Tasmania: the air down there (Part II)

Grace M. Avanzado

WE WERE up bright and early the next day for an early drive to the stunning Tasman Peninsula. Our guide took us to various lookout points while taking us on a leisurely walk along the Waterfall Bay Clifftop where one is treated to views of remarkable rock formations like the Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen.

The view of Australia’s highest sea cliffs inside the Tasman National Park was the high point of this walk for me and our small group felt like we had the place alone to ourselves most of the time.

Our next stop was a place called the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. Before we started to explore the area, we sat down in their welcome gallery and listened to their plea to help save the Tasmanian Devils from extinction because the world has been losing them in large numbers due to Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD), a fatal and transmissible cancer. These Tasmanian Devils living in the wild represent the last of the disease-free devils in the world because they are isolated. The concept of the Unzoo is to invite people to see animals in their natural habitat where they can interact with the environment. We were then invited to witness the behavior of a devil during feeding – there was snarling, fighting, wrestling and savage biting all at once. So devilish – hence the name. But the activity I enjoyed the most in the Unzoo was the Birds of the Bush show because of all the bird shows I have seen in my life, this one was truly informative and very entertaining. If you ever find yourself there, do not leave once you have seen the devils, please take the time to see these birds.

We then proceeded to the Port Arthur, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where we were given a couple of hours to explore the place and to take the harbor cruise. It is fairly well known that Australia’s history includes a painful chapter as evidenced by the many convict sites exemplified by places such as these. Walking around you can sense that despite the beauty of the grounds and the lake by the harbor, this was a place filled with so much pain and hardship – an inescapable prison – from 1833 to 1853, this was the destination for the hardest convicted British criminals and juvenile convicts who were housed separately but were not exempt from hard labor in the coal mines and felling timber.

Port Arthur is also remembered for being the scene of the worst massacre in the modern history of Australia. In April 1996, 25-year-old Martin Bryant shot to death 35 people and wounded 23 on the grounds of this historic site. But today’s Port Arthur is bustling with tourists especially when cruise ships docking nearby unload passengers for the day.