Maria Island December 2016
Ky and I visited Maria Island, off Tasmania's east coast. The whole island is a national park.
The passenger ferry (there is no vehicle ferry) runs from Triabunna (just off the map to the north) to a jetty at Darlington. As you can see from the map below, there are walking tracks (some suitable for bicycles) from Darlington, leading down Maria's west coast. Most tourists explore the tracks within an hour's walk from Darlington, so those who prefer longer walks are rewarded with a real 'wilderness' experience.
Before leaving we checked the museum in Hobart so we could distinguish wildlife of the 'hopping' variety.
From top left to bottom right: long-nosed potoroo, Tasmanian bettong, Bennett's wallaby, and the Tasmanian pademelon. In addition, grey kangaroos from the Australian mainland have been introduced to Maria Island. The small ones, the potoroo and the bettong, are difficult to photograph in the wild, or even see, as they are shy and nocturnal. We were also expecting wombats to be shy and nocturnal, but as we found out, NOT on Maria Island.
There is sometimes tourist accommodation available in "the penitentiary" (in the old days, convict housing) but on enquiring with the Parks Service we found it was booked out. Luckily for us the camping ground was not booked out, so we packed our tent (and a lot of other "necessary" bits and pieces) and took the ferry from Triabunna.
As you can see from the enormous amount of luggage, neither Ky nor I have any idea about light-weight camping. This was for just four days...
We found a shady spot in the camping ground - not hard at this time of year (before the Christmas rush).
One of the first things we did was to explore the water underneath the jetty. A snorkeller's paradise, although the water was freezing. The shading provided by the concrete jetty creates conditions similar to caves, where there is not enough light for algae. Here, hard surfaces are covered with colourful filter-feeders. Many strange shapes, in red, orange, purple and white. Unfortunately we have no photos. We made two trips, emerging from both shivering uncontrollably.
Only a half-hour walk from the Darlington campsite, Maria's famous fossil cliffs are amazing. Rocks just packed with fossils.
Apparently this site is listed on the World Heritage Register for it's fossil values.
Up until the recent introduction of Tasmanian devils, Maria Island was largely predator-free, so grazing animals, like these Cape Barren Geese, prospered.
In fact, grazing pressures are very high. This photo shows heavy grazing pressure on the grass under-storey. Note the absence of seedlings: the eucalypts are not regenerating here.
Grazers include the native hen (above), Cape Barren geese, possums, wombats, and the hopping marsupials. Since their introduction (I think in 2012) Tasmania devils have reduced the numbers of these animals, particularly the hens and geese. Possums are part-predator, feeding on young penguins and short-tailed shear-waters in their burrows. Since the introduction of Tasmanian devils to Maria, the breeding population of penguins has undergone a huge drop.
The old buildings of Maria Island are a key attraction. A few have been restored and are in use, but most are now picturesque ruins.
Like the silos near the jetty. In the last century, Maria's main industries were whaling, farming, and the manufacture of cement from the island's limestone deposits.
Ky took this great photo of a mother Bennett's wallaby with its joey.
Grey kangaroos are only too happy to pose for photographs...
Most of the larger trees were cut down long ago for timber and fire-wood, but a few remain.
The 'painted cliffs' are remarkable, and, like other cliffs here, provide a home for swallows.
Ruins have always held a fascination for me...
Wandering around these picturesque ruins brought back memories from years past, of the holiday I had here with Miriam...
If there is one place in Australia to see wombats, it's here on Maria.
Normally quiet, slow and docile, this one did not see us walking along the track, and gave a jump at suddenly realizing how close we were.
Most wombats seem comfortable having their photo taken.
The same cannot be said of the Tasmanian devil. Although nocturnal and shy, they do appear in the camp-ground kitchen late at night.