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I was in for a couple of surprises when I went on a whale cruise at Port Macquarie. First flashed through my mind the thought that I had seen these animals before. Then it hit me that it was still quite bizarre to see them for real and indeed from up close. Next I was entertained by the captain who was very well trained in giving us tourist our money’s worth. He was skilled in counting down the seconds that a whale would stay under water before coming up for a stunning bridge: a jump out of the water. Good pictures guaranteed and I suddenly understood why I had seen so many good pictures of the big mammals in my life. It does not require a professional photographer to take one.

Humpback whale at Port Macquarie.

Practicing my aim while glancing over my camera to get the best moment, I was practiced enough to take one of my own after two or three bridges. Satisfied, I resolved to turning my camera off, to enjoy the movement of our small boat on the sea waves, the splatters of the salty water and the sight of nature in front of my eyes. It was a little amusing to see the other passengers still glued to their screens. This amusement turned into surprise when my friend who had not parted with her camera either, asked me to send her my picture because she did not get one good shot!

Taking a stroll through Dorrigo national park started with a bang: The newly installed skywalk offered a special treat in the form of a pre-installed photo tripod. It enabled me to take a picture of me, the group I was with and the scenery even when there was no one else around to lend a hand.

The device at Dorrigo national park with simple instructions.

One could say that this photo gadget spoils the fun of finding a beautiful spot for a picture yourself, but in this case the location surely invites visitors to take a picture at that exact point anyway. A skywalk that ends in a platform high above the rainforest offers the perfect background to your group picture.

Although the so called fotopols can be found in more places this was my first one and the day was misty spoiling the view. Thus, the picture of the gadget ended up to be more interesting than the actual picture it helped us take.

Camping close to Grafton in New South Wales, I learned about Aboriginal traditions. I learned about how different tribes used to meet year after year in areas that were abundant in food and shelters. These assigned places were chosen because they were suitable to accommodate for hundreds of members. As secret rites once took place at these locations, or are still taking place, access to this land is restricted. “White fellas” should keep out. And even if they don’t know what they are setting foot on, they might get into trouble being caught by the protectors of this land.

A hint of secret land from above.

What struck me is how me and my group members felt more and more exited hearing about the secretive nature of this area. It was as if this fact that it was forbidden for us to go made it a necessity for us to find out why by trespassing. Even though we could be quite sure that the land would not be spectacularly different from where we had ventured before, or would not hold structures or other remains of any past meetings, we felt a force that drove us to go there. Or at least question our guide thoroughly about entering which is what our curiosity resulted in.

Our nosiness scared me in a way, because I found it hard to distinguish between knowing about the aboriginal culture out of respect or out of a drive for violation. The beauty of secrets is that they have to remain secrets. No more questions.

A series about outstanding places to sleep.

The first one is this tipi at Orara River, New South Wales, Australia:

Tipi accomodation

Tipi accommodation with swags and a warm fire inside.

Something I learned on the quest for koala’s: you have to look down (at eye level) to find them up there. Apparently your best shot to find Australia’s mascot in the wild is to spot people who are gazing up and preferably pointing and shouting to group members. That’s the areas where koalas abound.

A successful find at William Hack Reserve (Noosa Heads, Queensland)

Tweets (Dutch and English)