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HindustanTimes Thu,21 Aug 2014

Of exotic, native wildlife in Queensland, Australia

Nirmika Singh, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, April 16, 2014
First Published: 17:48 IST(16/4/2014) | Last Updated: 19:40 IST(16/4/2014)

While on our way, from the airport to the hotel, the coastal city of Gold Coast had the same effect on us that Goa probably has on North Indians visiting the state for the first time. The unhurried pace of life, the extensive waterfront and people walking around in Hawaiian shirts and beach shorts — it doesn’t take much to make you feel like you are on holiday.

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http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/4/ht-cife-pg6b.jpgThe city certainly has a lot to offer to all kinds of tourists, from honeymooners and food connoisseurs to wildlife enthusiasts. The last group could arguably be the most privileged with the exotic fauna that can be seen here.

Go native
Since no trip to the country is complete without a glimpse of galloping kangaroos and wallabies, an interesting way to catch them in their natural habitats is while hot air ballooning at Canungra, a rural township.The experience was like killing two birds with one stone, as it mixed the thrill of soaring in one of the southern hemisphere’s largest balloons while getting a bird’s eye view of the habitat where these adorable creatures live.

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The great thing about Australia is that it boasts of a diverse landscape within a relatively small area. You could be basking in the sun at the beach one hour and spotting koalas in a rainforest the next.We took the half-day outback tracks charter ride conducted by Southern Cross 4WD Tours on Tamborine Mountain, which is less than an hour from Gold Coast, and enjoyed our time spotting native birds, deadly insects, koalas and exotic trees.

Marine world
When in Gold Coast, a visit to Sea World is a must. They have, besides sharks, dolphins and turtles, penguins that any visitor would fall in love with at first sight. The polar bears here are kept in a special area that replicates their natural habitat. Don’t forget to spot young Henry, who was the first baby bear to be born at this particular Sea World.

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Tangalooma Island Resort at Moreton Island, which is a 75-minute ferry ride away from Brisbane, is a wonderful place to get your marine life fix. You could feed wild dolphins, kookaburras or pelicans at the jetty, go bird spotting or go on a trail to get better acquainted with the flora and fauna found in the bush.

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There are tens of land and water activities to choose from as well. Don’t miss the boat ride to the shipwrecks — the remains of vessels that were deliberately sunk in 1963. These wrecks are now a popular snorkelling and diving spot, and are just off the Tangalooma shore. The clear blue waters that allow an astonishing view of the vibrant marine life make the experience absolutely worthwhile.
(The writer travelled to Australia as a guest of Tourism Australia)

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While there
Brisbane is a 90-minute drive from Gold Coast. Go on a sightseeing tour on a bus and learn about the early settlers of the region. Also try the riverboat cruise on the Brisbane River.  A ride on the Wheel of Brisbane is quite enjoyable and gives one a panoramic view of the urban settlements.

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http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/popup/2014/4/ht-cife-pg6d.jpgArt lovers can check out the spectacular Gallery Of Modern Art. Foodies will be spoilt for choice with eateries that offer all kinds of foods located at Boundary Street, West End.

DON’T MISS
Go jet boating in Gold Coast:
This 45-minute experience, besides leaving you dripping wet, will also give you a glimpse of the opulent seaside mansions, where some of the richest live.

Try sandboarding at Tangalooma: Sliding head-down at high speeds on a steep sand dune sounds like fun? If yes, then don’t miss this activity while at this island.

Visit SkyPoint: Travel in an incredibly fast elevator and then get a 360-degree view of Gold Coast – with its impressive array of waterways – from one of world’s tallest residential towers.


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