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An Unforgettable Trip to Maria Island

Jun 20, 2008
It is a little known fact that Australia's Island state, Tasmania at latitude 40 Degree South, about 240 km south of the Australian mainland and with a population of less than half a million offers some of the best walking tracks in the world. Australia's most mountainous state is also its coolest and best protected, 20 % is listed as a World Heritage area for "outstanding universal value from the point of view of science, conservation and natural beauty". Put all this together and you get perfect trekking country - with over 2000km of bushwalking tracks, through a multitude of different terrains.

But even if your time is limited, it is still worth a visit. A four-day, 40 km, fully guided walk, on Maria Island off Tasmania's east coast, combines an opportunity to experience Tasmania's beauty, tranquility and exotic diversity, with the sort of pampering normally associated with a luxury hotel.

Everything, except boots and personal clothes, is provided and each walker will carry a daypack of no more than 10 kg. The small group (typically about eight) meets in the historic capital, Hobart, before being driven the 90 minutes to Triabunna, and crossing to the south of Maria in a private launch.

No fewer than 130 bird species have been sighted on Maria, including 12 of the 13 species unique to Tasmania. Some species, such as Pardalotus quadragintus are globally endangered species, but this is a sanctuary: the whole island has been a National Park since the 1960s and animal wildlife is also superabundant. Throughout the four days, numerous sightings of wild animals are assured, including wallabies, kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, pademelons, which are both smaller than wallabies.

After lunch, there's an easy walk to Crooked McGuiness lagoon, a particular haven for birds. Throughout this walk and on the rest of the trip, the two guides provide a fascinating interpretation of the flora and fauna, the island's Aboriginal history and its discovery and initial use by Europeans as a penal colony and then for farming and industry. Each evening, the guides cook a sumptuous dinner of fresh Tasmanian produce: scallops, salmon, or roast beef etc, served with a variety of award-winning Tasmanian beers and wines. The nights are spent in standing camps of semi-permanent canvas huts, combining privacy with comfort. Behind a beach of brilliant white sand, the first camp is near the perfect crescent of Riedle Bay, a place of transcendent tranquility that undisturbed nature, alone, can provide.

The option to climb a mountain - either the 709 meters Mount Maria or 600 meters Bishop and Clerk on day three, through forests of great eucalypts, affords wonderful views of the tiered headlands, towering sea- cliffs and outlying islands off Tasmania's east coast and a view over the pristine beaches that formed the route on the second day. On the final night there is a superb banquet and accommodation in what was the home of the colourful Italian entrepreneur, Diego Bernacchi, before a sunrise trip by boat, on the last day, to the Isle des Phoques to see a boisterous colony of Australian Fur Seals.

Back in Hobart, it's hard to believe that in just four days, it is possible to experience so much that is different, exotic, and beautiful; but there is no doubt that this unforgettable trip will be remembered, as a trip of a lifetime.
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