Unzoo

Tasmania

Before getting to the animals themselves, there was an exhibition of art work done by them.  Incorporating wombat footprints, slithering snakes, jumping wallabies, sitting koalas, strutting cassowaries, and much more, this art was done by letting nature have its way–pretty cool, huh?

The Unzoo is a new-wave “zoo” based on the idea of having the animals feel in control, like the humans are the exhibition.  It also is a sanctuary for devils and has done lots of great work restoring Tasmania’s favorite animal.

The Tasmanian Devils population has been rapidly dwindling because of Devil Facial Tumor Disease, a communicable cancer.  In the wild, it spread rapidly and is killing many devils.  All of the devils at the Unzoo are completely cancer free and there is hope of a resurgence in the population.

Directly after we walked in we were rewarded with the thing we really came to see–devils!  They were a lot smaller than I thought of them and pretty adorable, until they start gnashing their teeth, of course.

The namesake area of the Unzoo is another devil enclosure, which is designed as more of a human enclosure.  After entering a door, you are inside a large fenced in box, while the devil is free in its meadow.

Here is where we saw a feeding, which was crazy.  They eat mostly already dead meat and can smell it from 2 km away.  When the meat, wombat head, was thrown to the devils, they fight with each other over it; all of the devils had visible scars or pieces bitten out of ears, etc from these scuffles.  The sound of them eating is loud as they eat the entire thing, bones and all.  Tasmanian Devils have the most powerful jaws compared to their body size in the world.

Another “Unzoo” area is the Devil Den.  This one is targeted more for small kids, as evidenced by the size of the tunnel, but hey, you gotta live a little.  After crawling through the tunnel, there is an opening to stand.  When I stood, my head was above ground in a bubble in the middle of the devils’ enclosure.  The devils can come right up to the bubble.  Again, it gives the impression that you are captured and they are free.  Unfortunately, no devils came up to the bubble while I was in it.

The Unzoo also had some bushwalking trails down to a bay lookout, which was gorgeous, and some more obscure animals: the Eastern Spotted Quoll and the Cape Barron Goose.

My favorite part was the open field full of kangaroos and pademelons (basically smaller kangaroos).  The kangaroos were a Tasmanian subspecies of the Eastern Gray Kangaroo and even the largest one was only about 1 meter tall.  We could pet them; they were for the most part very friendly towards humans, and they loved a rub on the stomach.  There was even a mom with a joey in her pouch, who was about 3 months old–very cute.

We loved the Unzoo so much we went back on another day and that time, they were having feeding of the kangaroos.  Much unlike the Tasmanian Devil feeding, there was simply 2 buckets of food and we were invited to grab some and hand feed the kangaroos–so awesome!  The pademelons had been very shy before and had run away from being petted, but coaxed with a little food, they would come right up to you, albeit a little tentatively.  Some of the Cape Barron Geese were also in this field and they would try to eat the food as well–typical.

The Unzoo was fantastic! Quintessentially Australian and a great model for other zoos.

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Port Arthur

Tasmania

When Australia and Tasmania were prison colonies of England, Port Arthur was the place of last resort for repeat offenders, basically the worst of the worst.

In order to help modern people understand the tiniest bit what it was like, each person was handed a card at entry.  In an exhibit in the main hall, the card led you through one specific person’s journey to Port Arthur and what it was like when they arrived.

My card, the 8 of diamonds, corresponded to John Clark, a 19-year-old laborer who was sent to Tasmania for stealing in England.  He was accused of stealing again in Tasmania and was found innocent, but Governor Arthur, the governor of Tasmania, sent him to Port Arthur anyway.  There he was put into a logging gang.  The work was already grueling enough, but he was found in possession of a knife and then had to log while wearing leg irons.

This whole idea and experience really humanized the whole thing and made it much more accessible to comprehend.

Port Arthur is located out on the Tasman Peninsula, where it would be very difficult for prisoners to escape.  Their only choices were to swim, basically impossible due to the condition of the water and the length to any safe land, or to try to cross at Eaglehawk Neck.  That strip of land is so thin that a row of half-starved dogs was chained across it, which made it impenetrable.

The prisoners here were assigned all types of tasks: constructing buildings, building ships, logging, even manning a human-pulled trolley system up and down the peninsula.

The commandants house sat on top of a hill right near the waterfront, so he could see all the goings on of the prison.  His house was, of course, lavishly furnished, while the stone quarters of the prisoners were small, dark, and damp.

For the even worse offenders, there was a special separatist prison on the site.  Based on the Eastern State Penitentiary, near Pennsylvania, and much like Lincoln Prison, in England, inmates were in solitude in their cells for 23 hours a day.  The one hour they were out of their cells was used for exercise and church, during which they wore hoods over their heads.

The chapel they attended has alcoves for each prisoner separated by thick doors.  The only thing they could see from inside was the pulpit.

Further offenses from the separatist prison would land a prisoner in the punishment cell, a minuscule pitch-black stone room, for what could be days on end.

It was hard to think of Port Arthur as a prison when the landscapes were so lovely there.  Even the shell of the old prisoners’ church added to the beauty of the place.

