Should you travel to Australia?


Should you travel to Australia?  That depends on your special interests.

Australia is a “bird continent”.  Birds stand out as major features of the natural landscape more so than on some other continents.  Cockatoos, Loriqueets, Megapods and Emus and Cassowaries are well-known, but there are many other groups not found elsewhere.  Mammals are mostly inconspicuous and nocturnal, especially when compared to many African destinations.  Reptiles and amphibians, though diverse, are rarely abundant.

The flora of Australia is quite unique, being dominated by relatively few plant families.  Eucalypts have approximately 500 species and tend to dominate most landscapes, along with Acacias.  The Banksias, Dryandras and Hakeas just to name a few of the members of the Proteacea family are also a unique element of Australian flora.  While there are areas of moist rainforest, these occupy a small part of the Australian landmass, with most parts of Australia being quite dry – though Australia lacks the extreme deserts of other continents.

Although familiar to many tourists, we do not discuss the Great Barrier Reef since we did not visit it.   Our main reason not to visit the reef was the logistical difficulties associated with booking such an excursion.  The costs are high per person and the amount of time spent getting to the reef is long enough that at the end of the day your actual time snorkeling may be a lot less than you think.   Having to book in advance is not ideal for a snorkeling outing since weather is an important factor in a snorkeling trip.   Bad weather means rough seas which also means a rough ride out to the reef and an even rougher snorkeling experience.   All these factors and the knowledge that there are other places in the world where planning such an outing is a bit more flexible with shorter traveling distances, made us decide against visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

Why not New Zealand?

More expensive  than Australia

Less biologically diverse than Australia

New Zealand is comprised of a number of islands – though two islands comprise nearly all of the territory.  Islands have less biological diversity compared with larger continental landmasses.  This is because many organisms can’t make the jump across large oceanic stretches.  New Zealand are continental islands, meaning the broke off of the Australian landmass more than 70 million years ago and are comprised of continental crust and rocks that include intrusive igneous (plutonic rocks like granite) and also sedimentary rocks.  So they have a diversity of soil types and also have carried biodiversity with them when they separated from older continents many millions of years ago.  However, they have no native mammals or snakes for example.  They are much more diverse than oceanic islands that are formed by volcanism along oceanic ridges (like the Galapagos Islands) or even like the Hawaiian Islands.

Cooler and wetter throughout the year than most of Australia

Being in the mid-latitudes and surrounded by ocean that ranges, in the warmest months, from about 21C (70F) in the north to 15C (59F) in the south, New Zealand is rarely warm.  Aukland, the largest city in the north, has an average high of only about 74F in the warmest month, with a record high of 86F.  Christchurch, the largest city on the South Island, is cooler, with average highs near 72F in the warmest month (however, it has higher record maximum temperatures).

Of course, the cooler temperatures in New Zealand may be favored by people that do not like really warm conditions.