We had heard of mega feasting on the coast but had never seen it. Stories of a thousand dolphins in a feeding frenzy off Wye about 15 years ago. We thought it might be exaggerated, but on 2 September, we changed our mind.
We were driving past Wongarra on Father’s Day, and noticed an unusually large number of Gannets offshore and stopped for a better look. There were about 50 birds circling and diving about a kilometre from the Great Ocean Road. Just like this pic.
The circling Gannets
The horizon opened up.
There were more clusters of feeding birds to the left. More to the right, a long way out. This pic doesn’t do them justice.
Birds feeding 1 km out to sea
Dolphins attack too
In each group of feasting birds, a pod of three or so Dolphins were in there too, churning and feeding at their leisure.
We counted over six separate clusters of birds and Dolphins over 3 Km off Wongarra.
We estimate about 500 Gannets were in the frenzy along the 3 km event.
So mega feeding does happen. You never know what displays nature will put on when you least expect it on the Great Ocean Road!
These magnificent soaring birds are often seen from our Sea Zen accommodation at Wye River.
We see the birds soaring out at sea, surfing the eddies on the air waves, way off the land at Wye River. Often there are just a few, circling and wheeling like aerial ballerinas, in a dance of death for the fish below. Sometimes many more.
The circling Gannets
On a good day with lots of fish, they will circle till they see a fish and dive bomb them from 30m above. One moment a stately glider, the next with folded wings a deadly bomber spearing into the water at incredible speed. Below water they continue their deadly mission swimming and catching unsuspecting fish underwater.
This pic shows the transformation from cruising glider to guided missile in a split second.
Most days, you’ll see just one or two cruising out to sea trying their luck. When the bait fish are running, there will be a crowd of 10, 20 or even 50. All whirling and diving in a feeding frenzy.
This 2 min Youtube video by Attenborough shows Gannets diving from the sky like a rain of Javelins!
These birds are rarely seen up close as they spend most of their time out at sea, so it is hard to get a sense of size. Called the Australasian Gannet, they are actually very large with a body 90cm long, and a huge wingspan.
Here is a Gannet at Melbourne zoo – about the size of a goose
On ground at Melb Zoo
Name is Australasian Gannet, one of 3 global species
dives from 30m, hitting the water at 140 km/h
one of the largest sea birds, around 3 kg, 90 cm tall, with a wingspan of 2 metres!
sharp bill is like a spear
nostrils inside the beak to protect from the pressure of plunging
air sacs on face and chest to cushion impact
swims underwater to catch fish
eyes forward with binocular vision gives very accurate estimate of distance
lives up to 35 years
Breeds July to Dec on rocky islands and headlands
Populations around Australia and New Zealand are thought to be increasing
They are also called Boobies because human visitors to breeding colonies were ignored, with tragic consequences for the birds and chicks. Boobies meaning silly. Some people!
A breeding rookery on an island out to sea.
All these fascinating facts aside, we just like watching them and their aerial ballet routines out to sea!
For the inquisitive who want to to find out more, there is a PhD with everything there is to know, written by Machovsky Capuska in NZ.
Japanese block prints are an unlikely connection between Sea Zen and the bombshell 2017 Van Gogh exhibition in Melbourne.
Many thousands of Melbournians have been blown away by the colour and vibrancy of Van Gogh’s paintings. The last 3 years of his life was an explosion of creativity. He painted one masterpiece a day, each a frenetic outpouring of colour and emotion.
Van Gogh, Cottage 1888
Van Gogh, Tree trunks 1890
His work resonated so strongly with Melbournians it became the fastest selling exhibition in the NGV’s history, with opening extended to 12 July 2017 for 15 hours a day!
We discovered that Japanese prints are a strong common theme between Van Gogh’s art and our design ethic at Sea Zen.
Van Gogh’s Japanese prints
While the pathway to Van Gogh’s genius is troubled and complex, there were several critical steps along the way. One was his discovery of the Impressionists’ bold use of colour to represent the light of outdoors which lead to his frenetic pace of work and his sweeping splashes of colour, often applied directly from the paint tube.
Another step several years earlier was his collection of 500 Japanese prints, some of which are displayed in the Melbourne exhibition.
Ah, the crisp wind is in the air at Wye River. Autumn is in full throttle and winter not far behind. So what’s special about Sea Zen at this time of year?
