Catriona Rowntree's first visit to Victoria's Grampians was an environmental holiday with a heart.
Grampians is one of Victoria' largest national parks, and Catriona went off the beaten track with ranger Mike Stevens to lend a hand in the Conservation Volunteers Program.
The program enlists as many people as possible to aid in a research project that aims to understand just how many animals are there and to better manage areas. Fox baiting and fire management are two very important issues.
Volunteers receive a full briefing then head off with a ranger to check traps which were set the night before. Gender and weight are noted and the animals are tagged before being released.
All information is collected and used for an annual field report. As well as keeping an eye on existing wildlife, the program has rediscovered species thought to be extinct.
Catriona saw her first antikinus, a cute, small native marsupial with a little pouch and really long snout which is handy for eating insects. She also saw a little heath mouse which is a threatened species. For 30 years, it was thought they no longer existed, but the Grampians environment seems to be ideal for the mice to breed wonderful news!
Keep your fingers crossed that you'll spot an endangered southern brown bandicoot very rare and the smoky mouse which is also endangered.
There are four- and seven-day programs running in autumn and spring. For anyone who doesn't mind getting their hands dirty, it's a most rewarding experience.
Grampians YHA Eco Hostel, Halls Gap
After a busy morning, you head back for lunch at your accommodation and the rest of the day is yours to explore the beautiful surrounding area.
The stylish and comfortable hostel is in the heart of the Grampians National Park. It's run on solar power and uses green initiatives.
The proprietors collect rainwater and recycle greywater and waste to reduce environmental impact. The hostel kitchen has breadmakers and rice cookers and they use organically grown herbs and freshly laid free-range eggs. Fruit and vegetables are provided, subject to season and availability.
The park is full of hiking trails and you can rockclimb and abseil for some excitement.
The Grampians, three hours from Melbourne
Conservation Volunteers Australia's four- to seven-day Mammal Monitoring programs include all meals, accommodation, transfers, activities and guide. They start at $560 per person.
Virgin Blue has flights to Melbourne.
One-way fares from:
- Adelaide $75
- Sydney $89
- Brisbane $139
- Darwin $169
- Perth $215
There are limited seats which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the Internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are subject to change.
Prices correct at September 24, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Conservation Volunteers Australia
Mammal Monitoring program
Grampians National Park
Ph: 1800 032 501
Ph: (03) 9326 8250
Grampians YHA Eco Hostel
Buckler & Grampians Road
Halls Gap 3381
Ph: (03) 5356 4544
Fax: (03) 5356 4543