Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Aussie 5: Sydney Zoo, Bondi Beach and the New Year Fireworks

View of Sydney Harbor from Taronga Zoo
Having spent some great time at Darling Harbor last night, we decided to visit the Taronga Zoo in Sydney on our 3rd day in the city. Located in the suburb of Mosman, this 21 hectare zoo is divided into 8 zoo-geographic divisions and is home to over 2600 animals. Thanks to its location, this zoo offers some beautiful views of Sydney Harbor. 
Kangaroos have really interesting body structure
Emu: These birds can weigh upto 60 kgs
The easiest way to reach Taronga zoo is to take a ferry from the Sydney Harbour. A visit to Taronga takes about 3.5 hours which includes some free shows and some talks by animal keepers. For people wanting a different experience, the zoo also offers the option of staying there overnight in exclusive safari tents. It could be a thrilling experience with all the sounds of the jungle around while you try to sleep.
An Orangutan sits high in the trees
The oldest predator: Salt Water Crocodile
As usual, we woke up early and took a bus to Circular Quay from our hostel at Railway Square. At the harbor ferry counter, we purchased the Zoolink tickets which covers the return ferry fares, park entry and gondola ride charges. Initially we took a seat inside the ferry, but as soon as the ferry started moving, we came outside to enjoy the cool sea breeze and the beautiful views of Sydney Harbor. This ride provides some great opportunities to click Sydney Opera House from the sea and I clicked a number of pictures from various angles.
A tree frog. I thought it was made of plastic until I saw its eyes move.
Himalayan Tahrs confronting each other on who has the right to pass!!
Upon reaching the Ferry Wharf, we took a short walk up a ramp to the entrance of the zoo. Initially, we found it tough to find the track without a map, but even with the map, we kept losing way. The countless number of staircases kept confusing us all the time and we were too tired to afford taking the wrong path.

One of the most interesting wild cat: Snow Leopard
Just a glass separates this hungry tiger from us visitors
The best enclosure for me were those of the Tigers's with just a glass panel separating the visitors from the tigers. When the tigers walked towards the glass, you are standing almost face to face with one of the strongest predators on land. I being a tiger lover having seen a number of tigers in the wild, I was disappointed to see these tigers as they seemed weak to me. As we were there around lunch time, the tigers kept looking towards the window from where there food would come. When the food came, it was hardly a couple of pounds of meat. I would like to assume that those tigers required only that much food.
Hungry Tigers getting restless for food

A fox. These were smaller than I thought they would be.
Slightly ahead of the tiger enclosure were the chimpanzees'. With a number of ropes and bamboo constructions for the chimpanzees to play with, they were fun to see. Some of them seemed to just mess with each other while some others were performing acrobatic stunts on the ropes. I also made a short video (attached below), where I thought they were about to fight each other. Thankfully, it turned to be just a play.

This one was jumping off the wall every few minutes
And he decided to take rest midway while moving to the other end of the ropeway
Totally fun these guys are

We also attended the seal show and were amazed by the skills of these animals. They performed all their tasks/stunts flawlessly. After that, we heard the Koala keeper talk and I was surprised to know that koalas aren't social animals and too much human interference is actually harming them. These small cute animals spend most of their waking time just gorging on fresh leaves.

The Seal Show
Koala. They aren't bears!! They are just Koalas.
The luckiest animals in the zoo were the Giraffes for they had the best view of the Sydney Harbor from their enclosure. By the end, we were just too tired with our legs refusing to walk back to the Ferry wharf. Thankfully, there was the option of Gondola ride. Other than offering the Sydney Harbor views, the gondola ride also gave us the opportunity to experience zoo from above as the ride passed over various enclosures.

Giraffes being afforded a great view of Sydney CBD
Gondola ride
After the zoo visit, we went back to our hostel for lunch. Soon after, we changed into beach shorts and took a bus to Bondi beach. Living in India, this was the only beach that I had heard of before I started to plan this trip to Australia. The bus drive to Bondi from Railway square was almost an hour long. We got a teaser of what to expect at Bondi as the bus only had people in beach wear a few stations before Bondi making us feel overdressed. 
Opera House from the ferry
Harbor Bridge from the waters
Off the bus, as soon as we got a clear view of Bondi beach, we knew why it was so famous with hundreds of people enjoying the 1 kilometer expanse of the white sand beach. "Bondi" is an aboriginal word meaning water breaking over rocks and the beach justifies its name which makes this a great beach for surfing. The northern side of the beach is considered safer for surfing while the southern side is known to have a rip current that can pull surfers into the water. Lifeguards at Bondi rescue about 2500 people on an average each year. As in all other beaches of Australia, between yellow and red flags is the safe swimming area for visitors.