We recently found out the Danes are the happiest people in the world. And ‘Hygge” has a lot to do with it.
The Danish idea of ‘hygge’ (pronounced hoo-ga), means ‘coziness’ or ‘happy relaxing ambience’. In their freezing winter Danes love to stay inside, relax, eat good food, munch on their famous cinnamon buns, be with friends and family, read books and be cozy.
Sea Zen is ‘hygge’ to the max. A small but warm cozy space with wood heater, massive spa and a warming aromatherapy steam shower in the ensuite. Add to that our Foxtel TV, lovely selection of books, magazines and movies. And the fluffy thick bath robes and huge bath towels…and the coffee machine for lattes and cappuccinos.
There’s the Sea Zen giant comfy bed. And perhaps best of all, the relaxing and alluring day bed, where you can sit and gaze out to the sea for hours on end. Or what else to do when it’s cold outside? Sit with your favorite drink and read. “Hygge, hygge.”
And if you do want to venture out it’s a short 60m to a spectacular bracing walk along our beautiful beach (you’ll probably be the only people on it and that’s ‘hygge’ too.)
Book now for your winter ‘hygge’ holiday retreat at Sea Zen.
Yellow tailed Black Cockatoos can often be seen around Sea Zen in small flocks. Photo Birdlife Aust.
Bird watching is one of the things most of our guests love about staying at Sea Zen. And for us living here at Wye River & Separation Creek it is a joy every day. But now a study from the Uni of Exeter has found that it’s more than just fun.
Research found that people who can readily see birds, trees and greenery were less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. In fact they found the number of birds people could see in the afternoon was associated with better mental health.
“This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well being,” the author Dr Daniel Cox, says. “Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”
It seems each week there is a new study on the role of nature in our mental health telling us things we already know and feel. A break away from the stress of the “concrete jungle” is great for anyone and spending time watching the birds of the Otways and Great Ocean Road certainly does that.
For more scientific evidence on the benefits of nature to our wellbeing read here.
Delicious Persian Eggs – the ideal brunch on the Sea Zen balcony. Ready made spice mix for you and fresh herbs in the garden.
One of our favorite brunches of all times is the exotic dish of Persian eggs. Exotic, but easy to make, especially now that Sea Zen has two lush growing pots of parsley and thyme on the back porch and we’ve popped the special spice mix into the Sea Zen pantry for all guests to try out.
We heard Stephanie Alexander talk about this years ago and have been cooking it for our Sunday brunches regularly ever since.
And how fabulous to enjoy this on the Sea Zen balcony now that summer is here, with the ocean in front of you and a King Parrot or two for company.
Parsley and Thyme now in pots on the back porch.
Grab as many eggs as you want, whisk up and add 1 teaspoon of the Persian Egg Spice mix from the pantry. Scramble in some olive oil and add a small handful of herbs from the pots out on the back balcony – thyme and parsley.
Add salt and pepper to taste. VOILA.
PS. The spices are freshly roasted and ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
Wye River beautiful beach. The town has been voted in the “Top 10 Most Charming Beach towns in Australia.” (Photo Stitches/Flickr).
You can say we are biased, or maybe not. Last week travel industry folks confirmed what we’ve known all along when they voted Wye River in the “Top 10 Most Charming Beach Town in Australia”.
Online Travel Magazine invited over 50 folks whose job it is to get around our great wide, beautiful land – travel writers, photographers and selected professionals- to vote on the places they thought the most appealing. And Wye River is in the Top 10!
“Nestled along one of the most spectacular sections of the Great Ocean Road that runs along the south-eastern coast of Australia, this small coastal town provides a superb end point to one of the world’s great road trips. Once here, you’ll find the landscape is a scenic mix of rugged cliffs and verdant mountain foliage while the main sandy beach is surrounded by rock pools and reefs that attract fishing lovers and intrepid explorers all year round.”
And that’s not to mention our wildlife, birds, koalas, whales. Our yummy coffee at the gorgeous General Store Cafe and the most delicious Fish ‘n Chips with the best ocean view in the entire country at the Wye Beach Pub.
We’re also chuffed that nearby towns Lorne (lots of cafes and art galleries) and Apollo Bay (fishing fleet and marina) were included too.
Thanks to the folks at Travel Magazine, we couldn’t agree more, a stay at Wye River is something absolutely special.
