Wednesday 20 February 2013

Bruny Express

It may not have escaped your notice that I'm an urban kinda travel writer. Culture, history, food... that's my beat. I generally leave adventure and nature travel to those of my colleagues who are better qualified than I to tackle that kind of thing.

However, I certainly don't mind getting out into nature should it call (so to speak), so on Sunday Narrelle and I joined the award-wining eco-cruise on Bruny Island, south of Hobart, Tasmania, which is operated by Rob Pennicott's Bruny Island Cruises.

There are some impressive vistas along the way, and we were lucky to have a calm sunny day on which to see them.

The cruise leaves Adventure Bay (named after the ship of Furneaux, the British captain who visited in 1773), and follows the rugged eastern coastline of South Bruny, an unpopulated area that'd be difficult to access any other way.

Once out of the harbour and sailing down the coast with the Tasman Sea to port, things quickly become spectacular. These cliffs with their geometric projections reminded us both of the Lord of the Rings movies, looking as if they'd been carved by an ancient civilisation:

Nearby, this rock formation gives the same impression. It's known as the Monument, and as a crew member pointed out it looks very much like a king riding a llama:

The cruise company's boats are powerful and manoeuvrable, so we were able to roar safely between the Monument and the rocky shore. Twice, in fact; I filmed it the second time:

There were lots more quirky geological features on the way. This "blow cave", for example, from which water would periodically erupt as it moved back and forth within a cave whose roof lay just above the surface:

And larger caves through the rock, which looked as if they should lead to a James Bond villain's lair:

I liked these colours too, another example of nature producing something so regular that it looked like a manmade pattern:

The highlight of the cruise, though, was our encounter with a more mobile aspect of nature: seals. As we left the Tasman Sea and officially entered the Southern Ocean, we met this big seal colony spread over various rocks and islets. As always to my mind, they resembled Labradors of the sea:

As we left them to their rollicking day in the sunshine and water, this group seemed to be waving goodbye. According to a crew member, the animals project their fins this way in order to regulate body temperature. Au revoir, mes finny amis:

I was very impressed with the cruise, as there was plenty to see with no dull patches. The boats were a decent size and clearly powerful, allowing adventurous speed while being completely under control. The crew seemed capable and knowledgeable, expert but also mindful of safety; reassuring for such a broad group of passengers, including one lady in her 80s which the crew were at pains to assist on and off the boat safely.

As the cruise can be undertaken as a day trip from Hobart, with buses picking up passengers from the city's dockside and lunch included, it's a great activity to tack onto a trip to the Tasmanian capital. High culture at MONA one day, perhaps; then seals and the rugged coast of Bruny Island the next.

If you're staying in Hobart, the contemporary apartment-style rooms of the new Salamanca Wharf Hotel are walking distance from the cruise's pick-up point.

You can also join the cruise if visiting Bruny under your own steam. If you're thinking of staying on the island, Adventure Bay Retreat is comfortable accommodation set back from the coast a short distance from the cruise office. Here's a pic:

Aside from the upmarket interior, we saw wallabies grazing in our front yard every morning and evening we stayed there; including one of the island's unusual white wallabies. Bonus.

Disclosure time... On this trip I travelled courtesy of the Salamanca Wharf Hotel, Adventure Bay Retreat, Bruny Island Cruises and Tourism Tasmania.

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