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Aussie Animals Down Under: Up, Close and Personal

31 Oct

DSC_0255   Feeding encounters with Aussie animals in the zoo? Yep, those are quite common. But I must say that I haven’t experienced (or for my case, witnessed :P) a more ‘personal’ encounter with the wildlife here than what me and my sister were blessed to have one cool, sunny day at Phillip Island Wildlife Park. What do I mean by ‘personal’? Maybe the following pictures will help explain 🙂 DSC_0295 DSC_0281 Yep, that’s right, the wallaby and the grey kangaroo in the photos did not just feed off my sister’s hand, but they were actually holding her hand with their own paws while munching on their treats 😉 They must have been afraid that my sister will run off with their snack! =D It was not an easy encounter to have, as it actually takes a bit of time before these animals warm up to you and let you bond with them up close (yes, it was vital to follow the advise of the zookeeper to feed them AT KNEE LEVEL. Anne learned that the hard way :P) But once they do, boy, they can turn out to be a greedy and aggressive lot LOL DSC_0278 DSC_0252 And sadly for the feathery folks in the zoo, people tend to focus on feeding the furry kind.. Hence, the photo above of the huge bird trying to nick some of the snacks Anne was trying to feed the kangaroo 😛   Another memorable moment for us was when we heard someone suddenly exclaimed that there was a joey hanging on to its mother kangaroo! DSC_0272   We quickly looked around and lo and behold, we saw a tiny head sticking out of its mum’s belly 🙂 I was really quite pleased with our visit to this park. After all, Phillip Island Wildlife Park does not give a very good impression when just passing by or looking at the park from the outside. Contrary to the photos in this post, from the outside, everything just looks brown/gray and old.. So you definitely won’t be expecting a lot from the place. That’s why it will be a pleasant surprise to visitors how interesting and unique this park is from among other wildlife attractions. We haven’t even been to the grey kangaroo area, but we were already surprised to find a wallaby just hanging around the visitor boardwalk in the koala area – DSC_0145 DSC_0149 I also noted that it was in this park that I really got to see a lot of kangaroo activity, with a lot of ‘roos jumping around and hanging out with kids and adults. I’ve gone to quite a few where these animals would just lie on the grass, seemingly uninterested with the human activity around them. DSC_0267   DSC_0239 In addition to this, I think the best thing about the kangaroo area here is its greenery. There is an abundance of grass and trees around (so the view is much better than in Featherdale Park). The koala area did not disappoint as well, because there was actual movement here, as there was a koala moving across the tree branch when we went there – DSC_0169 DSC_0170 DSC_0171 But then, soon after these shots were taken, it was back to its usual lazy, sleeping pose on the tree 😛 LOL – DSC_0176 DSC_0175 So yeah, there’s not much fun and games in this bit of the zoo.. And it doesn’t help that my sister and I have just been from Taronga Zoo in Sydney, where I was blessed to have taken a video footage of really wild koala action (will post that soon when I get my hands on WordPress Premium 🙂 ). But still, I am really pleased with this visit as it was a one-stop shop for my sister to view animals that are native to Australia. She was able to feed an emu as well, which tickled her hand so much 😀 – emu   And for the first time in my Aussie life, I’ve actually been able to take a decent photo of an eastern quoll (which I saw in Tasmania, but was moving so quickly there that it was impossible to take a good shot) – DSC_0214 And last, but not the least, hooray to finally having good photos of a not-so-cute (since it’s huge) but seemingly cuddly (which is actually not, as wombats bite! so you have to feed them from the ground) wombat – DSC_0234 DSC_0229 DSC_0227 DSC_0233

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Mornington’s Enchanted Adventure Garden & Tree Surfing

28 Jul

The Enchanted Maze Garden – quite a catchy name, which can draw different kinds of reaction, don’t you think?

Running out of places to go to in the Mornington Peninsula, my husband and I decided to give it a try when my Pops and aunt visited us in Melbourne a few months back. We’ve been to the Ashcombe gardens and frankly, that is not worth going back to.

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Once inside, we were greeted with a very nice view of several mini-gardens.

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To our right was a tall hedge maze, similar to the Ashcombe maze.

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I was about to ditch this area as I was disappointed with the one in Ashcombe, but then I read the sign below and thought that the ‘hunt’ challenge was quite interesting and so we gave it a go.

