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Queensland

Australia

Cairns, Queensland

Cairns, the city of adrenaline and home to the infamous Great Barrier Reef – a world of adventure ready for me to explore… again.

An early morning shuttle bus began my journey up the East Coast; courtesy of the Byron Easy Bus I was taken from Byron Bay to Brisbane airport. I had a couple hours to kill in the airport before flying through to Cairns.

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I didn’t pay for a scenic Great Barrier Reef tour? .. oh well I’ll take it 🙂

When I arrived in Cairns, I was pleasantly greeted by my complimentary airport shuttle courtesy of Calypso Backpackers (my accommodation for my stay in Cairns).

Calypso Backpackers in Cairns is located just outside the busy city centre… in my personal opinion the “perfect distance” away. A short scenic walk along the esplanade and you are right in the action! When you arrive at Calypso you instantly feel like you have arrived into a tropical “Jamaican” rainforest. Palm trees and a beautiful swimming pool welcome you in and the chill music and bar are ready for you to begin relaxing in the paradise.

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Welcome to Calypso Backpackers in paradise!

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My room for the weekend – Time to get cozy in paradise

After a bit of freshening up I headed into the city, taking in the beautiful Cairns Esplanade on the way. Cairns is a bustling little city – lots of people wandering the streets, sunbathing around the lagoon and enjoying the Queensland sunshine.

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My first and last stop of the evening was the Peterpans city shop to meet up with the Pans crew. Every Thursday night it’s the epic Peterpans Party Night and everyone meets at the shop to play some games and head to the Woolshed for the evening. It’s a great opportunity for travellers to make friends and network with each other over a drink… or two!

Silversonic Adventures – Agincourt Ribbon Reef

Whilst holidaying in Cairns, I had the opportunity of getting on board one of the most EPIC Great Barrier Reef boats around. Visiting 3 different dive/snorkel sites on the infamous Agincourt Ribbon Reef (voted one of the best dive sites in the WORLD), Silversonic Adventures delivered such an incredible experience.

An early morning transfer from my Cairns accommodation (Calypso Backpackers) up to Port Douglas began my experience on board Silversonic. When we finally arrived in Port Douglas, we were given our boarding passes and directed toward the boat in the marina.

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Excited for the day ahead!

“When you step aboard the ultramodern Silversonic, you are set for an exhilarating day of fun, discovery and adventure in the natural wonderland of the Great Barrier Reef.”

As soon as we boarded the boat, we were pleasantly greeted by the crew and offered morning tea, biscuits and sandwiches. The introductory divers were given a safety and “what to expect” briefing for the day – you could feel the excitement within the group of first time divers!

The first dive site of the day was called Wreck Bay and it was where I did my first introductory dive of the day. As soon as we were all geared up, we headed into the water.

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Silversonic crew and I about to go diving! 

A few simple scuba skills later and we were off to explore the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef. During our dive we were guided through the reef; spotting big clam shells, “Nemos” in their anemones, starfish, cuttlefish and even a REEF SHARK! As we were heading back to the boat after our first dive, the dive photographer came over to our group to snap a shot, but I couldn’t focus as a reef shark was about 2 metres away swimming overtop of the photographer! Close call 😉

Following lunch, we arrived at the second dive site of the day, which was called Turtle Bay. It was time for this explorer to bring out her camera and capture some scuba shots!

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Hello little friend!

As this was my second intro dive of the day, I was given a bit more freedom underwater… I kept getting in trouble by my instructor because of my extreme “keenness” to go explore further away and deeper then my group – I think this was a sign it’s time for me to get PADI Certified and dive unguided.

The third dive site of the day was called Castle Rock. Castle Rock was even better than the first two dive sites, which was extremely hard to believe could be possible. I decided to take advantage of this site to do a bit of snorkeling.

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Uh oh… who’s flippers are who’s? 

The coolest part of Castle Rock is the fact you are able to swim right over the massive section of reef, being only about a metre away from the coral and marine life underneath of you.

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Swimming right onto of a bed of coral reef! 

One of the funniest moments I remember while snorkeling over Castle Rock was when I started following this really vibrant and colour fish (bright purple, blue, green and yellows) and I must of “scared the shit” out of it cause he/she sta
rted to leave a poop trail as he/she was swimming away from me.

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The drop off – explore at your own risk 😉

As you make your way across the section of reef, you hit a massive drop off which seems to goes on forever. As I could see the scuba divers below me exploring the depth of this drop off, this is when it hit me… I was swimming on the continental shelf of the Great Barrier Reef! Such an EPIC experience that still manages to blows my mind.

Overall, putting the experience on Silversonic into words is quite difficult. It is an experience better done than read. I was extremely impressed by the quality of dive instructors, dive equipment and dive sites that Silversonic Dive Adventures utilize.

“Silversonic has access to a selection of 22 stunning and exclusive reef sites at the Agincourt Reef, which is on the outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef. Here, special reefs known as ‘ribbons’ run parallel to the Continental Shelf. Adjacent to the Coral Sea trench, these ribbon reefs are recognized as the most pristine eco-systems in the reef’s environment.”

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Thanks for an amazing day Silversonic!

