Friday, August 22, 2014

Night Date at Tower Hill

We arrived at the meeting point at 4:45pm, 15 minutes earlier than the agreed time. No one else was there except for an elderly couple who were just leaving. They excitedly pointed towards a tree where two koalas were sitting in a tree. While Mr H checked out the koalas, I walked towards the visitor centre, hoping to see a ranger or a tour guide. As I approached the centre, it was dark. I called the office, heard the phone ring but no pick up. Thankfully, I had the mobile number of Lisa (not her real name), who made the arrangements for me. That was not successful either as all attempts ended with voicemail. 

Night was coming and an eerie quiet came with it. The lone emu was making me scared and I kept on checking on it to see if it was coming to attack us. This reminded me of Jurassic Park, not that I have been there. Hahaha.

Visitor Centre at Tower Hill. Imagine this place in the middle of the night,
no lights and giant birds (emus) walking about. Pic taken from Worn Gundidj

Just as we were leaving the park, Lisa replied via SMS with a number for me to call. Apparently there was a miscommunication and we were booked for the night before. John (his real name), the ranger was waiting for us that night and we were a no show. Imagine his surprise when we showed up a day later. Lisa had resigned the week before and the current team had no way of getting in touch with me. Nevertheless, with luck on our side he had no plans that night and agreed to lead the walk and arrived 15 minutes later. 

After the necessary paperwork, payment, collection of the torches and starting up the coffee machine, we were on our way. It was dark initially and we depended on the torch provided a lot. However after a few minutes, our eyes adjusted to the light (or lack of it) and we only used the torch when trying to spot an animal or two. We were lucky too it was a clear night and did not rain despite being warned about it. 

 If you were there during the day, there are 5 self-guided walks to choose from as below. We probably did a combination of these walks as our walk lasted for 2 hours.
  • Peak Climb (orientation and geology - 30 mins, steep)
  • Lava Tongue Boardwalk (wetlands - 30 mins, easy)
  • Hat Island Habitat Track (revegetation - 45 mins, easy)
  • Whurrong Walk (Aboriginal foods - 1 hour, easy)
  • Journey to the Last Volcano (geology - 1 hour, moderate).

This fella was waiting for us to come back from our walk.
The purpose of this night walk was to find out what happens in the wildlife reserve once the sun goes down and attempt to catch nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. John, our friendly ranger guide excelled in this area. It was quite obvious he has extensive knowledge on the history, flora and fauna of the area as he kept us entertained with interesting facts throughout our walk.  We kept an eye out for koalas, emus, wallabies, kangaroos, birds and snakes. Disappoint us they did not as we did see one (except for snakes) at least once. With a small group like ours, it was possible to walk in a leisurely pace - to stop and look at our will. No need to rush so others could keep up with the itinerary or slow down to allow the ones behind to catch up.

Our walk ended at the visitor centre. Just a few steps away, a koala seem to be waiting for us to arrive. While John proceeded behind the counter to make our complimentary drinks, we browsed through the well-stocked little gift shop. If funds were not an issue, I would have probably purchased one of each item on sale! We sipped our drinks and chatted for a bit on potential places to visit other than the 12 Apostles. Just before we left, we were in for a surprise! The management was very apologetic towards the miscommunnication that took place earlier and gifted us with a free cloth bag from the gift shop. Yay! Free hot chocolate (coffee for Mr H) and a bag to go with it. I am a happy happy visitor.

We left Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve with new found knowledge. The top 3 I found most interesting are:

1. A tree that could be used for family planning (although perhaps that might not be the intention at that time). Apparently if a pregnant woman were to eat a fruit that is not ready for picking, there is a high chance she will lose her baby.

2. Koala would move from one tree to another at night, to ensure the tree does not suffer from over-eating.

3. To differentiate a wallaby or kangaroo, look at the tail.

I recommend this activity to Warrnambool visitors. It does not matter if you are a couple or a family. I enjoyed the experience and am sure others would too.

For more information on Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve, visit Worn Gundidj @ Tower Hill

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