On the Great Barrier Reef I stayed in Airlie Beach, next to Shute Harbour for three full days. On the first two days I took a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef with FantaSea. They seem to be one of the largest operators in that area. The tours were very well organized. They have a floating platform called Reefworld permanently anchored next to the outer reef. The day trips go out to the reef in the morning. The boat trip takes about three hours on a pretty fast large catamaran. You stay on the platform for about four hours, enough for two dives. They also have a boat with underwater windows that makes 20 minute excursions to the reef. The view out the underwater windows is spectacular, they get real close to the reef. The picture of the sea turtle for instance was taken from this boat.
On the third day I took a whale watching tour with the same tour operator. It was quite spectacular. At one time we were watching a pod of six whales playing around real close to the ship. It was awesome. Whales are HUGE creatures. On this trip I also saw a few dolphins, but only in the distance.
The next day I flew back south to Hervey Bay, not quite halfway to Parkes. This is supposedly the Whale Watching capital of the World. And indeed, the whale watching there was spectacular. I stayed there for two nights and went on one whale watching trip. This was a much smaller boat, so we were much closer to the whales. At one time, one of the whales stuck his head vertically out of the water, about 3-4 m (10-13 ft) from the boat. What an awesome sight!
Whales are very curious creatures. They come very close to the boat to do people watching. They really visit the boats to observe the people. It was quite clear that they do that when a second boat came up to ours after we had been watching the whales for about 15 minutes. The whales had been playing around our boat the whole time. When the other boat showed up, the whales immediately swam over to the newly arrived boat and started swimming around it.
Pictures of birds in Australia and other nature pages are separate:
View of the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, a very scenic mountain range. (665k) The Outback, somewhere north of Parkes. It is mostly sheep and cattle country. (1011k) East Australian coast near Brisbane. (751k) Island on the east coast, north of Rockhampton. (676k) One of the Whitsunday Islands. (714k)
Land Fauna and Flora in Australia
A Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus, german: Kurzschnabeligel, french: Échidné à nez court), or spiny ant eater. (953k) Kangaroos in the Sydney zoo (they may be Wallabys, I don't remember). (913k) A Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, german: Koala, french: Koala) in the zoo. At the conference banquet of the IAU General Assembly they had a koala and a baby kangaroo that people could pet. It was quite interesting to see some of the native animals close-up. The Koala is endemic to Australia. (857k) Kangaroos on a meadow in the evening light. (931k) Road sign warning of kangaroo crossing. This is really a problem, I saw many road-kill kangaroos. (652k)
Sea Life in Australia
Lionfish. This and the following three pictures were taken in the Sydney aquarium. (708k) Cuttlefish, a relative of the octopus and the squid. (700k) Leafy Sea Dragon (Phycodurus eques, german: Großer Fetzenfisch, french: Hippocampe feuille), a relative of the seahorse. (770k) Shark. (490k) Coral. (873k) Coral. (884k) Coral. (1279k) Coral and fish. (1428k) Coral and fish. (899k) It is not hard to figure out the name of this type of corral, the so-called Brain Coral. (797k) Coral and fish. (837k) Coral and Lemon Damselfish (Pomacentrus moluccensis). (1179k) Yellowfin Surgeonfish (Acanthurus xanthopterus, french: Chirurgien à nageoires jaunes). (726k) Sea Turtle. (587k) Black-backed Butterflyfish (Chaetodon melannotus, french: Poisson-papillon à dos noir). (815k) Staghorn Coral (Acropora sp., french: Acropores). (1008k) Tube. (852k) A school of fish, acting like one organism. It looked like they were flowing around the larger fish, always keeping a minimum distance. (638k)
Whale Watching in the Whitsundays and Hervey Bay
A Dolphin leaping 3 m (10 ft) out of the water. (767k) A pod of five Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae, german: Buckelwal, french: Baleine à bosse), splashing around, having fun. (911k) Two Humpback Whales (Megaptera novaeangliae, german: Buckelwal, french: Baleine à bosse), showing their enormous backs. (861k) Pod of Humpback whales, one showing his head and mouth. (1000k) Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae, german: Buckelwal, french: Baleine à bosse). This shows the whole whale through the water. (768k) Whales like to play around in the water. This one was repeatedly slapping his front flipper onto the water. (792k) This one was rolling over on his back. (923k) This one was slapping his tail fluke onto the water. (974k) Closeup of the head of one of the whales. (811k) Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae, german: Buckelwal, french: Baleine à bosse). When they start to exhale while still partly submerged, they blow up huge fountains of water and spray. (875k) Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae, german: Buckelwal, french: Baleine à bosse). Closeup of the head with the blow holes. Baileen whales (like the humpback) have dual blow holes, while toothed whales have a single blow hole. (779k) Closeup of the heads of two whales. You can see the barnacles on the white underside on one of them. (912k) A closeup of the underside of the head of one of the whales, with barnacles. (982k)