Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A day at the zoo and a day at the beach

In an attempt to explore Melbourne beyond the Central Business District we decided to take a trip to Melbourne Zoo in the inner city Parkville suburb, which was a short train journey from Flinders Street. The zoo is one of the city's most popular attractions and is currently celebrating it's 150th anniversary this year, making it the oldest zoo in Australia and the third oldest in the world.

The main attraction for us was seeing the large collection of native iconic Australian animals such kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas, koalas, kookaburras and Little Blue Penguins (which we're hoping to see in the wild as part of the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island). 

Emus are the second-largest living bird in the world by height


An echidna

Laughing Kookaburras

A tree-kangaroo found in New Guinea and far north Queensland

Little Blue Penguins waiting for lunch

The first koala of the trip - it's so sleepy!

One of the most interesting animals that we saw had to the bizarre, but unique, platypus. This semi-aquatic animal is one of two mammals known as monotremes which lay eggs instead of giving birth to live young (the other monotreme being the echidna). What makes it even more unusual is it has a a soft, toothless rubbery bill, webbed feet, beaver-like tail and the males have venomous spurs, making it one of only a few venomous mammals - it's truly like no other animal on earth!

Lizzie outside the "Platypusary"

The platypus in all it's greatness!

However, poor water quality in Australia is threatening the platypus and many others species, so the zoo has been running the Wash for Wildlife campaign, which encourages people to use washing products with less phosphates, as these ultimately find their way into the ecosystem. High phosphate levels can cause:
  • The potential for algal blooms
  • Oxygen starvation of water, inhibiting the survival of some wildlife
  • Decreased water clarity, creating a physical barrier to wildlife finding food and escaping predators
  • Smothering of some habitats caused by disrupted light infiltration.

I'm sure this is not a problem exclusive to Australia, so it would be worth considering using products with reduced phosphates or even those without any to help preserve our wildlife elsewhere.

The other notable incident of the day was when a bottle of lemonade exploded in my face! In what seemed like a fairly harmless idea, I decanted some lemonade into a water bottle to take as a drink to the zoo.When it came to sitting down for lunch I unscrewed the cap and all hell broke loose. Having the bottle in the pocket of my day-bag in the thirty degree heat must have built up the pressure of the gassy liquid, as before I knew it the cap flew off and hit me in the face with a loud bang, with all the lemonade jetting out. It must have been quite funny to anyone who was walking by as I would have laughed at that!

Heading in the opposite direction, we decided to pay St Kilda a visit on a different day, catching the number 16 tram from Swanson Street. St Kilda once had a seedy reputation but has enjoyed a resurgence. During the Edwardian and Victorian eras, St Kilda became a favoured suburb of Melbourne's elite, however, today, St Kilda reminds me a little bit of Southsea in Portsmouth, in that it looks run down but is potentially quite a nice place to be.

One of the more famous attractions in St Kilda is Luna Park, which is a traditional-style amusement park that opened in 1912. The entrance to the park is iconic, as you have to walk through the creepy Mr Moon's gaping mouth! Once inside there's a heritage-listed wooden scenic railway, which is the oldest operating roller coaster in the world. Luna Park as a whole is listed by the National Trust of Australia, and the main heritage features are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.

The iconic "Mr Moon" entrance


Walking down the foreshore we headed over to the pier to check out the St Kilda Pier Kiosk and the nearby colony of Little Blue Penguins. The original kiosk burnt down in 2003 in an arson attack, one year from its centenary, but was it was faithfully recreated using the original plans and what remained of the original materials.

St Kilda Pier

St Kilda Pier Kiosk

Round the back of the kiosk is a stretch of breakwater which protects the harbour and is where the colony of penguins have set up residence. It is thought that the penguins might have originally come from Phillip Island and decided to stay. My good deed for the day was removing some litter from the beach by the Little Blues, although its a shame none of the locals thought to do it, seeing as they enjoy the penguins as much as the tourists they attract. However, we did indeed catch a brief glimpse of a Little Blue Penguin under by the boardwalk, down by the sea.

View of the Pier Kiosk from the penguin breakwater colony

Unfortunately, our day at St Kilda wasn't as successful as we would have liked it to have been as it rained on and off (although thankfully this was the first real bit of rain we've seen the entire time we've been here). Once the rain stopped the winds picked up and kept pelting us with sand, which got quite painful and irritating quickly, especially along the foreshore path to Albert Park.

On a final note, a special mention needs to go out to the Soda Rock Diner in South Yarra. Having stumbled upon this on the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel Street, this restaurant is a faithful recreation of a 1950s American diner. The thickshakes were thick, there service was great and they even catered to vegetarians, serving a decent veggie burger. If you're ever in the area be sure to check out this diner if you want a nostalgia trip, good music and fine burgers.

Soda Rock on the corner of Toorak Road and Chapel Street

Vinyl-seated booths complete with a jukebox!

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