Southern Swan

Strolling around The Rocks in Sydney one morning, we noticed a magnificent tall ship sailing in the harbour.

1.James Craig

The James Craig, a 19th century barque, was rescued in 1972 from Recherche Bay in Tasmania where she had been purposely sunk in 1932. Restoration began in Hobart before she was towed to Sydney in 1981 where the work was completed and she returned to the sea in 2001.

2.James Craig

Watching her gracefully glide across the water, we knew we wanted the experience and promptly signed up for a twilight dinner cruise on the Southern Swan, berthed at Campbell’s Cove, The Rocks.

3.Southern Swan

Originally named Our Svanen, the three-masted barquentine was built in Denmark in 1922 and traded as a grain carrier through the cold waters of the North Atlantic. She then sailed Baltic trade routes as a cargo vessel for Tuborg brewery until she was purchased as a private vessel in 1969. Since then, she has served as a training ship with the Canadian Sea Cadets, travelled to Vancouver for the 1986 World Expo, sailed to England for the First Fleet Re-enactment and returned to Australia for the Bicentennial First Fleet Re-enactment. She now has a lovely home with stunning harbour views.

4.Southern Swan

For two hours, we sipped champagne and enjoyed a delicious three course meal surrounded by the most beautiful harbour in the world (in my humble opinion). I was fascinated by the ropes and pulleys, works of art with a purpose.

As we neared the magnificent Sydney Heads, Bradleys Head lighthouse, built in 1905, warned of treacherous waters. The mast mounted on the point is from HMAS Sydney, renowned for her battle with the German cruiser Emden in 1914.

15.toward the heads

The tall ships cruise offers the chance of a mast climb challenge. There were no takers this time, possibly because alcohol is not to be consumed prior to a climb and, after all, it was a dinner cruise. Looking up at the mast was enough of a thrill for me.

16.mast17.mast

Our time on the water went by too soon and, as the sun sank in the west, we returned to Campbell’s Cove, another wonderful experience tucked away as memories.

18.mast

Taronga Zoo

On a warm December day in Sydney, we caught the ferry from Circular Quay to spend the day at Taronga Zoo. Officially opened in 1916, the zoo was based on the bar-less exhibits seen at Hamburg Zoo on a visit to Germany by the Secretary of the zoo in 1908. The 69 acre site is home to over 4,000 animals of 350 species and is a wonderful place to spend a leisurely day. The first animal we encountered was the gorgeous red panda. The deep rust-red colour contrasts beautifully with cream facial markings, the large claws a bonus when it comes to tree climbing.

These two were enjoying a nap in the humid heat, dreaming of their ancestors in south-east Asia. Binturongs have been described as a bear-cat and as tree dwellers with long bushy tails, it’s hard to believe they are distantly related to meerkats. Apparently, they have a strong odour of a cross between burnt popcorn and corn chips. We didn’t get close enough to find out.

The Java Finch seemed to be enjoying the steamy atmosphere in the waterbird exhibit.

Usually a white bird, the Cattle Egret is seen on the backs of cattle making a meal of ticks and flies. The orange brown breeding plumage becomes bright red at the height of the season. Interestingly, a group of egrets is known as a “skewer”.

9.cattle egret

The smallest known ibis in Australia, the Glossy Ibis was showing the magnificent colours of breeding plumage.

10.glossy ibis

The Asian elephant breeding program has been very successful at Taronga. The keepers led them out for their daily exercise, giving them wooden “toys” to play with.

11.Asian elephants

15.Asian elephants

The Sumatran Tiger and Snow Leopard were on alert

16.Sumatran Tiger17.Snow Leopard

but there were others who had given in to the somnolent, steamy atmosphere.

18.lioness19.bear20.tapir

I have always had a soft spot for hippos and the baby pygmy hippo stole my heart.

The meerkats were entertaining, as usual, I could watch them for hours. The dark patches around their eyes act as sunglasses to lessen the glare of the desert.

Mum and baby gorilla were enjoying a nap, dad doesn’t look too impressed at being left out.