For someone who is a keen diver wanting to explore one of the most beautiful parts of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, this trip will not only meet, but will blow away all your expectations.

AJ Hackett Cairns – Bungee 

Have you ever experienced a moment that in order to be successful you had to overcome “mind over matter?” Something that was so unnatural, and subsequently against everything your body and mind has been trained to believe in and feel comfortable with doing? This my friends, happened to me last week when I decided to conquer my fear of… Bungee Jumping.

As I anxiously wait at the Calypso Backpackers reception desk, hoping the AJ Hackett Cairns bus driver forgets to pick me up for my Bungee Jump – it hit me I was about to throw myself off a 50 metre platform where I would be rushing towards the earth… definitely not the most settling feeling.

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When we arrived at the AJ Hackett jump site… I couldn’t help but look up. Up, up and up… I thought, dang that was high. Even thought I was terrified… I put on a brave face and volunteered to be the first jumper of the day! I ran up the winding steps, taking in the beautiful rainforest views along the way and before I knew it… I had made it to the top… 50 metres high! The AJ Hackett crew at the top didn’t waste anytime to get my legs strapped in, and all geared up to jump. It was time… and I couldn’t believe it.

As I looked over the edge I panicked… I couldn’t do it. This was so against everything I have been taught before. My dad’s voice kept going on in my head, “you shouldn’t be jumping off a 50 metre platform attached by your ankles Sam.” It seemed a bit twisted in my mind. I couldn’t even fathom the thought of me being able to throw myself off. It wasn’t happening – No chance. I then latched onto the closest bar behind me and held on for dear life. The crew behind me put his hand on my harness and held onto me so I wouldn’t accidentally fall off. To be honest I was terrified he was going to push me to be funny (which they aren’t allowed to do). I almost started to cry. Through the ping pong emotions that were going through my mind and body, all I could remember hearing was the crew saying, “I’m going to count down from 5, 4,” and by then a wave of courage overtook me and I was off.

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Bucket List Item- CHECK!

The first couple seconds of my jump I can’t even remember… it was like my body was in shock and was overwhelmed by emotion and adrenalin… it was SICK. By the time I touched down at the lowest point I realized what had just happened and started laughing and screaming uncontrollably – this was the coolest feeling in the world. I felt like a superhero – I could do anything! The crew at the bottle rescued me in the AJ Hackett raft and I could finally relax with the satisfaction I could do anything I put my mind to. Thank you AJ Hackett Cairns for giving me that confidence back – I will be back for the BMX bike bungee 😉

My weekend in Cairns, Queensland was such a success. Big thanks to Calypso Backpackers for your exceptional hospitality, Silversonic Adventures for showing me the magnificent underwater world of the Agincourt Ribbon Reef, and AJ Hackett Cairns for causing my parents blood pressure to reach extreme high levels when they saw my photos on Facebook 😉

Until next adventure,

S.

Australia

Australia Round Three – Third Times a Charm Right?

It’s been a while since I have last connected with you all about what I have been up to lately. I feel as though this is the perfect post to start up my blogging craze again.  Following my return from the “Best Jobs in the World” competition this past June 2013, I was immediately off on another adventure; an adventure very different than “Best Jobs.” I was off to Boston, Washington D.C, NYC and New Jersey for three weeks as a trip leader for a high school Community Service trip. 

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While I was away, I couldn’t help but constantly think about Australia and how I yearned to be back there as soon as possible. I found it difficult at first to be fully immersed in the experience that I was undergoing, as my mind and heart was set on Australia. You could say I was going through serious withdrawal… My withdrawal became so severe that I began to reconsider a few plans that were currently set for my immediate future. I had been enrolled in Teacher’s College and was suppose to begin my studies in Intermediate/Senior Physical Education and Geography in September. After finally piecing together my many thoughts and feelings, it became very clear to me that I didn’t want to be a teacher. I realized that the main reason I chose “teaching” was solely based off the idea I wanted a way to justify my “wanderlust,” and I believed I could do that by supplementing my travel expenses with teaching worldwide. However it occurred to me that if I really just wanted to travel the world… why don’t I simply do that?

Greg Snell (Best Jobs – Wildlife Caretaker) stated it perfectly to me on a Skype call we had not to long ago; “I once considered teaching because it was one of the only jobs that would allow me enough time off in a year to travel, but then I realized all I really wanted to do was travel… so I did.” My mind has revisited that Skype conversation that we had many times, and it has helped me immensely in making many decisions I’ve had about the next chapter of my life post graduation.

I know that it may sound extremely crazy and slightly impractical at this stage of my life but the final decision I made was to decline my acceptance to Teacher’s College and move back to the country I adore – I’ll give you three guesses what that country is…You guessed AUSTRALIA right? Well if you did – way to go! If you didn’t… you obviously don’t following me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any form of social media… it’s all I talk about.

Let’s now fast-forward about a month and we are sitting on the date of August 16th 2013… two months away from the biggest and most drastic (but AWESOME) move of my life. Leaving around the 15th of October, I will board a flight from Toronto Pearson International Airport and jet off for the adventure of a lifetime: This spontaneous-Canadian-wanderer is Sydney, Australia bound indefinitely! As cliché as the saying is: YOLO – and I want to live it to the fullest. Are you ready to join me for the ride?

