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A Perfect World Only 1 and 1 1/2 hour flight from Sydney

By Guest
Posts: 2

Posted on: August 08, 2009 at 5:34PM

Only a short one and one half hour flight from Sydney but leaving you feeling like you are in a different universe - a perfect universe for that matter - is Lord Howe Island. Long before eco-adventures and green vacations became fashionable Lord Howe Island was hosting and wildlife lovers. Many of the first children who flew across the ocean with their families on Hydroplanes are now senior citizens. They continue to be among the island’s regular visitors and most continue the tradition by bringing their children and grandchildren with them. Today, they are joined by a new generation of enthusiastic birdwatchers and ecologically minded tourists from around the world. This tiny island inspires nature lovers to return again and again because mankind's imprint has been so light. Human habitation still only exists on a narrow isthmus of lowland country in the north-central part of the island. On 14 December 1982 the UNESCO World Heritage committee officially inscribed Lord Howe Island on the World Heritage List. The 350 local residents on the island, most of them descendents of the original settlers, are fiercely protective of the natural beauty of their island, and especially their birds and coral reef. For most people, their main entertainment takes place outdoors, exploring natural wonders – you can take your pick of quiet, secluded beaches because there are many. The island boasts unparalleled bird watching, ideal picnic spots, a protected coral reef, amazing dive spots, as well as hiking and mountain climbing. But if you are looking for a wild party you won’t find it here. There are no bars or nightclubs on the island – not even cell phones work, and you have to hunt to find a computer if you want internet access. There are only a handful of small shops, decent restaurants and discreet lodges. You won’t find a wild party, but you will find lots of friendly company among the like minded nature lovers who come from all over the world to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of the island. The island’s major tourist building is its museum. It has an excellent permanent exhibit about Lord Howe Island birds and history and a regular lecture series. The museum hosts the island’s biggest community social event - talks by naturalists at the museum give informative slides and film presentations on a range of topics related to birding, wildlife, and exploring the coral reef. In the evenings, most of the lodges have community rooms filled with books, magazines, and board games where the guests can gather to socialize or relax together if they are so inclined. The seasons in the South Pacific are the reverse of North America but even Lord Howe’s winter months May, June, July and August are exceptionally mild and offer ample activities for outdoor adventurers. The balance of nature remains near perfect all year round and 75% of the island, including much of the southern mountains and northern hills, is a permanent protected nature reserve that culminates in extensive sea cliffs providing sanctuary for the abundant bird life. Most people get around by foot or bicycle. Boating is restricted and snorkelers and divers are very careful not to damage the coral reef. On the south-western side, the island’s coral reef encloses the turquoise lagoon and is one of the healthiest coral reefs in the world with many varieties of living coral and marine life including lots of colorful tropical fish making it perfect for snorkeling and diving. The islanders are very proud of the fact that their coral reef is alive with many varieties of coral. They often point out that the famous “beautiful” white coral at the Great Barrier Reef is actually dead. Everyone loves Ned's Beach on the northeast just below Malabar Hill. Hundreds of swim up to you and eat bread crumbs out of your hand while you to pet them. It is also one of the best snorkel spots on the island and the reef can be accessed without a boat. All sizes of diving and snorkel gear are available for guests on an honor rental system. A rare collection of plants add another layer of fulfillment for visitors. Giant Banyan trees and Kentia Palm forests spread across the island and there are all varieties of tropical flowers. Exporting kentia pines provide a major economic basis for the inhabitants. But life on the island is mostly defined by bird life. The island and surrounding islets are a secure haven for over half a million birds. All the island trails are abundant with birds endemic to the island. Even the single road that runs from one end of the island to the other often has thousands of white terns nesting in the palm trees that line it, and the Lord Howe Island Woodhen, a flightless bird which barely escaped extinction, is given the right of way. This cute flightless olive-brown bird is found only on Lord Howe Island and is probably its most famous land bird. The Lord Howe Island Woodhen was one of the rarest birds on earth in the 1980s with less than a dozen nesting pairs left. Now hundreds of these gentle-natured birds live on the island. Protected by the local inhabitants, Lord Howe Island Woodhens are not only given the right of way on the island’s single road, they wander about fearlessly everywhere. One of the best places to spot them is on the two-mile little island trail where they are often seen, along with beautiful emerald ground doves. Lord Howe Island is especially famous for exceptional, close up bird watching. More than 180 bird species have been recorded. 32 currently breed on the island including 18 species of land birds and 14 species of seabirds. Many species of seabirds visit the island and fourteen species of seabirds have been breeding on the Lord Howe group of islands for thousands of years with no predators. They have no fear of human beings and birdwatchers can enjoy unparalleled viewing . The walking trails that wander along the beaches or through native kential palm forests and past the huge Banyan trees with long suspended roots are home to many land birds. Rare land endemics that can be spotted include the Lord Howe Silvereye, Pied Currawong and Golden Whistler, as well as the highly endangered Woodhen. The island's east coast trails overlook the ragged coastline where many varieties of seabird colonies in huge numbers roost and nest, including masked boobies, noddies, and shearwaters. Birdwatchers can take photographs to their hearts content and go up close to observe the birds courting, roosting and feeding their chicks. During breeding season, especially September through March, small colonies of Flesh-footed shearwaters can be spotted returning to their nesting burrows in people's homes every night at sunset. A great favorite of birders is spotting the pristine-white Tropic birds which are famous for their beautiful red tails. They are especially entertaining during the mating season because they perform acrobatic feats. These exquisitely beautiful birds have elegant red tail streamers that are displayed at their finest when they are mating. They fly backwards, in circles, and then dramatically soar vertically during the courting ritual. An excellent place to spot them is along one of the island's most scenic walking tracks that goes From Malabar Hill and along the cliffs to Mt. Eliza. This trail also gives you a magnificent view of the entire island and sooty terns are also found here. Another favorite is the Providence Petrel, a rare bird that nests near the summit of Mt. Gower. It is so trusting of human beings that it can be called out of the air and will rest on your shoulder or your lap. Kermandec Petrals are a wonderful site but they only breed on the thin rock pinnacle of Balls Pyramid. To see them it is necessary to organize a special seabird cruise To Balls Pyramid. It's worth taking this cruise because it gives you the opportunity to see many of the seabirds including Kermadec petrel and White bellied storm petrel, In May, June, July and August (autumn and winter months for the southern hemisphere) you will also find several albatross species. The unintimidated Lord Howe island Currawong, a raven-sized bird with the black and white markings of a magpie is an endemic subspecies found nowhere else in the world. Often found under the pines at Old Settlement Beach, Currawongs will sit staring unflinchingly, just an arms length away from hikers and picnickers enjoying their lunches on many parts of the island, including the resting stops on the climb to the top of 2,870 foot-high Mt. Gower. It is more territorial than the Currawong's on the mainland of Australia and one of the few birds that is not so friendly during breeding season. If you get too close to their nests they might divebomb you. To get to Lord Howe Island, QantasLink operate regular flights between Lord Howe Island and Sydney or Brisbane. Camping is not allowed on the island and accommodation reservations are required to get on the flight. All the accommodations are excellent but I recommend Leanda Lei or Sommerset for good value. These are some of the original lodgings, simple but comfortable and run by descendents of the original settlers. They are well located on the island and the owners are knowledgeable and helpful. Only 400 tourists are allowed on the island at one time so be sure to make reservations well in advance. report a problem

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