Sunday, 18 December 2011

Territory Wildlife Park & Berry Springs

A day trip to Berry Springs and the Territory Wildlife Park.
Add this to your agenda if you visit Darwin and the Northern Territory.
The weather forecast was not good, showers and an afternoon storm. But my new friend and I decided to chance it anyway. A day trip. A chance to get out of the city with company. Female company what's more.
Berry Springs is about a 50 minute drive south of Darwin on good sealed roads. When we left it was hot, humid and about 40% cloud cover. No immediate threat of rain.
Arriving at Berry Springs we had been talking so much that we had missed all road signs. So we popped into the Sunday morning Market for directions. We wandered around the stalls and I bought a jar of honey. (What? You wanted something more substantial than that? Bad luck.)
Berry Springs Pool. No Swimming today, but is that a mermaid?
We then proceeded to the Berry Springs Nature Park. The significance of this park is that it contains a pool of water fed by an underground reservoir. At the right time of the year it is a lovely place to swim, relax and cool off. Unfortunately this is not the right time of year. This is the beginning of the wet season and the recent rains had turned the water a bit milky. The pool is full of debris even the approaches were boggy. Also there is no longer a guarantee that the waters are Crocodile free.
So no swimming. It is a pretty spot however.
Tangled roots
From there we headed to the Territory Wildlife Park. My companion, Lei, was a bit reticent. On a previous trip she had been there in the wet season and most of the park was closed. Quite honestly she found it boring. However she went along.
Fortunately she had free entry. This is an offer extended to all visitors. A single entry allows repeat visits for the next 12 months, as long as you register. I paid my dues and registered for further visits.
Quite simply we had a lovely time. The entire park was open. The staff were very helpful. Arriving just before 11am we were encouraged to go to the "Flight Deck" and see the Birds of Prey show as our first item on the Agenda.
A bird of prey. An eagle from memory
The show consisted of a choreographed series of animals, mostly birds, performing for the audience. This is open air, and the birds could have simply flown off if they so desired. But they didn't. Instead they flew patterns around and over the visitors, plucked food out of the air and pond, flew to strategic locations for photographs and generally entertained. Yes it was choreographed but it showed a high level of training of the birds by the handlers. Most impressive.
One of my favourites a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
From there we made our way to the Nocturnal House. This held an array of night creatures including Owls, Possums, rat like thingys, mice and snakes that were viewed under dim lighting conditions. During our night they live under spotlights and believing it is daytime go to sleep. This makes them active during visitor hours, when the spotlights are turned off.
From there we made our way to the Billabong. This has a walkway and viewing platforms but the Billabong itself is fenced off with a warning sign about an aggressive fresh water crocodile.
We took time out for lunch here. Mostly we could only see Pelicans, a few were getting a little bit amorous. A pretty spot.
If you name this correctly I will pat you on the head.
As we sat eating our lunch we could hear what sounded like thunder. I was worried about a storm coming. However moving on from the Billabong we came to the "Monsoon Forest Walk". This is a walk that takes in several walk-in aviaries, some enclosures with different landforms and therefore wildlife and a final large aviary that offers a treetops walk through the rainforest. This was lovely. The thunder that we had heard was part of the display, which was a simulated thunderstorm and rainstorm. A bit of fun. Very loud. Quite realistic. Having experienced a real thunderstorm the evening before I was impressed with the realism.
A bird. In the tree tops. Type: forgotten. Big(ish)
Next stop was an aquarium. This had various tanks in a very natural setting that showcased many of the local wetland aquatic life. This included large barramundi, turtles, crocodiles and various fish. It also included some salt water tanks that held corals, stingrays, sawfish and a GINORMOUS salt water crocodile.
A big bitey thing. Best avoided.

The crocodiles seen this way are quite scary. They float almost totally submerged, with only their eyes above the water line, difficult to spot. However their powerful hind legs are resting on the bottom, ready at a moments notice to thrust the body forward and out of the water. A croc in this position is not relying on being able to swim fast, it is like a sprinter in the traps ready to leap forward. Having seen this I do not want a closer encounter with a croc, I was happy to have a layer of thick glass between me and it.
Incidentally, apparently, there are more crocs in the NT than people. Oh joy.
By this time Lei had expressed her delight at how much better the park was than her previous visit and was a convert to it being a good place. I was happy about that to know that she was not bored.
There are several attractions that we bypassed. Leave these for another visit. Our final place to visit was Goose Lagoon. This is a place where wild water birds visit. It has a large hide and an impressive pictorial display of what we may encounter. Unfortunately at this time of year we were treated to an almost empty lake. Our total "bag" was 2 ducks of some sort and possibly a Jabiru hidden in the trees.
The wildlife at Goose Lagoon.
We called it quits after that and caught the open air transport bus, which they call a train, back to the main reception. After a quick refreshment we left and headed home.
A lovely day, the weather held off, it wasn't too hot due to cloud cover and plenty to see.
The Bludger recommends visiting the Territory Wildlife Park when in Darwin.

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