The Spotted Pardalote, first time we ever saw one.
We love birds, our guests love birds and our whole community loves the birds. And why not? The native birds of Wye River and Separation Creek are among the area’s greatest natural features. They are so beautiful to look at and keep us entertained with their antics around our towns. And we have over 150 species in the Otways and along the Great ocean Road.
Last month we decided to have an entire day of Bird watching for our community. Over 30 people came and listened to Simon Starr, an ornithologist and bird expert who has been running his Firetail Bird Watching tours around the state for 20 years. First we spent a few hours looking at his slides and sharing stories of our experiences. Then, along with our picnic lunches we went out for a day of spotting.
Simon Starr, bird expert showing us rare Hooded Plover.
And boy did we spot. A beautiful sunny day gave us the backdrop to sights of a Satin Bower Bird’s bower, the endangered Hooded Plover on the beach, the usual cacophony of King Parrots and Rosellas, the gorgeous Superb Fairy Wren and a cute little thing most of us had no idea about, the Spotted Pardalote. Rex and I have had almost twenty years in this area without seeing a bower or a Pardalote but now we know how to do both!
Hooded Plover, rare and endangered are near our towns.
Simon introduced us to a whole new way of looking at our birds, gave us some fabulous little secrets and heaps of information.
We have been inspired by the whole experience and have started on our own Sea Zen Insiders ‘Bird Spotting Guide’. It will have all those insights and tips that we gleaned from Simon. 20 years of questions answered in a concise 10 page guide. Stay tuned for progress!
At Sea Zen we know many of our guests love the bird experience too so we have provided basic information on our feathered friends, books and dvds. And of course we provide natural wild bird seed for the ultimate guest experience.
Join us at Sea Zen to experience the beautiful birds of our region. When you come back to Sea Zen you’ll find more bird info than ever before. Perhaps you can get close to some new species you’ve never seen before too.
Superb Fairy Wren.
The magical bower of the Satin Bower bird, a collection of blue items to woo the female.
At Sea Zen we are often asked for our recommendations on places to visit, and Bespoke Harvest at Forrest is right up at the top.
The old Guesthouse hides an amazing food experience inside.
Bespoke Harvest restaurant and owners. Pics from Bespoke Harvest Facebook page
There is a set menu of about 6 courses, all from amazing seasonal local produce.
Some local veggies
The menu can change from week to week over the seasons as the local products are at their best. You never know what you will get, but after many visits we are yet to be disappointed. The amazing chef [click to continue…]
Oops, did you miss it? August 26 was World Dog Day!
But then again, every day at Sea Zen is dog day!
Why? After looking for somewhere nice to bring our dogs while on our holidays and often finding it difficult, we made sure Sea Zen dog is pet friendly for others on holiday!
6 Sarsfield St, Wye River, 3234 Vic
Tel 0408 006 992
What our guests say
26 July 2017 We needed some time to relax and our stay at Sea Zen did the trick. Beverley and Anthony.
16 July 2017 We love the place! After all it’s been our third visit! In fact we feel totally at home (without the hassle of home). Un-compromised style and luxury. Thank you and we are planning our fourth trip. Cassandra ad Peter.
7 July 2017. We had a fabulous time and the steam room was awesome and your place is so lovely. Thank you for our hospitality and we do hope we can com again. PS. The coffee machine is a lifesaver for a coffee addict like me. Love it!!! Jane and Yoros.
15 June 2017. Great weekend away. We absolutely loved every minute. Thank you for your hospitality and sharing your sanctuary with us. Luke and Zoe.
9 May 2017. Having had a magical time at Treetops we were looking forward to Sea Zen and it did not disappoint. The location is perfect, views stunning and thoughtful items left were for us were wonderful. Could spend hours and hours watching the world go by. Michele and Mick.
20 April 2017. We slipped into relax mode quickly thanks to all the comforts that made our stay extra enjoyable. Thanks for all the guides and the info on local things to do – very very helpful. Loved the steam shower! Jackie and Dino.
10 April 2017.Thanks so much for our wonderful stay. We loved the glow worms out in the forest, the steam shower and the spa inside. We loved every minute of our 7 year anniversary of being together and now we leave as an engaged couple! Thank you. Ebony and Adrian.