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Travelling requires a certain amount of planning. Before we discuss all the “fun” stuff surrounding my move – I think it is smart to highlight some of the technical and logistical aspects of leaving one’s home country to reside in another for an extended period of time. First thing that was on my checklist was applying for my Working Holiday (Temporary) Visa – Subclass 417. This visa is meant for people between the ages of 18 -30 who are interested in supplementing their “holiday” in Australia with short-term employment. Within minutes of answering a few questions and filling out a simple application… my visa had been approved. It took less than three minutes to be granted permission to live, work and study in Australia for up to a year! I was amazed by how fast and easy it was to get, and made me wonder why more Canadians don’t consider doing a WHV in Australia. For more information on the Canadian and Working Holiday Visa connection, make sure you check out my previous interview with “Best Jobs in the World” winner Greg Snell.

Now with my Visa sorted out, I knew I had to get the ball rolling in seeking out jobs in Sydney. Apparently my Australian luck struck again as I received an email I had been waiting for from a backpacker adventure travel company that I had applied to a while back. It was to schedule a Skype interview for a position in their Sydney City shop as a travel consultant and on-field travel blogger. Talk about the perfect job for me! I’m going to cut to the chase now and say that I got the job and will officially be starting in mid October as Peterpans Adventure Travel’s newest employee!

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What is Peterpans Adventure Travel?

They are the leading brand in adventure travel for the student, backpacker or “young at heart” traveller. With 18 shops located all across Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, Gold Coast, Cairns,  Perth, Adelaide, etc) and a 2 located in New Zealand (Auckland, Queenstown) … Peterpans Adventure Travel specializes in providing the best deals and packages for all travellers within Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Whether you are looking for a day trip to Phillip Island (VIC), an Outback Rock Tour to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (NT) or a 2 night, 2 day sailing adventure through the majestic Whitsunday Islands (QLD), Peterpans will be able to plan the perfect trip to suit you!

With my visa approved and a job secured, things are starting to become more real each and everyday. I look at my calendar and realize that 2 months is not a lot of time to plan, pack and say all my “see you laters” before I leave. There are still lots of things to do and I can’t wait for everything to fall nicely into place.

It’s going to be one hell of a ride and I hope you are there to join me.

Sam Clarke.

Best Jobs in the World

What an ENDING! – Best Jobs Finalists are Announced!

The big day has finally arrived! After over 2 weeks of challenges, interviews, media appearances in Sydney and in each of their respective states – the 7 winners of the Best Jobs in the world were being announced TODAY! I woke up this morning in complete awe that today was the day. Everything that all the finalists had been working towards the last couple months was on the line today. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how they were all feeling.

The last couple days in Sydney have been used to recover from the various challenges, interviews and events they all underwent in their respective states, as well as go through many more challenges, interviews and events in Sydney. It was also time to get the group together to see how they work as a team. It was really nice to finally be able to meet some of these people who I have truly idolized, and in a non creepy way stalked the last couple months. Nick Tilley describes it the best as, “a big reunion of people you have never actually met before.” It is absolutely true. These finalists have been watching each other’s Facebook, twitter, instagram and blogs seeing what they were all up to since the start of the contest. It was definitely surreal to have them all together vying for these “Best Jobs.”

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Going back to the announcement which happened today – all spectators and media crew entered the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney earlier than when the finalists arrived. We had the opportunity to view the boards, which displayed pictures and quotes from all the finalists’ time in Sydney and respective states. We loaded into the auditorium and waited amongst the many film crews, photographers and news reporters for the arrival of the finalists. When the finalists arrived I got instant chills. This was it!

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First to be announced was Chief Funster (NSW). The winner was Andrew Smith from the USA! Congrats ANDREW!

Second to be announced was Lifestyle Photographer (VIC). The winner was Roberto Seba from Brazil! Congrats ROBERTO

Third to be announced was Outback Adventurer (NT). The winner was Allan Dixon from Ireland! Congrats ALLAN!

Fourth to be announced was Park Ranger (QLD).  The winner was Elisa Detrez from France! Congrats ELISA!

Fifth to be announced was Taste Master (WA). The winner was Rich Keam from England! Congrats RICH!

Sixth to be announced was Wildlife Caretaker (SA). The winner was Greg Snell from CANADA!!!!!! Congrats GREG!

LAST but definitely not least, was the newly added position of High Flyer (AUS) offered by Virgin Australia. The winner was Cameron Ernst from USA! Congrats Cameron the comeback kid!

The 7 winners are official!

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It has been such a buildup of nerves and excitement from everyone that I think everyone is happy the announcement is complete. I know everyone is looking forward to the Wrap Party tonight to let loose a bit and enjoy our time together.

It’s been an absolute blast the last couple days and it is really starting to sink in that my time in Australia and time with “Best Jobs” is coming to an end… for now. All I have to do is enjoy the rest of my time here and live it up!

Once again, congrats to all the winner and FINALISTS for all the hard work! You should all be so proud of yourselves!

Time to party!