Bondiiiii
Panoramic view of the beach
There are a number of popular cafes, restaurants and bars near the beach. However, there is just one bar right at the beach and this one bar had a long queue for getting in as could have been expected one day before the New Year. For those who don't like sand sticking onto them after a swim in the sea, there is a shower/changing room for both males and females right at the beach. We had to take a taxi to get back to the hostel as there were just too many people at the bus stand.

In the queue to get into the Vantage Point Site. Covered myself totally with this sheet after the sunburn!!
Finally we are inside and doing what we do best..making NOISE
So so many people here enjoying themselves
 The fireworks over the Sydney Harbor to welcome the New Year is a huge event that attracts over a million visitors to the harbor and is seen by over a billion people worldwide. A number of Vantage point sites are set up around the harbor for these million visitors. While most of these have free entry, a few of them have a entry fee. Some of the free entry vantage points also allow visitors to bring their alcohol while most don't. We decided to go to Mrs. Macquaries point on the Yurong peninsula. This is one of the biggest vantage point having a capacity of 17000 and offers unbeatable views of the fireworks over the Harbor bridge and the Opera House.

Fire Tug Water Display. This threw tonnes of water into the air
Matt Hall performing some crazy aerial stunts
All the people we spoke to suggested reaching here in the morning itself by 11 am in order to get in as the capacity gets breached by then. As suggested, we reached there at 10:30 am. Even then, there were atleast 5000 people in the queue ahead of us. The Australian sun was scorching hot and everyone was carrying their iceboxes and covering themselves with sunscreen every hour. I thought my Indian skin won't get affected much and avoided sunscreen only to get a sunburn within the first hour itself. The huge lawn that was being used to queue us seemed like a big picnic spot with people having got food as well as beer/wine to enjoy while they wait to get in. We finally managed to get in after 4.5 hours. 

Readying for the 9pm fireworks
9 pm fireworks. My view to the harbour was blocked 
Though, we had tried to be as quick as possible in reaching the queue, we couldn't find and spot with clear views of the harbor by the time we got in. We set up base under a tree hoping to make a move when the time for fireworks comes close. The programs started at 6 in the evening with aerial acrobatics and continued until the family fireworks at 9 pm. These are slightly smaller compared to the midnight fireworks and are for people with small kids who want to go home early. I had hoped for lesser crowds after these fireworks but that was surely not the case. As I couldn't get a clear view of the Opera House in these fireworks, I picked my spot just after these fireworks when people made some space and stayed glued to the same point for next 2-3 hours.

Enjoying the fireworks from one of these boats is also a great option.

Check out this short video of the fireworks

By midnight, most of us were high: some more, some little less. As the clock reached 12 and the countdown started on the giant screen on the Harbor bridge, everyone seemed to wish Happy New Year to everyone else. I wished the people around me and then focused on clicking pictures just like everyone else. These fireworks were enormous and they were being lighted from a 3-4 spots so that no matter, which direction you were sitting in, if you are looking towards the harbor, you are getting to see the fireworks. The best fireworks were obviously being lighted at the Harbor Bridge and I was able to click some vivid pictures. With Opera House reflecting the color of the fireworks, I was able to click it in a number of shades. After the fireworks ended, it was again time to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Soon after, the security staff came in and asked everyone to vacate the place.

Ending with a Bang
All quiet after the best fireworks I have ever seen
We took a taxi to our hotel next to the airport as we were to fly to SUNSHINE COAST next morning.

All of us together post fireworks

Read onto the final post: Fraser Island & Gold Coast

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome photography ........One of the most lively new year .........watching fireworks with opera house in background is like icing on the cake....apart from new year fireworks ; BONDI BEACH seems very interesting place to go !!!

sachin dixit said...

Thanks mate..I don't like crowded places in general but this was one place where I actually enjoyed the crowds!!

Shikha Dixit said...

I can not think of anything else except that i want to go there as soon as possible,for the new year fireworks. And ya sun is very harsh in Australia because of the ozone hole. Sunburns can be quite fatal. Pictures of the zoo animals are perfectly taken.You are a very lucky guy indeed to visit such places which are on people's bucket list.

gh0D! said...

sachin is lucky indeed and we are luckier to have him as our frnd..
awesome trip with perfect combination of planning and spontaneity..

sachin dixit said...

Hey Shikha..I didn't know the reason for the harsh Australian sun yet..Thats some new info..
Hope you get to see this even before you expect to!! :-)

sachin dixit said...

Nikhil...good to know that you enjoyed the trip!! Get set for Brazil now..

Learn Digital Marketing said...

It was very useful for me. Keep sharing such ideas in the future as well. This was actually what I was looking for, and I am glad to came here! Thanks for sharing the such information with us.