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Crikey – It’s a Cassowary on the Beach!

Crikey – It’s a Cassowary on the Beach!

Just when I think my recent wildlife experiences can’t possibly be exceeded, there she is, in all her majestic beauty, the finest specimen of a wild cassowary I have ever seen, (and I’m lucky enough to have spotted a few now). Only this time, she’s strutting along the sandy shores of Etty Bay beach, which in itself is a shining diamond of nature. What a day folks!

It’s hard to describe the awe and appreciation at seeing this prehistoric looking endangered species walking along one of the most picturesque beaches in Queensland, foraging and feeding on roots and berries underneath the rainforest trees bordering the beach.

I followed her along the sand, at a respectful distance, for around 15-20 minutes as she unhurriedly went about her business. At times I bravely approached to within 2 – 3 metres of this imposing piece of creation, until she would look me in the eye with a look that said “that’s close enough, thank you”, at which point I backed away slowly (as all the warning signs tell you to do, right after the part about not approaching a cassowary …), and admired her from a distance.

The lustrous sheen of her thick black feathers and the bright, iridescent blues and reds around her head showed a healthy, well-built bird. The helmet, her crowning glory, was extra-large and in mint condition. A wonderful evolutionary tool to scare potential predators, and curious nature-loving tourists, into respecting this bird’s personal space!

And what a space this bird inhabits!

Etty Bay – promise to keep it a secret if I tell you how perfect it is?

The glimpses of aqua blue waters through the trees alerted us as we descended the mountain, then as we rounded the corner into Etty Bay we knew we had found something special.

Book-ended by dense green forest, the beachfront is interspersed with coconut palms and larger tropical shade trees. The northern end of the beach has wonderful formations of jagged black rocks which form secluded little coves, the perfect sitting spot to escape the fresh south-easterly wind that’s blowing.

And finally people, finally … a body of water that doesn’t turn your blood into red icicles when you submerge yourself in it! Yes, the ocean is warm here. Well, relative to what it’s been like everywhere else on this trip. I’d estimate the water temperature was around 24 degrees, which in my language equates to ‘do-able’!

But of course there’s a catch, in that you might end up being the catch of a passing crocodile. “But wait!” you say. “What a croc! Crocs don’t live in the ocean.” You’re quite right my friend, they don’t, but wait until you ready my post Croc Alert at Port Douglas Beach, coming soon to a computer screen near you … You’ll never feel safe swimming in any FNQ beach again.

But back to the beauty …

The warm waters (for paddling …), soft, tree-lined, picturesque sandy shores, and interesting rock formations rate this beach very highly for me.  And not the least of this can be attributed to the little town of Etty Bay itself. If you can even call it a town, it’s really only a small beachfront van park with attached kiosk and a surf lifesaving club.

Whilst I have visited many stunning beaches in Queensland they are often back-dropped by high-rises or other retail/commercial development. But it’s the undeveloped beauty of Etty Bay which sets it apart from the rest. And the resident cassowaries of course, who are, by the way, not the only magnificent prehistoric looking residents in town.

Check out this guy! Isn’t he beautiful?  The waddling gait of the goanna is a joyful thing to watch. I love these creatures (again, from a respectful distance). We followed this guy for a while trying to snap some decent pictures until he found his way home to a hollow in the beachfront tree trunk, where he scaled the inside. I watched the tip of his tail disappear from sight as he settled in for the evening. Seems we both scored a room with a view tonight. Which brings me to the next part of this story …

View from our balcony

Upon arrival, we immediately realised we’d made a terrible mistake in pre-booking accommodation at the Innisfail Motel for the night, our plans being to continue southbound tomorrow heading for Townsville. But the first thing we saw as we drove in (apart from the spectacular beach view) was the perfect little cabin only metres from the beach, which happened to be available, and, below budget! It seemed too good to be true, and doubly frustrating to be committed elsewhere. But such was the appeal of this beachside wonderland that we sheepishly phoned the motel to plead for a late cancellation, which to their credit, they granted graciously. Yippee!

Feeling secure with our prime piece of real estate, we then set off to fully explore the beach, which is when we encountered the amazing wildlife.

Still on an elevated high from our initial Etty Bay experiences, we felt reluctant to give up our prime piece of real estate and impulsively booked an extra two nights. The manager invited us to have ‘happy hour by the beach’ with everybody tomorrow night; it’s going to be a special occasion happy hour – a Hawaiian themed sausage sizzle! Now how could you turn down an invitation like that?

Mareeba Wetlands

Perhaps we’ll also be dining with a cassowary? And why not, this morning we had breakfast amongst wild emus at Mareeba. Another stately bird with a far less threatening demeanour than ‘Queen Cassowary’. The emus are highly curious creatures and come close to check you out. They have a much friendlier, if not as impressive, face than the cassowary. But Breakfast with Wild Emus is a whole other post yet to be written!

 Sunrise at Etty Bay. Seriously – how can we leave this place?!

But as each new day dawns, who knows what new, awe-inspiring things we’ll discover in this wonderful land of Oz!

Stay tuned to find out …!

© September 2012