There was quite a lot to see. We saw a Barrimundi that was about the size of a Saint Bernard, and the Leafy Sea Dragons competed heavily with the platypus for the most awesome water creature in the universe. It was amazing to watch them feed. They had an exhibit of saltwater crocodiles.*(1) There were several underwater tunnel exhibits, one with huge sharks, huge rays, and huge sea turtles. Another exhibit was a room full of tropical fish and shark rays where there was a glassed-in tunnel that let them swim not only next to you, but above and underneath you as well. I could have stayed in here for hours.
We saw a hands-on exhibit as well. One of the cool things I saw here were the egg cases of the Port Douglas shark, which are long pods with a texture like kelp, but with thick spiraling threads which the female uses to effectively screw them into the sand for development.
We had a bit of lunch in the cafeteria, then we all hopped on the monorail*(2) for a little tour around one side of the city.*(3) Dee had left earlier to meet some of the rest of the family for lunch. I split off from the group, wandered around David Jones for a few minutes, then cut across town and explored the Sydney Botanical Gardens.
It was absolutely amazing. It’s a very neat, tidy garden of huge proportions. There’s rainforest walks, a Japanese garden, ponds full of eels,*(4) and one garden devoted entirely to endangered or threatened plants. There’s random bits of various sculpture scattered everywhere. One tree was packed with a dozen sulfur-crested cockatoos, which was exotic enough to feel like watching elephants trundle through the park. One flew down and took a sip from a drinking fountain as I watched. There were flocks of rainbow lorikeets, more white ibis, and most amazingly, bats.
Literally thousands of huge fruit bats, with a wingspan of over a meter at least. They were roosting in some of the barer trees, so you could easily see their huge numbers as they hung there like gigantic black pods of some fruit. They’d occasionally stretch out wings or fly overhead…I had the luck to actually snap a pretty good picture, if I do say so myself.
After the gardens, I wandered back to the hotel, where I rested until we had a huge family dinner (almost the whole clan together) at Café Extra. This was our last night in Sydney.
1. There was a stairway where you could go up and look down on the salties from above. It included a helpful warning sign that showed a stick figure tumbling down from the balcony into a salty’s gaping maw, and said “WARNING! IF THE FALL DOESN’T KILL YOU, THE CROCODILE WILL”
2. Tyler got an ice cream bar at a vending machine while we waited. It was vanilla with a startlingly white shell (white chocolate). It was called a Milkybar, and claimed to be “full of Milkybar goodness!” I did not let this go for the entire rest of the trip.
3. All the monorail tokens were different. Mine had a picture of a wombat. I tried to get another one later as a souvenir, but the guy at the booth was out. Blast.
4. The eels occur naturally. When the ponds are drained, the eels come out of Sydney Harbor and scoot across the lawn to recolonize the ponds. The ducks eat baby eels, and big eels eat ducklings, so it’s sort of a weird ecology.