park specializes in animals indigenous to the Northern Territory.

During WWII Darwin was a major staging area for allied attacks on Japanese forces.  The Japanese bombed Darwin multiple times during the war with the biggest attack using the same fleet and air forces that attacked Pearl Harbor.  While traveling on the Stuart Highway on our way to the park, we saw remnants of the landing strips along the side of the highway used by American and Australian fighters to attack the Japanese.

Also along the way we saw some termite mounds. It’s hard to tell from the picture but this mound is about 5 ft tall.  They say that the nest continues for the same depth underground! 

We also saw the unusual corkscrew trunk of the Pandanus palm.  Paul and I ate some pancakes made from the Pandanus fruit when we were in the Majuro Islands in 2017.

When we arrived at the park we saw these cute kangaroos made out of machine parts outside the entrance.  Our tram driver, Andy,  met us there also.  Could this guy look anymore Australian?  Notice the sweat.  It was already over 90 and very humid by the time we arrived.  It only got worse.

The park is divided into 5 sections.  We hopped on the tram and drove off to the first section which was the Nocturnal House. The tram stop of each section is decorated with a piece of artwork in the Aboriginal style.  The snake was great!

The Nocturnal House contains animals that only venture out at night.  We saw many animals two of which were the Northern Quoll, a small carnivorous marsupial, and a Nabarlek, a small rock wallaby (marsupial) found nowhere else in the world!  It has the unique ability to continually regenerate it’s molar teeth.  This is probably due to their abrasive diet.

At the end of the house was a table displaying what a bowl of food would be like for each of the animals.

We then re-boarded the tram and went to see the bird show at the Flight Deck section.  The show was very good and we got to to see examples of beautiful birds ranging from the small Beach Stone Curlews, a gorgeous barn owl, and the huge emu.  We also saw an osprey, black feathered eagle, and kites all of which were predators.

At this point we were very hot and we rode the tram back to the entrance to eat some lunch and cool down.  We each had a popular brand of Aussie meat pie called “Tommo’s”.  Paul’s pie was beef, bacon, and cheddar while mine was steak and mushroom.  Both were very delicious.  

We had time for a visit to one more section so we hopped on the tram and went off to visit the Billabong which is a wetlands area.  It was a beautiful lagoon.  The main attraction in the Billabong were the Australian Pelicans.  In order to stay cool they were constantly fluttering their gular pouch.  Unfortunately we only had a few glimpses of other animals.  I suspect they had more sense to stay somewhere cool.

Sadly our time ran out and we had to return to the ship.

At dinner they served an Australian themed menu.  The main course?  Australian meat pies!