 

 

 

 

Tasmanian Coast

Tasmania

Tasmania is gorgeous.  It seems no matter where you are or where you look, there is a picture-perfect scene before you.

Driving from Hobart to the Tasman Peninsula afforded many of these landscape views.

The first bridge in Tasmania was the bridge at Richmond, over the Coal River.  It was built by convict labor back in the 1800’s when Tasmania was a prison colony.

The Tasmanian coastline is impressive, it is an island, and there are many popular natural wonders along the coast on the Tasman Peninsula.

The Tasman Peninsula would be an island if it wasn’t for a thin strip of land, about 30 meters wide, that connected it to the mainland called Eaglehawk Neck.  On the left is Pirate’s Bay and on the right is Eaglehawk Bay.

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The first wonder is the Tessellated Pavement.  Some chemically worn away by the salt and some physically worn away by the surf, the sandstone has been molded into a checkerboard pattern

Since we were on the south coast of Tasmania, the body of water is the Southern Ocean.    Small tidal pools were dotted around the rocks filled with shells, rocks, periwinkles, etc. The water was freezing, but amazingly clear.  When I put my hand under the water, there was almost no visual distortion at all.

Next up is the Blowhole.  It’s a cave that sprays up water when the ocean waves are strong.

The waves were huge and we even saw some surfers out in the frigid water catching some.

There was also the Tasman Arch.  It started out as a cave similar to the Blowhole, but further erosion caused the back of the cave to collapse, turning it into an arch.

Devil’s Kitchen was the final phenomenon.  It is similar in construction to the Blowhole and the Tasman Arch but older.  It has collapsed and is now more of a cauldron where the waves crash and swirl.

Other Sights: Lavender Farm and Remarkable Cave

Tasmania

Tasmania is known for its lavender.  It was in gift shops all over the state.  We visited one of the lavender farms out on the Tasman Peninsula.

The peak lavender blooming season is in November and we were there in late October, so only a few plants were blooming.  You could see how the fields would be amazing when there were all bloomed.

The cafe and shop connected had all kinds of amazing lavender treats and products–including the ice cream cones we got.

Just like in all of Tasmania, the views from the porch were incredible.

Remarkable Cave, aptly named, is another geological formation on the peninsula.  What used to be a cave is now more of a tunnel as the back wall of the cave collapsed.

If you look through the opening out to sea, the shape of Tasmania appears–remarkable!

Just above the Remarkable Cave, accessed by the same carpark, is the Maingnon Bay lookout.  Gorgeous coastal views out over the Southern Ocean are the main attraction here.  The jagged Cape Raoul (see right hand pictures, top and bottom) is the southernmost tip of the Tasman Peninsula and the entrance into the bay from the ocean.

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Royal Tasmanian Botanic Garden

Tasmania

The Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens are beautiful.  They feature some uniquely Tasmanian plants and have a gorgeous waterfront location/view.

One of their biggest attractions is the Subantarctic Plant House.  The small house is cooled and fanned to feel like the frigid climate of Antartica, so that the native Antarctic plants can grow there.  The habitat is meant to specifically be like Macquarie Island.

It was definitely cold inside and the realistic mural that blended into the actual plants really immersed you into Antartica.  Everything was a lot more green than I imagine Antartica, but Macquarie Island is pretty far north for Antarctica (about halfway between Tasmania and Antartica).

 

 

 

 

Hobart (Salamanca Area)

Tasmania

Hobart is a waterfront city.  It’s docks have been gentrified and many of them turned into restaurants, etc; however, many kinds of ships (including cruise ships) still use the harbor.

Tasmania also prides itself on being Australia’s gateway to Antartica.  There was even an Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies building connected to the university there.

Salamanca Place, which hosts the Salamanca Market on Saturdays, is home to rows of sandstone buildings which used to be warehouses for Hobart’s port.  They have since been converted to stores, restaurants, bars, and galleries.  On a Saturday night, Salamanca place is hopping!

Salamanca Square is hidden between these rows.  It is simply an outdoor space for people to enjoy which is surrounded by shops and restaurants.

Since Hobart is the capital of the state, it houses the Parliament for Tasmania.  The Parliament is right near the waterfront; the building is made of the same famous sandstone that is popular in Hobart.  Just like the whole state, Parliament is kind of unassuming–no grand entrance, etc.

 

 

Mount Wellington

Tasmania

Driving out of the airport, through the Tasmanian countryside toward Hobart, and starting the steep drive up towards the top of Mount Wellington was full of beautiful scenery.

Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is the biggest and most populated city in Tasmania.  All those people spread out, so the suburbs go on and on before the CBD is reached.  The greater Hobart region houses about half of the entire population of Tasmania.

Also, in no other Australian state would you see a road sign cautioning ice.  Tasmania is one of a kind.

The environment on Mount Wellington is a tundra–lots of scrubby trees and bushes in the midst of the rocky landscape.

The pinnacle afforded amazing views over the entire city of Hobart and much of the surrounding area.  Walkways weaved through otherwise treacherous rocks for people to look out in all directions.  The observation shelter was a nice respite from the wind and had lots of information about what we were looking out over and various people who had climbed Mount Wellington, including Darwin.