Sam Clarke,

Australia Best Jobs in the World

Noosa on the Water June 13/14th (Day 11/12)

Noosa Everglades Day Tour – June 13th (Day 11)

In the little beach town that is Noosa, the majority of activities available can be found on the water. Depending on your interests, Noosa has activities for the more laidback explorer as well as for the active explorer. Seeing as I experience waves of both, I had was lucky to have the opportunity to engage in both a leisurely boat cruise and active canoe experience. The Discovery Group picked me up from my accommodation at the Mantra French Quarter for my Noosa Everglades Bar-B-Canoe Day Tour.

Your adventure begins with a river cruise through magnificent lakes & wetlands of the Noosa River to the start of the Noosa Everglades.

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From what I had heard about Noosa from my peers – it wasn’t what I expected. I think this might have been in part to it being a slightly overcast and gloomy day, because Noosa is known for sunshine and it’s magnificent beaches. As the day progressed the sun peaked at times, but for the majority of it, it stayed overcast and even began to rain. However while in the cruise boat that wasn’t of huge concern, however when my partner and I were required to paddle 5km upstream through the Everglades, that’s when things got interesting.

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After morning tea, I was partnered up with a girl from Switzerland to share a canoe. As we were picking up our canoes at the departure point a little snake slithered by… and I obviously freaked out. They are so easily camouflage-able (is that even a word?… well it works perfectly in this context, so for now yes it is) with their environment that you could step on one without even knowing. That scares the living daylights out of me, cause I hate snakes. Anyways, after that mini crisis – Laura and I got into our canoe and we began up the everglades.20130613_11534120130613_123142

It was a really pretty canoe ride, however I was upset with the fact we didn’t really see anything “special.” No fish, no birds, no turtles, no wildlife, nothing. It made the 5 km, hour long canoe ride slightly drawn out. I think it might have been just an unlucky day on the Everglades cause I could imagine how beautiful it would be on a sunny day. I’ll have to give it a second chance next time I am in Noosa.20130613_123328

Lunch served with the tour was amazing! We had the choice of steak, barramundi (Australian fish) or a vegetarian option.  I got the barramundi and it was awesome. Put a squeeze of lemon on that and mmmm… to die for! I have never been a huge fish eater, but I think my taste buds are changing at rapid speed and might consider fish more often now.

After lunch we had the option to canoe back to the loading dock (5km downstream) or just hop into the boat and cruise back with the group. My partner and I decided to take the easy route and take the boat. It made the remainder of our time on the Noosa Everglades Bar-B-Canoe Day Tour quite enjoyable and relaxing.

Stand Up Paddle Surfing – June 14th (Day 12)

With Australia’s first Stand Up Paddle Surf Shop being in Noosa, I was amped to have a go at this myself. It was a beautiful winter morning in Noosa, reaching a high of around 25 degrees – perfect weather for stand up paddle surfing. I made my way down to Jetty 17 on Gympie Terrace to meet up with my paddleboard instructor Hayden. As soon as I arrived I was greeted with a smiling face and we went straight into my lesson. We grabbed 2 boards and made our way out into the water. The water was as calm as glass, which made my first time trying this activity a lot easier.

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As we made our way through the water I realized that it was way more of an abdominal workout that I had ever imagined – you have to ensure you hold in your tummy muscles or you will probably end up in the water.

Though I had done similar activities to paddle surfing before, being given the chance to have a lesson to learn the basics made progressing to harder moves a lot smoother. Hayden broke down the technique of transferring from a basic two footed stance, to a more complicated “surfer” style stance. With that sort of transition the likelihood of falling into the water is increased. Thanks to Hayden’s expertise and guidance I never fell in and managed to make it back completely dry!

It was awesome that we were able to paddle into the middle of the river and then make our way into a hidden creek. The creek was decorated all over in mangroves, which made for quite a beautiful atmosphere. While paddling back from the creek we saw a few stingrays in the water! They were varying in size from about 1.5 feet in width and height to about half that size (potentially baby rays). Paddling directly on top of the stingrays was an incredible sight… and thankfully I didn’t fall in…

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I want to thank Stand Up Paddle Surfing for an amazing time paddling Noosa, and being given the opportunity to see Noosa through another light. If you are ever in Noosa, QLD you really should consider taking a paddle surfing lesson or renting a board for a couple hours. Totally worth it!

The “Best Jobs” in the World work is coming up quick! Enough personal travels and time to meet up with the finalists after one last night in Queensland!

Sam Clarke.

Australia Best Jobs in the World

Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo

Imagine an experience similar to a young child’s first time at Disneyworld. The never-ending excitement and anticipation of meeting Mickey and Minnie Mouse, the Disney Princesses, the Seven Dwarves. The joy of them finally being tall enough to get on that rollercoaster they’ve been dreaming to ride. It’s hard to put into words how amazing this kid is feeling; they have a smile on their face that can’t be wiped away and a spontaneous laugh that is contagious. The first experience at Disneyworld will forever be ingrained in that child’s mind for the rest of their life.

As we get older and we experience various things daily, it’s rare to find an experience so intense that it will make it’s way into our life-long memory box. The sort of experience that leaves you smiling for hours after it is done, and makes you want to go back right after you left. I recently found an experience that fit this criterion to a tee as managed to blow the criterion away and surpass my expectations. Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo located in the Sunshine Coast, QLD is a magical place where you can feel like a kid again and not feel guilty about it.

