Well, as it turns out, I was in no way exaggerating when I mentioned the other week that the weather in Queensland was going to be appalling. My work trip to Brisvegas showed me that not only is "The Sunshine Coast" a total misnomer, but that it really is quite a bit like Vegas (not that I've been), or at least the Gold Coast is, and particularly Surfer's Paradise. I once heard the place described as Darwin's older, sluttier cousin. Snap.
Ooh! I smell sausages and potatos! Yum! Sorry, mum's cooking dinner and I got a little distracted. I haz the hungriez. Where was I?
Oh yeah, the appalling weather in Queensland. It sucked balls. Although, Sunday afternoon was quite pleasant, which is when I happened to be leaving. That'd be right. So obviously our trip to Sea World was a little damper than we had expected (which could more or less be blamed on me for my stupid flight times). Precisely, it was damp enough to be wearing awesome raincoats like Kaye's:
By which I mean, damp enough for KAYE to be wearing an awesome raincoat like Kaye's. It was quite a bargain, actually - $4 if I'm not much mistaken. At least she can re-use hers, unlike the droves of people wearing disposable ponchos from the gift shop. I personally was wearing my red one that I bought for South America, and Danielle was sporting an umbrella instead of a coat, which kind of makes sense in Queensland because the focus isn't so much on keeping warm.
And it rained (check out the size of the rain drops).
... including BLU-RAYS!!! Geddit?? Heh heh. Seriously, I think it's a blue spotted (?ribbon tail?) ray or something. He saw me coming and chose to hide from me. I think I knew what I was thinking about his mate, the shark...
...and all manner of colourful fish. I particularly liked this fellow. I called him Freaky Fish (in my head) for reasons only known to myself. I think maybe it's cos he was so fat and looked like he was blowing raspberries at the world. I liked the cut of his jib.
They even let us touch some of them! I like touching critters. It makes me very happy. But I didn't get to touch the very coolest critter because I avoided eye contact with the guy up the front of the seal show, and so Danielle got called up.
I'm obviously insanely jealous. So that leads me to declare that it is the rays and not the seals which were the coolest critters there (Actually, I genuinely do think they were cooler. I have wandered about seal colonies down on Kangaroo Island for uni work, and they stink to high heaven. I have also sifted their poo (yes, really, and yes, I was wearing gloves, and yes, I had to keep fighting the urge to projectile vomit) to find out what they ate, specifically, ear bones from fish (again, yes, really - you can actually identify fish species from the shape of their ear bones, which seem to be the only bones that make it through the digestive process, and so by wandering about a seal colony, picking up poo in plastic bags and then basically straining them, you can figure out exactly what the seal has been eating). So I'm a little disenchanted with the pinniped genus, even if you can train them bring you large bags of money. Rays smell nicer (... I think?? I didn't really sniff one...) and appear to be less inclined to maul you... but that's another story for another day!).
To the rays! This one appears to have a hungry look about it. No wonder Kaye didn't much care for them, because it really does look like it's contemplating leaping out of the tank and attaching itself to your face and sucking your brains out of your nose, doesn't it Kaye... Kaye? Are you there? You can't run, Kaye. The Ray is Watching...
And then feeding time began. The photos aren't very clear but I got to touch quite a few of them. They have this amazing texture - kind of soft, and a little slimy but I would be more inclined to call it velvety, only wet. Some are more rubbery, and have little bumps around the top of their fin. I wanted to keep one but I don't have a bath tub and I don't think one would much care to live in a bath tub even if I had one, and I don't think they'd be terribly good at cuddling, which is what we all want in a pet, really.
I also touched a sea cucumber - they're quite soft, and some have little bumps, and for something that looks like a large, decorated turd, they're really quite mobile!
And I touched a starfish (or was it a sea star? I don't know whether there is actually a difference. Wiki, bastion of scientific accuracy, says no. Does anyone have a more authorative opinion on this?). I told this fella that I had dissected one of his mates back at university, and I could tell by his surly silence that he was not at all impressed. But he let me touch him anyway.
Basically, touching critters = very happy Nessie. I really am that easy to please. Seriously. If they has somehow incorporated a petting zoo into maths class, I would have achieved far better grades.
The dolphins were also quite amazing. The kid in front of us was supposed to go touch one, but then his mole of an older sister (or it may have been his cousin) got over-excited and ran down before he could even get to his feet. The poor little tyke was so disappointed.
The fact it was raining was kind of a blessing, I think, because it meant that there weren't a bajillion people wandering around, getting in my way, and it also meant that I didn't get sunburnt. Score!
We also saw penguins, both swimming
... and saw some polar bears...
... who decided that it was all a bit too hard for them.
All in all, $80 to basically go to the zoo is quite a lot of money, but I didn't resent it as I did the $44 you pay to get into Tooronga Zoo in Sydney, which is odd considering it was nearly double the cost. It must have been good! If you got one of those 3 Park Super Pass things which I think are about $140 it would certainly be decent value. Touching the critters alone made it totally worth the trip, although in the future I'd probably pay the squillion dollars it costs to dive with the animals.
Also, the gift shop totally miffed me - there wasn't much marine stuff in it, let alone Sea World branded stuff. Most of it was random, ubiquitous crap such as friendship bracelets, thongs, stuffed toys of all sorts of animals (not just seals, dolphins etc), key rings with your name and random decorations such as hearts, flowers and butterflies on them (WTF?? None of those things are from the sea!!!) and Dora the Explorer products (only a couple of which had any Sea World branding or some vague mention of marine life or beaches on them). I think their branding/marketing department must be smoking drugs. It's also likely that the work experience kid was told to do the ordering on the same day that the marketing department were out the back, sparking up. Seriously. Most of the stuff there **just didn't make sense** and there was NOTHING there that caught my attention. Except perhaps the stuffed fish toy. It looked like Freaky Fish, only orange. I can see already that my kids are going to have somewhat un-orthodox soft toys...
This is where I feel the need to add the tag "rant" to this post. I loved the animals - don't get me wrong - and I had a fantastic day out with my my Home Girls, but Australian tourist attractions have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Value for money is low and so is the quality of the products and services they provide. No wonder nobody comes here. Tourism Australia shouldn't be asking "where the bloody hell are ya", they should be knowing that nobody is bloody well here because we cost too much, give too little and are too hard to get to!
But I'm still glad I went :)