Melbourne: Kangaroos and Koalas

Today we came back into Melbourne for our second visit. The two visits split by 2 sea days and a day on Kangaroo Island has enabled Cunard to offer a taster cruise to Australians. It has been very popular.
Anyway, we were on tour this morning: Koalas and Kangaroos in the Wild. Having seen both on Kangaroo Island, we were not so desperate as we might have been. Nice warm day here – 27C, part sun part cloud, a bit humid.
We headed up into the hills behind Melbourne to our first stop, Serendip Sanctuary. This is a large game reserve type place where acres of grassland with bordering trees have been put aside for kangaroos, wallabies, emus. We drove in with our accompanying ranger and then walked across the pastures towards the line of bordering trees where we could see some kangaroo. We had to walk in a group, taking a zigzag route with lots of stops in order not to spook the kangaroo. On the way we encountered a few emu, just grazing. They didn’t seem that bothered by us.
The kangaroo definitely knew we were there, heads came up and they watched us intently. However, we managed to get up very close without them running off. There were quite a few females, a couple of adult males and some youngsters. These Australian Grey Kangaroo were much bigger than the ones we saw on Kangaroo Island. A couple of the males must have been 8 feet tall when they stood up.
Kangaroos are amazing creatures. The females give birth to the embryos after only about 35 days gestation at which point they are the size of a baked bean. The embryo then has to climb up the mother’s fur to get in the pouch where it grows for about another 5 months till it reaches a size where it can enter and exit the pouch. The mother cannot help the embryo on its climb up the fur because it is too delicate to be touched. Female kangaroos can choose to kind of “freeze” an embryo too, so as to delay birth. This frequently happens in times of drought, where they literally stop the embryo’s development, to later restart it when conditions are more propitious. There is much that is not understood in the whole process. Kangaroo “mobs” are largely ruled by the females. The males are just there for reproductive purposes.
Anyway, we saw a lot of kangaroos, lying down, leaping off, standing up….. their rear legs are enormous and very odd. They can’t actually walk on them, only jump, and they can’t go backwards at all. When they run, it is the same sort of action that you see on Jurassic Park with the velociraptors. They can move very very fast when they want to.
We also saw some wallabies, like little mini kangaroos. Had a good visit around and then stopped for coffee and cake at a camp in the middle of the park. Very nice cake! There were lots of those white cockatoos in the trees.
After that we moved to another park area where there are massive plantations of eucalyptus and a sanctuary for koalas. The rangers had been out searching for koala that morning and had sent gps co=ordinates of inhabited trees to our ranger. It was harder to find and spot them in this park than on kangaroo island because there were far far fewer of them spread out over a large area. Also the eucalyptus tree type here had leaves at a much lower level, which camouflaged the koalas much more. However, armed with the gps coordinates, our ranger lead us through the bush to two different trees. In one, we found an adult female, and in the other we found a mother and baby. It was much more difficult to get a shot of these koala, and the baby was impossible as it was up very high and tucked tight into the tree. The actual forest and bush was specaacularly Australian with some amazing gnarled eucalyptus. Its all very dry looking. A spark and the whole lot would go up.
Got back to the ship at around 130 and immediately caught the shuttle into Melbourne centre. We were gasping for a drink so first stop was a bar/bistro on the south bank of the Yarra. I enjoyed a nice cold chardonnay and Bob had a beer. We made use of the wifi. Had already spoken to Daisy (still Wednesday night in London) and also managed to catch Lucy on her way to work in Bangalore.
Melbourne was much quieter today, being a working day, and much more pleasant. We had a nice mooch about and I found a hairdresser in the law courts area and managed to secure a cut for later in the afternoon. The girl really cut it well and it feels so much better.
Got back to the ship at around 7pm. Feet up for a bit and then up on deck to make some last phone calls, sink a nice glass of white and just enjoy the warm evening. We sail for Sydney later on tonight.

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