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The Australia Zoo opened on June 3rd 1970 by Steve Irwin’s parents Bob and Lyn Irwin. Steve Irwin took over the responsibility of the Australia Zoo in later years, and was passed through his family following his tragic death in 2006. Many of the projects and exhibits that are now coming together in the Zoo were Steve’s planning, and his family felt it was their responsibility to go through with many of his plans.

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The Australia Zoo has over 1,200 animals coming from various places in Australia, Asia, Africa and all over the world. On a daily basis the zoo offers guided tours, free interactive wildlife shows, animals encounters and more! There is something for everyone who visits, and if you are lucky you may be able to snap a special photo with your favourite animal.

When I visited the Australia Zoo, I was lucky enough to have a guided tour to maximize my time at the zoo. With over 100 aches of land, you need all day to experience all the magic that the zoo offers. As you enter the zoo you pass a section of incredibly docile alligators in their enclosures. I was told that alligators are a lot friendly than crocodiles – it has once been reported before that when a keeper went into a crocodile’s enclosure to clean up the croc struck out and grabbed hold of the keepers lawn-mover and ripped it away from him. As I have mentioned in previous posts, crocs hunt for humans if they have an empty tummy. The American Alligator is generally timid towards humans and tend to walk or swim away if one approaches. I personally have a hard time telling alligators and crocodiles apart, so to be safe I think I’ll avoid both species all together.

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One of the iconic and memorable experiences at the Australia is the world’s largest crocodile model on display for people to take pictures with. Cameron the crocodile is a replica created to mimic the dimensions of a real crocodile that could still exist today in the wild. Cameron is huge, he’s 8.23 metres long and weighs 930kgs (2050 pounds)!

Moving onto Asia, the Red Panda is another unique species that is featured at the Australia Zoo. The original Panda until the Giant Panda was discovered, these guys look similar to a fox with the shape of a raccoon.

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They are known to be extremely friendly, and you can purchase an animal encounter with them at the zoo. They are absolutely adorable and I think they know it too… this little guy had no problem posing and working the crowd to ensure all angles of him were seen.

Continuing through the zoo we met up with the tigers at the Tiger Temple. Bengal and Sumatra tigers were on display and were about to go through with some daily check-up routines. It was so neat that behind the observation windows we were able to see a tiger undergo a few procedures (teeth cleaning, etc) with the use of dripping milk. Instead of sedating them to keep them under control, the milk soothes them and allows for the zookeepers to get up and close to perform their check-ups. It was really neat that the Australia Zoo has routines like this, and the general public is able to see them live. By the end of the presentation I had fallen in love with one of the tigers and didn’t want to say bye.

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Well behaved is an understatement.

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Paws up kitty – you are guilty of utter cuteness and great showmanship!

The koala enclosure is also a must-see when you go to the Australia Zoo. Unlike ever other zoo or wildlife habitat I have been to, I have never seen so many koalas all co-existing in the same environment. There were over 20 koalas throughout the enclosure – some more easily identifiable then others, and one that had a joey in it’s pouch! Since the Australia Zoo has so many animals and they are constantly putting new animals into their public displays, you have the chance to see animals in every stage of life.

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I have a hard time writing about the next section of the zoo we went to without smiling and laughing uncontrollably. Many of the encounters you have at the Australia Zoo are by purchase only; however if you want an encounter that will top a lot of things in this universe… visit the Australia Zoo kangaroo enclosure. Maybe it is something in the water in Australia, or the food these guys eat, but these kangaroos are hilarious. I think the pictures speak for themselves that these guys enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed theirs.

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AWESOME ALERT! – Okay, so the next experience available at the zoo has got to have made it to the top of the “awesome cool things” I’ve done in my life list. I haven’t actually written that list down yet, but if I ever do, it’s going to be on there… probably fitting somewhere in between the 1st and 10th spot. I’ve done a lot of awesome cool things before, so ranking that high is quite a statement. The Australia Zoo offers an encounter that brings animal encounters to a whole new level – the biggest and best encounter ever… the elephant feeding encounter.

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During this encounter, you have the opportunity to be placed in front of the two elephants (both female elephants, age 54 & 55) and hand feed them. It was amazing – you really get the chance to see close up how HUGE these animals are, and how strong their trunks are. They have thousands of individual muscles in their trunks and they all help to maneuver it to direct food into their mouths. After hand-feeding the elephants through their trunks, I was able to touch one of the elephant’s tongue! They are so pink and soft, and you can tell the elephants really like the attention as well. The elephant feeding was such a surreal experience that you MUST add to your bucket list if you are ever heading to the Australia Zoo.

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No need to get on a plane to experience the magic of Africa! Africa has recently been opened at the Australia Zoo after many years of planning. Before Steve died, he began the planning of the Africa exhibit, and fortunately his family was able to make his dreams a reality a couple years ago.

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With giraffes, zebras, and rhinoceros currently on display in the Australia Zoo, you really get a nice sample of the some of the African animals. There are 4 giraffes, and one of them is currently pregnant! It is incredible to see the big bump on the mother’s stomach, and then imagine a baby giraffe growing inside of her.

