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Whale Watching!

8 Sep

Last week, my husband sent me a link to this article.

I’ll give you a minute to read it.

Ok, well he suggested that we go whale watching on Labor Day, as it was our only day off together the whole weekend. Surprisingly, I was the one working. Wait, aren’t I a teacher? And aren’t I on summer vacation? Yes and yes, but I also had a wedding to coordinate. It deserves a post on it’s own, but I’ll get to that another day.

I was SO excited that we were going whale watching as I had never been. It was also extra exciting because we had a pretty good chance of actually seeing the largest animal on the planet: blue whales!

Here we are on the boat about to set out to sea!

We passed by a pretty lighthouse…

and the famous Queen Mary!

Here’s the thing about me and boats: my husband always thinks I get seasick, but I’ve never once thrown up on a boat. I do kind of freak out on the ocean (as opposed to a calm lake), but really I’m just scared that we are going to topple over or that the boat is going to fall to pieces. For the first 20 or so minutes of the 3 hour boat  ride, I had visions of flying overboard and being rescued by a helicopter. Once we saw the first whale, though, my fears subsided and I was able to enjoy being on the boat.

There she blows! Can you see the mist? Thats the water and air coming out of this fin whale’s spout. Fin whales are the second largest animals on the planet. They are very similar to blue whales, but they are darker in color and they have a larger dorsal fin… hence their name.

This is what we came for, the majestic blue whale.

I know it is hard without some frame of reference, but this one was HUGE!!! If I was swimming next to him in this picture, I’d maybe be 2-3 inches long? It was incredible to be so close to these enchanting creatures.

See his blow hole?? That’s one GIANT nose.

We also saw a mama and baby swimming together, but didn’t get any pictures. They swam so close to each other, they looked like one animal moving gracefully through the water.

Sadly, we didn’t get to see any tails. That is the iconic picture everyone hopes for, but the whales didn’t feel like diving far enough down to show us that day. Another thing we tried to capture on video, but failed, was a group (pod?) of dolphins swimming behind the boat. They were jumping and diving like crazy as we headed to another whale watching spot. I have had a very special pace in my heart for dolphins (and all animals, for that matter) ever since I saw the movie The Cove. Have you seen it? If not, you definitely should.

Here is a video of two blue whales swimming together. You can’t really see their bodies, but you can see them breathing!

Blue Whales! from Amy Carter on Vimeo.

It was an experience I’ll never forget and I can’t wait to go again with our kids one day!

Down Under: Day 12, Part 2

7 Aug

After Featherdale, it was time to head up to the beautiful blue mountains.

This was the first lookout we stopped by. The rock formation in the foreground was like nothing I’ve ever seen.

Then, we drove by this wild emu. He’s just hanging out (the fence isn’t keeping him in, it is keeping us out).

Wild kangaroos!! Don’t see them? Click on the picture and it will open bigger. See them now? Cool, right? That’s just on the side of the road!

At another lookout we saw this pretty waterfall, though it is hard to be impressed by this after spending much of my childhood at Yosemite.

Beautiful blue mountains! The blue haze is a result of the eucalyptus oil from the trees reflecting the light from the sky.

They call this formation the Three Sisters.

Another waterfall… small, but pretty.

Cockatoos are everywhere!

A couple other passengers and I chose to walk down the 700+ stairs to the bottom of the forrest instead of taking the thingamajig that can take you down there. My legs were very shaky!

Enchanted forrest.

Do faeries live here?

Treetops! Feels like a rain forrest!

There was no way we were hiking back up those (extremely steep) 700+ steps, so we took the steepest train in the world back to the top.

I have no pictures after this because I was so terrified and made one of the travelers hold me. I’m completely serious. This older woman linked arms with me and we went backwards up this very steep incline. We weren’t strapped in and were being lifted with a counterweight that we saw creaking back and forth a few minutes earlier. It was terrifying.

The tour guide dropped us off at the ferry which took us back into the city.

The view was gorgeous at night with all the lights, but we were moving too fast for me to take a decent picture. This was the best I could do.

