My hubby and I have just completed an incredible two-week journey across Northern Australia, primarily the Kimberley region. Before I delve into my sustainability tips and comments, I want to dedicate some space to the awe-inducing beauty of this corner of the world.
Here is a collection of photos to give you an idea of the magnificence of this special place (of course you could also watch Australia, as much of it was filmed up here, and I definitely want to watch it again now!).
Visiting places like this with such unspoiled (to my eye!) wilderness is certainly powerful inspiration to continue to work for a sustainable planet. The thought of the Kimberley being damaged as a result of human activity is simply too much to bear now that I’ve experienced it all for myself. It would certainly be a tragedy if this magical place wasn’t around for future generations to appreciate.
I could wax lyrical about the beauty of the place, the animals, the space and the plants for days, so I better move onto the sustainability notes. . .
While no vacation is as green as a ‘staycation’, my husband and I are traveling extensively this year, and I hope be as sustainable as possible, as well as learn more about environmental issues in each of our destinations. Having said that, there were things that had nothing green about them on this part of our travel (aside from all the flying, which we’ll be offsetting):
- Driving with just 2 people in a diesel-guzzling Toyota Landcruiser. We traveled 3104 kilometres and average 17.8mpg or 13.6 litres per 100km. Quite a hefty carbon footprint. We could have lessened this by going on a tour bus, but we chose to do it alone this time.
- There are very few recycling facilities around. We would hang onto our recyclables as long as possible in hopes of recycling, but at certain times space-constraints and hygiene concerns forced us to throw away recyclable materials.
- Eating fresh (non-packaged) foods as much as possible to lessen waste.
- Ate mostly a vegetarian diet – just like home! Not always easy when you can smell everyone else’s meaty barbecues.
- Visited ‘green’ stations and homesteads including El Questro, Home Valley Station and Mornington Wilderness Camp (more on Mornington below). We ran out of time to visit Birdwood Downs due to car troubles, but I definitely want to make the visit and take their eco-tour!
- Why shower when you can swim in a freshwater gorge or waterfall?
- Camping inside National Parks and bush camps – on the one hand, they are unpowered and frequently use bore water, so your footprint is only what you bring in, which for us means cooking with gas and using headlamps to see. I also feel it’s a better alternative to camping ‘wherever you wish’ because the human impact is focused in designated areas, instead of trampling on top of native flora and potentially interrupting the local wildlife.
We chose two spend a couple of days at Mornington Wilderness Camp because it is run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC), a non-profit organization working to protect Australia’s land and wildlife. In addition to being incredibly beautiful and serene, Mornington attracted other nature-lovers, and the vibe from the other campers was very mellow compared to other spots along the tourist track. There was also a presentation on night near the bar/restaurant/education centre, and I managed to take some notes on my hubby’s iPhone.
- AWC manage 3 million hectares across the country where they establish sanctuaries, identify threats to biodiversity and implement land management programs across entire landscapes – they also carry out ecological monitoring. All their activities are informed by scientific research and are reported and monitored.
- Recent attention has been turned to northern Australia as mammal populations are disappearing at an alarming rate
- 22 Australian mammals have become extinct since European settlement – more than any other country. There has been a sharp decline in small mammal populations in recent decades, with a combination of reasons responsible for this decline – introduced herbivores, late dry season fires and feral cats.
- Feral cats are directly responsible for one third of the mammal extinctions in northern Australia. One cat eats 12 native animals per day, and there are estimated to be 2 million cats. Fire patterns also influence cats, as they go to the edge of the fires to eat the animals that are exiting the fire – so late season, harsher fires have an even more detrimental impact on the area.
- If you’ve ever been to the Top End, you’ll know it is frequently burning as Indigenous culture included planned burning to control the bush throughout the Dry. Fires began becoming more harsh as Aboriginal people left the land, the fires are now later in the dry meaning they are hotter, last longer and are much more destructive. AWC is trying to shift the fire season back to earlier in the dry. AWC have initiated the EcoFire project, which includes shifting the season earlier in the year. Timing is essential, with the best time typically in April and May, when there is still green growth around, and to light the fires in smaller patches. They plan in consultative approach with Indigenous communities and stockmen, so all work together as natural allies, and have had great results.
- AWC are working to destock areas as well – cows as well as feral donkeys, horses and buffalo – because these animals stomp down plants that mammals use as food and shelter. Now 40,000 hectares destocked, and huge improvement in mammal numbers since this happened. From 1 to 8 collections per site per night, everywhere else is in decline (even in Kakadu).
- Because of their positive results, AWC have recently begun two very important projects. One is a partnership with Yulmbu Community, who approached Mornington to help with conservation and land management. The benefits to Yulmbu are great: they receive annual income in the form of a lease payment, training and employment in the delivery of land management, infrastructure improvements and a modest, sustainable cattle operation. The second partnership is with the WA government on the Artesian Range partnership, managing this significant area as a team.
- Over 80% of AWC staff are in the field doing research, 90% of funds go directly toward conservation.
The Kimberley certainly didn’t disappoint, and I could have easily doubled the time I spent exploring without experiencing everything on offer. I’m sure I’ll be back one day.
Next major stop on the travels is the Maldives – I’ll be in touch!