We passed the colourful cassowary and opulent ostrich

on the way to the giraffes. The meal didn’t look very appetizing but he was tall enough to catch glimpses of the Harbour Bridge.

The world’s largest lizard at 3 metres long, the Komoda Dragon was magnificent.

38.Komodo Dragon

Unfortunately, Tuka, as he was named, died two years ago at the age of 33.

There were many fascinating lizards and snakes, I won’t even attempt to identify them.

The Indian Star tortoise was heading for lunch

50.Indian star tortoise

while the eastern snake-necked turtle cooled off in the pool.

51.Eastern snake-necked turtle

The handsome countenance of the Rhinoceros Iguana reveals the sheer pleasure of basking in the sunshine.

There was a fabulous view from the Sky Safari cable car. The lush verdancy  below

contrasted perfectly with the harbour and city beyond.

58.gondola view

Watching the chimpanzees brought us back to earth. It’s not hard to believe they are our closest living relatives, sharing nearly 99% of our DNA.

Nearing the end of our visit, we stopped by the farmyard where children can get close to the animals. The piglets were adorable

and the acrobatic goat had us wondering how she would get down from there.

68.goat

We enjoyed every minute of our day at Taronga, and with a final hint from the crocodile on how to stay cool,

69.crocodile

we returned to our apartment to do just that.

70.cooling off

soaring over Sydney

Sydney is my favourite Australian city. There is something stirring about the skyline, and the stunning harbour is a fascinating paradox of bustle and tranquility. Having admired the panorama from the top of the Harbour Bridge, we were eager to see more. What better way than from a helicopter? Our early morning flight departed from the heliport at Sydney airport and it wasn’t long before the magnificent bridge was in our sights.

1-sydney2-sydney-harbour-bridge3-sydney-harbour-bridge

At Bennelong Point, the spectacular Sydney Opera House keeps company with Government House, next to the Royal Botanic Garden.

4-sydney-opera-house

We left the harbour behind

5-sydney-harbour

as we made our way toward Manly and Sydney Heads.

6-harbour7-harbour8-manly9-south-head

We turned south over Watsons Bay

10-watsons-bay

to take in the impressive eastern suburb beaches of Bondi,

11-bondi-beach

Tamarama and Bronte.

12-tamarama-bronte-beach

Wedding Cake Island is just off the coast at Coogee Beach, the white water breaking over it gives the appearance of icing.

13-wedding-cake-island

Just after Maroubra Beach

14-maroubra-beach

we left the coast and returned to the airport.

15-airport

Our first helicopter flight was a fabulous experience

16-helicopter

thanks to the guys at http://www.blueskyhelicopters.com

The Bridge

Whichever way you look at it, Sydney Harbour Bridge is spectacular.

1.The Bridge2.The Bridge3.The Bridge

When it was opened in 1932, after eight years of construction, it was the longest single span steel arch bridge in the world.

4.The Bridge

Today, there are eight lanes of traffic, two railway lines, a pedestrian pathway and a cycleway connecting the city of Sydney with the North Shore.

5.The Bridge6.The Bridge

The closer you look, the more fascinating it becomes.

7.The Bridge8.The Bridge

Six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel come together with artistic precision.

The Bridge Climb was on our bucket list for quite some time and we weren’t disappointed.

17.climb3

Dressed in regulation climbing gear, we had a safety briefing and practiced climbing narrow, steep ladders before the real thing. The climb started below the highway and after navigating catwalks with ease, we had to ascend four ladders that took us up through the traffic to the start of the upper arch.

The jelly knees soon settled and the rest of the 1,332 steps was quite leisurely. We weren’t allowed to take cameras or anything else that could drop to the roadway but we had a few photos taken by the leader.

21.bridge climb

Though a tad windy and overcast, it was pleasant for walking.

22.bridge climb

134 metres above the harbour, we lingered for a while to admire the breathtaking panorama.

23.bridge climb

Too soon, we returned to solid ground, vowing next time we will do a sunset climb. There is certainly something magical about that bridge.

24.The Bridge