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The concept of having an actual goal while going around the maze apart from just the usual aim of just being able to go out was actually quite good. It removes the ‘fear of not being able to go out’ factor as you are focused on finding something. So were we able to find all five buddhas? Not quite 😛 But we were able to find four though –

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Moving on from the hedge maze, we then went around and had a look at the mini-gardens within this big garden. Each has its own theme. My favourite among them is the Marble Garden –

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Not too impressed by the next feature below but I guess the kids might find it interesting –

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Here are a few more photos of areas I found worth sharing –

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I think what sets this attraction apart from the others is that it does not only provide you with beautiful scenery where you can stroll about, but it is a good venue for the entire family as there are a lot of activity areas.

The tire play area below is just one of the many play grounds here –

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The tube slide is a fun play area for kids and adults alike –

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I had to sit this one out to accompany my dad and aunt (oh yes, I seem to get along well with the ageing clique now, as my back has still not fully healed 😦 ) but my husband enjoyed the downhill ride –

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And for the kids who are not faint hearted, there’s the tree top surfing area –

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So how does this garden live up to its ‘enchanted’ theme? Well, it appears that the trees in the area have its own character..

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What was most striking to me, though, was this wood carving that looked like the real thing —

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We actually had to stare for more than a few seconds just to make sure that the winged creature did not move along the branches 😛

To cap off the afternoon, we checked out the 3D indoor maze, which gave us a very unique, modern experience.

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The view indoor was all in 3D of course, so it was almost an impossible task to take a decent photo. Here’s my most ‘passable’ shot of what’s inside (you have to really hand it to me for trying 😉 )-

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Among the many attractions in Mornington Peninsula, I think this is one go-to destination a family can’t pass up. Good value for good fun for the entire family.

Safari adventure, anyone?

12 Jan

If you enjoyed going to places like the night safari in Singapore or Zoobic Safari in the Philippines, you will find a day in Werribee’s open range zoo quite interesting.

The concept is similar – upon entry, you are entitled to a round of tram ride which takes you around their version of a safari, where animals prowl around in an open space. Then you can also walk around on your own and look at animals in enclosures.

Comparing these three places I’ve been to, I  can say that each has its own edge over the other two. The Singapore safari features more animals. The Philippine and Melbourne ones are open during  the day so you can actually see and take pictures better. Melbourne has a cool weather so it was quite pleasant to go around during the day (unlike in Zoobic, where it was sweltering to go about during the day). Both the Singapore and Philippine safaris feature quite entertaining animal and tribal shows (sorry Werribee, that serval cat presentation really disappoints.. please take this as a constructive criticism 😉 ). The Philippine one I think offers the best value for money (they charge your for about 1/3 the price of the ones in SG and AU :P) and actually allows you to experience camel and tiger feeding for free (although visitors are encouraged to purchase a chunk of chicken meat for tiger feeding). The Werribee one charges you triple the admission rate for close encounters with their animals!

We just opted for a basic visit in the open range zoo here. No close encounters, but had an interesting day anyway 😉

Sharing below my photos from our day in Werribee –

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The tigers were unfortunately taking a nap when we came to their area –

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One highlight of my day was our visit to the meerkats, I somehow just find them really cute. They remind me of King Julien in the cartoon movie Madagascar (King Julien was actually a lemur) 😀

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There are areas where kids can play about –

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As mentioned in my intro above, I was a bit disappointed with the serval cat presentation –

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No offense meant.. Maybe I’m just used to shows like the ones in the Philippines, like the ones below –

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Man performs a tribal dance of natives in the Philippines

Man performs a tribal dance of natives in the Philippines

And as I’ve also mentioned earlier, Zoobic Safari in the Philippines actually lets you experience feeding camels with no additional charge. Sharing below a pic of my family enjoying this experience –

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After visiting the Werribee Open Range Zoo, we paid a quick visit to the rose garden just beside the zoo, and Werribee mansion… But I wasn’t able to take any good shots as spring was just beginning and the flowers have not bloomed yet (yes, this is a late post once again.. a SUPER late one hihi). Will post when we do get to visit these places on a better time someday 😉

Sovereign Hill – Journey Back in Time

23 Jun

If you’re someone who enjoys watching movies with a setting in the late 1800s or early 1900s, or that go back in time, or someone who is enthused about the concept of gold, Sovereign Hill is a definite must-see for you in Victoria. This outdoor museum spanning 25 hectares of land takes you back to the 1850s, the advent of Australia’s goldrush decade.