After the ferry ride, I took the subway by myself (at night!!) and went straight to bed. I was tired!

Up next: Our last few days down under!

Down Under: Day 12, Part 1

6 Aug

This was the day I had been waiting for: koala and kangaroo day!!

Since my husband wanted to spend his weekend relaxing instead of a tour bus, I decided to go on a tour of the blue mountains by myself. The main reason I wanted to go on this tour was because I wanted to go to a wildlife park where I could feed and interact with the animals. I’ve been to zoos and they’re not for me, even though everyone told us how beautiful the Taronga Zoo in Sydney was (I guess the giraffe enclosure looks over onto the harbour, where the bridge and opera house are).

I met my tour guide in the lobby of our hotel at 7am. It was pretty cold out and it would be even colder where we were going, so I bundled up and hopping in the very small (and nice) bus. This wasn’t one of those huge tours with 50 people on it and a tour guide over a loudspeaker. The bus sat maybe 15, but I think we only had like 9 people on our tour. I got to sit up front since I was alone and got a really awesome view.

Our first stop was Featherdale Wildlife Park, about 45 minutes outside of the city.

The first animal we saw when we walked in was the wombat. It was just like a puppy and loved to be scratched on it’s rock hard backside.

These wallabies were hopping around everywhere!

This dinosaur-looking bird was totally freaking me out, but I held it anyway.

Here I am cuddling a koala! They were so chill, they just hung out on these branches and ate eucalyptus leaves while people pet and posed with them.

Ok, for some reason I was looking super horrible that day, so I had to cut myself out of this picture. The koala, however, was making this adorable face while sticking his tongue out.

See? I told you I looked hell-ish.

This Emu got hold of one of the cones of food.

I really wanted to get a kangaroo hopping and I did! Please excuse my obnoxious voice (don’t you hate listening to your own voice on video?).
Kangaroo! from Amy Carter on Vimeo.

They were so cute!

I saw many more animals at Featherdale…

like penguins,

this beautiful turkey,
a very vibrant rooster,
an albino peacock (stunning),
albino kangaroos (dirty),
some type of lizard (maybe Gila monster?),
very cute and cuddly dingos,
and a crocodile! Crikey!
While some of my husband’s coworkers said that Featherdale was “ghetto,” I completely disagree. It was well-maintained and the animals had plenty of room to roam. I would have preferred to see them in the wild, but this was good enough (and I DID get to see some wild ‘roos and emus – coming up next!).

Down Under: Day Two, Part 1

19 Jul

We started off our first Sunday in Australia with a trip to the Sydney Aquarium. I was really pushing to do this, but it wasn’t the greatest experience for me. I became sad as I watched the fish (especially the big ones) swim back and forth and back again. All I could think about was how these animals travel so far in the wild.

I heart turtles. Especially sea turtles.

I also heart penguins. Do you think they are depressed to be jumping off the same rock everyday?
They seem happy…
This guy is never happy. He says, “rawr… I want some beer… rawr…”
Here I am being a huge dork with the fake shark. He looks like the guy from Nemo, no?
This is where I had a panic attack. There is a tunnel with water all around you. This one had rays and the dugongs. There is a story that people thought dugongs were mermaids. I don’t see the resemblence, do you?
This is a dugong. Oh yeah… totally looks like a mermaid…
Then, we visited the shark tunnel thingy. If I was nervous before, I was totally losing it now.
Here is a shark swimming directly above our heads. On one end of the glass tunnel I saw some duct tape holding it together. Comforting.
Ahhhhh! Sharks!!!
This turtle (remeber I heart sea turtles) seemed to be stuck here. I don’t think he was, but that black background you see was a tarp and it looked like he really wanted to get to the other side. This made me really sad.
I am glad we went to the aquarium. I don’t want to seem ungrateful. However, I have found that I can’t really handle seeing animals in captivity when they deserve to roam freely. I think I am going vegetarian as of today, actually.
Stay tuned to Part 2!