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A baby rhinoceros named Mango has also recently been born (Feb 2013), and put on display in Africa. The name Mango came from a naming contest put on by the zoo, and the little girl who named her had picked up a mango and said how she thought the baby rhino’s head looked like a mango. I think the name suites her perfectly.

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Saira (my wonderful tour guide) told me a fascinating story about what Steve envisioned when he was planning out Africa. He pictured the lions to be in the distance, looking over the rest of Africa (think Lion King). I mentioned that that idea reminded me of Lion King and Saira pointed out Pride Rock, which is located in the centre of the Africa exhibit. The animals all co-exist peacefully with each other and you can tell that they are very well taken care of by the staff and volunteers.

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There are so many things that make the Australia Zoo absolutely incredible. First and foremost, the staff and volunteers. The Australia Zoo has over 300 staff and volunteers that have a huge passion for the animals. To them it is not just a job; it is an opportunity to help out with the conservation and well-being of some of the most incredible and rare animals in the world. As you walk through the zoo, you can’t find an employee or volunteer without a smile on their face – you can tell they all love what they are doing. You can really feel the energy from the staff and volunteers when you visit different exhibits, and it truthfully makes for a heart-warming experience. Additionally, the treatment of the animals is top-notch. They are not seen to the employees as a typical “zoo-animal” on display; they are treated and cared for as individuals. Zookeepers are assigned to specific animals and they give their all to ensure the animal is healthy and happy. A happy animal makes for a happy staff, which makes for a happy zoo.

Another aspect of the Australia Zoo that sets it apart from other zoos is the Wildlife Hospital located directly beside the Zoo grounds. Within the Wildlife Hospital is a passionate team of staff and volunteers whose main goal is to help injured or sick animals. It costs about 2 million dollars a year for the hospital to run, and it is purely funded through donations. Being given the chance to have a tour through the hospital was incredible.

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There are various observation windows for visitors to take a closer look at the work these highly talented doctors, and surgeons do on a daily basis. If you are interested, you are allowed to watch a live surgery while it’s happening through one of the windows. The wildlife hospital is a very welcoming environment and I believe that is one reason why they are able to keep it running year after year. The donations they receive each year come from people who have visited the zoo and felt somewhere in their heart after leaving that they wanted to help the animals.

20130612_161734 Some animals (i.e. Stuart the Koala) have been in the hospital for years and they are making progress day by day to fully recover. Stuart who managed to pull on my heartstrings while I was there, was found after being hit by a car about a year or so ago. He was brought to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital and put through various surgeries and procedures to help him get better. Through all the great work and patience by the hospital staff, Stuart is making great progress and will be released into the wild in no time at all.

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The greatest joy any of the staff and volunteers at the hospital get is seeing an animal get better and be able to be released back into the wild. Save One, Save the Species is the Wildlife Hospital’s motto, and I can truly see the work and passion put in from the staff to keep this motto valid.

If you are interested in becoming a Wildlife Warrior and donating to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, please feel free to by following the link here. All donations are used to help feed orphaned animals, care for critically ill and injured patients, get confiscated wildlife back into the wild, and help perform life saving surgery. Animals like Stuart would very much appreciate any help they can get!

Visiting the Wildlife Hospital after my tour of the zoo was the perfect way to end the day. It really made it clear the amount of passion and love Steve Irwin had for animals, as well as his ability to inspire others to have the same.

The Australia Zoo is an experience I still find myself smiling about 2 days later. The interaction with the staff, animals and zoo as a whole have left a huge impact on me, and I can’t wait to become a Wildlife Warrior to help keep this magical place running.

A place that makes you feel like a kid again, brings a smile to your face and warms your heart; make sure to Add “the Australia Zoo” to Your Bucket List.

Australia Best Jobs in the World

Go Aussie, Go WILD! – June 10th (Day 8)

This has been my earliest morning yet! Up at 6am to pack my belongings into a travel pack, check out of Gilligan’s for the night, and catch my “Go WILD” Jungle Tour. After collecting all the tour members from various hotels, hostels and curbs on the street, we began the tour with a scenic coastal drive along the Captain Cook Highway up to Port Douglas.

Wildlife Habitat 

Our first stop in Port Douglas was the Wildlife Habitat – “Australia’s Leading Wildlife Experience.” I don’t think I have ever seen so many different species of plants or animals in such a short period of time in my life! The Wildlife Habitat really “Puts you in the ZOO!”

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The Wildlife Habitat is an advanced eco-accredited immersion exhibit – an open interactive environment for guests and animals to mingle in a spacious natural setting. Visitors wander along elevated boardwalks, observing up close a huge range of flora and fauna as birds fly and roam freely.

Right as we walked into the exhibit we were introduced to the cassowary, which is one of Australia’s most dangerous and endangered birds around.

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The cassowary looks similar to an emu in the sense they have a large black rump, however they have a long blue and red neck and on the top of their head they have a horn like structure. Apparently the horn-like structure is made of a similar substance to our fingernails and toenails. You really don’t want to anger a cassowary as they will probably try to kill you, or if you manage to escape their attack you will be left quite wounded.