Taking a break from our usual nature sightseeing and countryside touring, we went during Good Friday to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, which is on the western side of Victoria.

It was about 1 1/2 hours of drive from our place. We arrived at around 11 AM (ok ok, I’m late as usual, hence the late arrival :P).  We realized later into the day that it was a mistake coming late, since we weren’t able to complete our Ballarat experience and had to skip some of the activities in this outdoor park (like the theatre events 😦 !)

The museum is open from 10 AM til 5 PM. The queue is not that bad so you will be able to get in fairly quickly, but I would really advise you to come early so that you can make the most out of the hefty $47 admission fee. (Word of advise: you can make use of various coupons to get a bit of a discount on the entrance cost :))

The rather grim-looking dull-colored scenery that welcomes you once you enter the park is a bit misleading of the rather unique experience you will have during your day in the site.

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We wasted no time and went on to trying out what I believe is the most important to-do item when visiting Sovereign Hill – panning out gold nuggets (or at least, trying to :-P)

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A Sovereign Hill “local” demonstrated how gold-panning is done –

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It is definitely not an easy task to do! But well-worth it if the effort actually pays off, don’t you think? 🙂 Anyway, there’s little chance of being able to find gold nuggets at this time. (Although there were rumors just recently that some lucky bloke was able to find a big chunk of gold here, not sure how true that was, though :-P) The guy above was able to show us one gold ‘crumb’ he was able to get in his pan. But then, these tiny bits of gold aren’t worth anything, really. And you can buy tiny flakes of gold collected in a small vial in the park’s stores.

Most of the attractions in this outdoor museum are free, but some entail an additional fee.

We checked out the free Red Hill mine tour which takes 12 minutes. It was quite a thrilling experience, being completely underground and subjected to pitch black darkness. The mine tour was well laid out, and the audio and lights were very well coordinated. Too bad photography/videography inside the mine is not allowed.

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We then went on to check-out the Chinese Camp, showing the stores and tents of the Chinese dwellers. We learned that the Chinese settlers at that time had special techniques in digging out for gold and were very much successful in doing so that they attracted envy and conflicts with their local counterparts. I’m not surprised, as even back home, it is the Chinese who are very successful with all sorts of trade.

Got to see models of Chinese shops –

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Was able to have a glimpse of what it looks like inside the tents which served as their houses back then –

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There’s a lot to do for the day. You can walk around and look at mining sites, ride coaches, see where these coaches were being built, hang out with ‘locals’ in historical costumes, and many more.

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There are theatre events –

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And you can even go bowling, the old fix-the-bowling-pins-yourself-after-hitting-em way 😉

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Most activities and attractions have several ‘show times’ throughout the day. There’s one attraction, though, that has only one schedule daily – the Redcoat Soldiers – where a group of soldiers do a short parade and demonstration of musket firing.

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There are several places where you can have lunch. If you just want to grab a quick bite, there’s the Hope Bakery and the Cafe. The Cafe offers hot meals as well, as does the New York Bakery (whose name is quite misleading, I’d refer to it as a restaurant, really). New York Bakery offers a more relaxed ambiance and provides table service, unlike the others. We settled on eating here because of its proximity to the Redcoat Soldiers location and because, well, we were really hungry and wanted to get served a hot meal already 😛

Ordered fish and chips and seafood risotto. Both taste good, but we enjoyed the seafood risotto the most 🙂
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There were a few attractions that really captured my interest. Probably because I’ve never cared to think how certain things were made before.

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Above is the Gold Pour – where a supposedly $160,000 gold ingot is poured in a gold-smelting house. Here you’ll be able to witness how a bar of gold is made, old-school style. Lawrence and I were wondering if somehow part of the gold is being nicked without no-one noticing?? Kidding 🙂

Then you have Mr. William Hewett’s candle shop, where they demonstrate how candles are made and colored. There’s a section where you can dip your own candles into the prepared dyes to achieve the color combinations you like. It’s a big hit among kids and families.

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We weren’t able to check out the metal spinning and sweet making demo. We didn’t have time to do the Gold Mine Tour (which takes 40 -60 minutes) and watch any of the theatre events. There were really a lot to do in a day. So our advice would really be to come early and plan out your day properly, prioritizing events you think you’ll like better.

