Daily Archives: February 1, 2018

Speak of the devil

We’ve been having good experiences with Aussie wildlife Down Under, even though they tend to be rather shy and nocturnal. I wasn’t leaving Tasmania until I’d seen Tassie’s most famous and exclusive marsupial, the Tasmanian devil. We’d been seeing signs showing people hugging and petting the cute little buggers even though they seem to have a preponderance of large pearly white teeth. You know, how puppies open their mouths and kind of smile while being petted…well those are teeth, aren’t they?

Photo from Tasmanian Devil Conservation Project

We were informed that we probably wouldn’t see any out in the wild but there’s a zoo nearby called the Unzoo and we’d have a good shot at seeing some. Unzoo, that must be where the Tasmania devil petting zoo is. Great. Turns out they have a kid sized tunnel that leads to a small plastic observation dome so you can watch them without disturbing them. Wow, they must be really shy.

After entering through the gift shop we found out that the next feeding was about to start. Unexpected, but as we turned a corner around some landscaped shrubs we entered a small amphitheater, sat down in front and immediately noticed a heavy duty thick glass wall separating us from the…show. Interesting. Eyebrows slightly raised.

In came Crocodile Dundee, slightly out of breath, carrying a small cooler, which he opened and set on top of the barrier. “Did you see him? Usually he does a couple of laps before he settles down enough to be fed.” We looked at each other with eyebrows well arched. There was no devil in evidence, so the naturalist vamped with some informative fun facts on the devil’s lifespan and behavior.

After a few more minutes with no devil he radios to his assistant for, well, assistance. She shows up with a stout walking stick, heavy boots, long pants, vaults over the barrier and charges through the habitat. Soon he appears, the muscular black and white growling spitting devil, and he means business.

From the opened cooler our naturalist pulls out a hunk of gristly bone, meat, and fur, kinda Wallaby colored, attached with a massive hook and cable and proceeds to tease our devil who came in here with a bad attitude to start with and he’s not appreciating the show business qualities of yanking away his rightful food. Seconds later he’s snatched the hunk of meat out of the air and now he’s going to take it home which will shorten the show. So now we have a tug-of-war with the small but powerful bugger, nearly pulling the full grown straining naturalist over in the process. Impressive. Pound for pound they have the most powerful jaws of any animal, so once he bites down it’s obvious he’ll never let go. He can bite through bone but they have poor eyesight, lousy hunting skills, smell well enough to notice rotting carion, and are not the brightest bulb on the tree. Let’s agree to call them opportunistic hunters. They have on occasion clamped down on sleeping humans and I’m guessing it didn’t turn out well. In the meantime he’s managed to get the hunk off of the hook and growling and grunting, the show is over. It’s no wonder that the only thing that Bugs Bunny fears is the Tasmanian Devil! The Unzoo doesn’t like to cage its animals but we can only hope that enclosure for these buggers is secure.

With the star off grumpily gnawing on whatever’s left of his breakfast we explored the grounds. The only native kangaroo in Tassie is the Forester Kangaroo and they had a nice feeding area for guests and Roos.

Most of the animals at the Unzoo are Tasmanian specific and the Eastern Quoll are carnivorous so don’t let the cute fawn like fur fool you.

We also saw a lot of these Tasmanian pademelons, smaller kangaroo-like marsupials, just wandering the grounds.

And as if the Tasmanian Devil weren’t enough, at a little bird show here’s a rather strange bird called a Tawny Frogmouth.

Strange frog or weird bird? Either way he had great eyesight and when he saw an eagle, just a tiny dot high up in the sky, he elongated his neck to look like a tree limb, and stood absolutely motionless while staring right up at that tiny speck.

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Another tide-dependent destination lead us south from Port Arthur to arrive at Remarkable Cave by mid afternoon. Our lodging host told us that at low tide we could hop the fence and walk through the cave to the beach. It sounded good to us until we saw that “hopping the fence” also including some rock climbing, an activity more suited to younger limbs and those with no fear of heights. I think if one of us was willing the other would have followed, but we decided our lives would still be complete if we didn’t do the hopping and climbing. Still, it was a pretty cool place but hard to photograph.

Our last foray along Tasmania’s Convict Trail was the ruins of the coal mine where the worst of the worst were sent to serve out their sentences doing the hardest of hard labor. At one point the mine provided all of the coal used in Tasmania but it was poor quality coal and eventually the mine was closed and the convicts moved to Hobart.

The shafts are collapsed now. The site is remote and unstaffed but well preserved and interpreted with cleverly placed placards and an online and downloadable brochure for more info. I found the setting ruggedly beautiful in contrast to the brutality that took place here.

The punishment cells were barely large enough to lie down, and were underground and windowless.

We drove a further few kilometers on the unsealed road to the far northwest corner of the Tasman peninsula and Lime Bay, as peaceful and lovely a place as we’ve seen in Tasmania. The boats anchored off in the distance made us almost wish we had sailed EV down here. This truly is a special place. It’s not exotically beautiful like many places we’ve been to and the landscape is so similar to our homeland that we were initially underwhelmed, unfairly so. We were also shocked a few times by overt, unconsciously racist remarks made in casual conversation by some locals, but Under Down Under has grown on us day by day.

At Lime Bay the rains came again but it was only a brief shower and as always, when it stopped we were rewarded with a rainbow.

We only have one more day here and we’re on a mission.


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