The koala presentation was next on our itinerary. To many people’s surprise, koalas are NOT bears. They are marsupials and come from a similar family to the wallaby and the kangaroo. A marsupial has a pouch and their gestation period is significantly shorter then a bear (mammal), with only a development period of about 35 days before the “baby” is born. Koalas are one of the laziest animals in the entire world, they sleep for 20 of the 24 hours in the day, and are only awake to eat. What a life! Following the presentation we were given the chance to hold a koala if we were interested. Queensland is the only state where you are still allowed to actually hold a koala, so if this is for you come to Queensland before its too late!

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Following the koala exhibit, my Suisse friend and I made our way through to the wallaby and crocodile exhibit. It was wicked to get so close to the wallabies and feed them. They are the just the sweetest animals in the world, and have no problem coming up to you and grabbing food from your hands.

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Crocodiles on the other hand don’t have the same temper. They are put in an enclosed environment for viewing only. I was able to “snap” some really neat close-up photos of the crocs while at the exhibit. They appear to be very slow moving, docile animals that don’t have any cares in the world, but I know if they are frightened or startled – they slitter faster than you could imagine. Let’s just say I didn’t make and sharp moves or eye contact with these guys and peacefully exited from the crocodile exhibit.

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As I made my way through the exhibit, I also saw tonnes of kangaroos bouncing about. One of them in particular was especially friendly and voluntarily posed for people to photograph with him/her.

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After being to the moon in excitement for being so close to a kangaroo, my excitement shot over the moon when I saw a joey in another kangaroos pouch! I couldn’t look away – it was amazing to see what you read about in books and see in movies right in front of your eyes. It was such an incredible sight, and a perfect way to end the morning at the Wildlife Habitat.

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Daintree River Cruise & Alexandra Lookout

A short drive away from Port Douglas was the Daintree River Cruise Centre. Included in our “Go Wild” Jungle Tour was a 1-hour cruise along the Daintree River.

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Explore a unique and diverse eco-system at the junction of ocean mangroves and freshwater World Heritage Rainforest.

On our river cruise, he had the chance to see wildlife such as crocodiles, green tree snakes, and a rainbow bird in their natural habitats. Some of the crocodiles we saw ranged from 1 to 100 years old! Some of the crocs ranged in length from less than 1 foot to 2 metres long! You don’t want to get too close to these guys, cause unlike some of the other animals in the wild – crocs hunt for humans.

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Before heading to lunch, we made a quick pit spot at a beautiful lookout called the Alexandra Lookout. Take a look at the magnificent view of the Daintree River and the Coral Sea.

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Daintree Rainforest Walk

The morning finished up with a delicious picnic lunch provided by “Go Wild – Jungle Tour” and some natural chili chocolate Icecream from a local shop. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to enjoy an hour long guided tour through the Daintree Rainforest. I have been extremely impressed by the knowledge that all the tour guides have about where they work. You could ask “Nic” about any species of wildlife in the entire rainforest and she would be able to tell you the name of it and a few facts to follow. Not only would she fill your brain with knowledge during the guided walks, she would keep your brain working on the long bus rides with history of the rainforest as well as interesting personal stories.

What intrigued me the most about the Daintree Rainforest was not it’s current beauty, but the growth and development that it underwent to get to its current state. Many species of wildlife that are found in the rainforest have been growing for thousands of years, with traces being found millions of years back. Some of the trees only grow about an inch a year, and have currently reached heights of over 100 feet. Do the math… that’s a lot of inches.

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The Strangler Fig is another species that is extremely fascinating and is found in the Daintree Rainforest. It’s name comes from its natural behaviour to surround itself around another tree and grow alongside it. As it grows beside the other tree, it begins to “strangle” it, which inevitably leads to the other tree to die. After hundreds of years of this tree rotting, it is left hollow on the inside. I had the chance to see strangler fig at work, and the hollow nature of the dying tree is absolutely beautiful.

There is so much to see and learn about up in the rainforest. It receives more rain some days than London, England receives in the entire year. You can feel the energy of the rainforest and can smell the freshness of the air you are breathing in. It truly is a magical experience unlike anything else in the world.

Cape Tribulation Beach House

My accommodation for the evening was at the Cape Tribulation Beach House Resort, which is situation right on the Cape Tribulation Beach. About 50 feet from the resort’s bar and bistro you can find the entrance to the beach.

Cape Tribulation Beach House is a very funky, modern resort, which offers a wide range of affordable accommodation from budget to deluxe. Offering a beachfront bar and bistro with a totally cool chilled-out summer beach vibe; you will feel at home in the rainforest.

As soon as I arrived and checked in to my private rainforest cabin, I made my way down to the beach with a beer in hand. It was perfect. It was slightly overcast but it didn’t even phase me.

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Being amongst one of the most diverse rainforests in the entire world took over my thoughts – I was completely disconnected from the rest of the world and I felt at peace. I took a moment to myself while staring out into the ocean to think about how incredible the last week of my life has been in Australia. Only wonderful memories came to mind and I proceeded to smile.

Australia is truly a place of magic. A place where you can really discover yourself. A place where the possibilities are endless and opportunity is at your fingertips. Australia changed me for the better the first time I visited, and it continues to make me a better, more well-rounded individual with each encounter and experience I have in this country. As a youth solo traveller, it does get lonely every once and a while, but if I could choose one place in the world to be completely on my own, I’d be Australia.