We left Sovereign Hill at a little past 4 PM and was able to drop by the gold museum next door. Here we got to see a few collections of gold nuggets with historical value, and got to learn more about the history of Ballarat and Bendigo during the gold rush decades.

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Our tour of Sovereign Hill was really a pleasant and unconventionally educational one. There are a few attractions that we weren’t able to cover during our one-day visit, and there’s still the ‘Blood of the Southern Cross’ sound-and-light display that we have yet to see, so we think we will be paying this place a visit again 😉

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Short Visit to Yarra Valley

10 Mar

There are very few holidays (and long weekends) in Australia compared to Singapore and the Philippines. You really have to make the most out of these rare occasions. So for this year’s Australia Day weekend, we headed off to Yarra Valley, which is a little more than an hour’s drive from our place in Box Hill.

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A group doing some wine tasting

A group doing some wine tasting

You can join a wine tasting and tour like the group shown above, but it was our second time here already and Law and I are not really wine people so we decided to skip that and just walk around 🙂

We didn’t spend much time at Yering and soon headed off to Zonzo for lunch.

Zonzo Restaurant & Winery - Photo credit to www.drbnb.com

Zonzo Restaurant & Winery – Photo credit to http://www.drbnb.com

Zonzo Restaurant & Winery - Photo credit to www.drbnb.com

Zonzo Restaurant & Winery – Photo credit to http://www.drbnb.com

Pizza and calzone for lunch

Pizza and calzone for lunch

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to book in advance, so we had to settle for eating outside. Realized later on that eating outdoors during summer time is not a good idea in this part of town because soon after the food is served, your table will be swarming with flies and you’ll have no choice but to take turns swatting them away while the other person’s eating 😛 Oh well, had to really eat quickly anyway since the air is a bit cold and if you don’t eat fast enough, you’d have to eat your food cold…

As for our review of the food, hmm.. The calzone’s a bit burnt as you can see in the photo. But everything tastes nice and almost authentic Italian. The green olives in the pizza taste especially good and the rocket salad was surprisingly great, as it seems plain to the eye but the dressing’s great – tastes fresh and the acidity’s just right.

Went to Healesville Sanctuary after lunch, which I’m going to put as a separate post, hopefully by today as well 😉

Street Entertainment in the CBD

21 Aug

In our early months here in Melbourne, Law and I would frequently hang around the CBD streets just to discover new shops and places to eat, and observe the surroundings abuzz with people from all walks of life.

What I found fascinating all these times was how there are so many street entertainers in this city. It seems like anyone can just pick a corner and do his own thing to have a shot of getting spare change from passers by.

One particularly memorable incident was when a group of Japanese teenage girls, whom I initially thought were just huddled and hanging around, suddenly turned to the crowd and broke into a dance!

So it looks like anything goes in this city when it comes to entertainment. And if you have nothing to do for the weekend and you don’t plan on spending a lot, you may not  need to really.. A visit to the city would most likely make an interesting affair for your day 🙂

Sightseeing in Mount Buller

18 Aug

It still is winter here in Melbourne. It doesn’t snow in this part of the world, but it’s always extremely cold.

Since Law and I are still on tourist mode, we decided to give Mount Buller a try.

We went on an Evergreen sightseeing day tour one Saturday. Pick-up point in Box Hill is at 6:20 AM, so we had to wake up at 5 AM!

It costs an extra $150 for the lessons and ski gear (paid $69 for the tour, which includes return bus fare, ski resort entrance and chair lift). It was quite a big amount to spend for just a few hours, so Law though of just making the decision to ski or not when we arrive at the place.

We reached Mount Buller at around 10 AM and went strolling first to check out the place. Sadly, by the time Law decided to give skiing a try, it was too late for the 11:30 lesson. The next one was at 1:30 PM. And since the lesson goes on for about 2 hours, he might not make it to the 4 PM meeting time to depart back to Melbourne. And he won’t have any time to ski on his own and maximize the money he spent. So it was a big lesson for us – you need to be decided to go skiing once you reach the place so you can rent out your ski gear immediately and go for the first batch of lessons for the day.. And then spend the rest of your day skiing on your own 🙂

We had an enjoyable day nonetheless, taking in the relaxing sights, watching rosy-cheeked children enjoying the snow and tobogganing, and being awed by kids and adults alike dangerously maneuvering their way through the snow 🙂