The Cape Tribulation Beach House Resort was the perfect place to spend my evening. I returned from a long stroll on the beach to enjoy a delicious dinner from the bar and bistro. Following my dinner, I met up with a couple German girls who had also made the trip from Cairns to Cape Tribulation for the night and we shared our various Australia stories. Everyone you meet while travelling in Australia are extremely friendly. Australia is the perfect place to travel throughout your “youth” years, and is a perfect time filler during a gap-year. Just be careful… you may never want to leave! For more information on opportunities in Australia, take a look at the Australia Work-Holiday Visa and way that YOU could spend a year in the best country in the world.

It’s been about a week since I’ve been in Australia. I have a hard time trying to wrap my head around all the adventures I have already done and how many more I have to do. There really is no place like Australia, and I hope you take the leap and come find that out yourself.

Until next time,

Sam Clarke

Australia Best Jobs in the World

A Slight Change of Pace – June 9th (Day 7)

It’s time to tune in my inner Park Ranger and head north to the tropical land of Cairns, Queensland. After meeting up with Astra Limousines outside of the Sydney Central YHA, I was straight to the airport to pick up my 8.55am flight to Cairns. When I arrived, I checked in, crossed my fingers my bag weighed less than 50 lbs, and went straight through to security.

My flight took off about 10 minutes late, which normally I don’t fuss over, but I was in a small time crunch for catching my white water rafting tour that afternoon. On my flight to Cairns, I was seated beside a really nice guy from Michigan who was with a group tour focused on medicine. They had been to Melbourne and Sydney and were visiting various hospitals, clinics and participating in several medicine based activities while overseas. They were finally flying up north to enjoy some R & R in Port Douglas while enjoying the beach and the hot weather.

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When our flight landed, I immediately ran to baggage claim as it was pressing 1 o’clock and I was being picked up at 1.45pm at my hostel for my rafting tour. The Cairns domestic airport is very tiny, and to be frank slightly disorganized. Trying to identify the carousel that my luggage would be coming out of was impossible as nothing was properly marked and hundred of flights were arriving at the same time. It took me over half an hour to find my bag which led it to being 1:15 before I left the airport. To make matters worse, Cairns was hosting an Ironman during the day and some of the major highways going into the city were blocked off. That caused my shuttle to my hostel being late and me starting to panic. It wasn’t until 1:25 that my shuttle arrived and once again another thing not in my favour, Gilligan’s Resort and Bar was the second last drop off. At this point I had come to terms with it that I wasn’t going to raft and that’s that. My perfect trip streak was coming to an end…

Raging Thunder White Water Rafting

But maybe the gods listened to my prayers, I arrived at Gilligan’s just after 2pm and the bus for rafting was gone. However, the tour guide had called me seeing where I was and was kind enough to loop around again and pick me up!!! This would never of happened back in Canada – you snooze you lose! Just another example of how Australians are fabulous people!

Following that small mini crisis of almost not making the bus, I was able to relax a bit while we made our way to Lake Placid (about 20 minutes away from Cairns). Tim who worked for Raging Thunder Rafting led us to the Barron River. Similar to many of the Cairns tour guides, he was awesome! Full of energy and passion for where he lives and works.r1

When we arrived, we got put into our rafting groups, ran through some safety protocols and were ready to go. My group consisted of myself, 4 USA exchange students currently studying in Sydney as well as Tim. We hopped into the raft and started our way down the Barron River. They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so in that case I will let you gage my rafting experience via these pictures…

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As you can see, I was having the time of my life. It makes me wonder why I had never rafted before, even in Canada!

Ironman Cairns

Despite the bitter taste I had in my mouth about the Cairns Ironman that almost made me miss out on rafting, I was very interested in checking out the finish line which was right on the Cairns esplanade. Amongst a crowd of thousands and thousands cheering on their loved ones, I found a good spot to stand to cheer on complete randoms as they finished the last 100 metres of their run after the swim, 190 km bike and 42 km run. Even saying that makes me tired; imagining having to complete those lengths would probably kill me. I don’t understand how people can get themselves into that fitness level to be able to be standing after completing an Ironman. It almost put me into tears when I saw the top finisher in the Women’s 18-24 ages range complete it in 12.5 hours.

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Other than my self-esteem plummeting and exploding on the floor, it made me reconsider how fit I was… kind of kicked me in the butt to consider getting into better shape. Maybe I will start small and train for a 10km in the New Year? Hmm… Well I’ll think about that later, as for now I’ll just travel the world.

It was another early evening for myself, as I had to be awake at 630 for my “Go Wild” Jungle Tours pick-up at 7am the next day. There has been no down time for this lady – on the go, nonstop. I go from attraction to attraction, city to city while exploring anything and everything that presents itself to me in between. Extremely exhausting, but I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t wait to spend the next 2 days in the rainforest as I tune in my inner Park Ranger and Mowgli from the Jungle Book.

I won’t be having Internet access while in Port Douglas, the Daintree Rainforest or Cape Tribulation, so my posting will come to a hault for a short period of time. Hold tight though, my wanderful life will be updated as soon as I am back!

On to the next adventure,

Sam Clarke