29 March 2017. Who would have thought you could get such luxurious accommodation that is pet friendly. You’ve thought of everything. When we opened the bottle of champagne we didn’t expect a bottle stopper, but there was one! We can’t wait for our next visit. Kate and Drew and Tilly.
3 March 2017. It has been amazing! I still can't believe we can see the ocean from the bed. Sea Zen went way beyond anything expected. You guys have literally thought of everything one might need. We have already decided Sea Zen will be our regular holiday destination. Shannon and Kylea.
20 Feb 2017. Thanks so much. I am writing this from my favorite spot, the window seat, window wide open listening to the waves and admiring the spectacular view - with a gin and tonic in my hands. perfection! Amanda and John.
12 Feb 2017. This was where we spent our first weekend away together in 2012. We had an amazing time then and we topped it this time! Thanks for letting us bring our puppies so they could help me get down on my knee to propose to Jess and she said, YES! Heath and Jess.
20 Jan 2017. We had a wonderful time. Can't wait to tell our family and friends back in London. The views simply breathtaking. You have been wonderful hosts. Sharon and Mitchell.
10 Jan 2017. A big thank you! We loved the steam shower followed by the relaxation spa whilst listening to the ocean. We'll be back. Nathan and Shae.
8 Dec 2016. If ever anyone says who fulfilled my dreams…I would say it was ‘you guys’. From the moment we saw the place to the time we discovered each small little thing you’ve done to ensure we enjoy every moment, I couldn’t leave without a tear. We both like different things and your little gestures got us together. Thank you for everything. Gopi and Suchila.
11 Nov 2016. Your empathy and support has gone above and beyond in what is to be our last trip with our elderly “furry child”. I carried her to the water and she loves the beach. With all our hearts, Thank you. Nothing was unthought of or left out. Kath, Brendan, Grace and Bentley.
18 Nov 2016. Sea Zen was definitely the highlight of our trip along the Great Ocean Road and we really appreciated all the little touches like the birdseed and the tomato sauce for the BBQ! We are recommending this to everyone! Sarah and Alex.
10 Nov 2016. We had a wonderful time, especially hand feeding the King parrots. Couldn’t believe it when they landed on my head. We have already told our family about our stay and can’t wait to be back. Dan, Vivian and Monty.
21 Oct 2016. Much thought and effort was put into making Sea Zen truly the most Zen’est place on the Great Ocean Road.. And thanks for sharing your foodies tips. They are perfect and we can’t wait to return to try the rest of them. Jening and Linda.
16 Oct 2016. This short trip will be something we will never forget. You’ve been more than accommodating throughout the entire process and I cannot wait to tell our friends and family about this amazing property. You will most definitely be hearing from us in the future. Take care, Bianca and Jason.
1 Oct 2016. Life is so busy and it is impossible to find a place where you can stop thinking about all the things that need to be done. But I have found that place! Sea Zen has such beautiful energy. The steam shower – amazing. The window seat – amazing. The styling – amazing. Our batteries are recharged. Kerry and John.
5 Sept 2016. This oasis beholds a magical energy from the entrance it instantly takes your breath. To capture such tranquillity as you walk in to the soft sound of music and the ocean waves puts your body and mind into relax and meditation mode. Over 20 years we have been coming to this part of the Great Ocean Road and stayed at many places, but this is the one I have been searching for…Absolutely the best! It is already in my diary to come back next year. Sonia and Paul.
30 Aug 2016. I fell in love with Sea Zen just by looking through photos on Airbnb and wow the moment we stepped in! It’s gorgeous! The house, the view, location, decoration and it’s dog friendly. We are already planning to come back at the end of the year. Love, Emily, William and Mocha.
Jun 2016. Amazing stay! Beautiful small details like the bath salts for the (HUGE) hot tub (seriously huge, my partner of over 6ft was overjoyed), Japanese style teapot and cups and, my favourite, the big container of bird seed to feed the King parrots on the balcony! There were plenty of maps and information to offer us suggestions on what we might like to do when we weren't relaxing luxuriously in front of the fire, and Rex even popped past with some delicious koala shaped bread, fresh baked! Contact with Rex before our stay was prompt and helpful, could not have asked for a better host. It was hard to leave that beautiful king bed to go and see some nature, but the glow worms and the Otway Fly was worth it. Absolutely perfect for a romantic getaway, you'll leave refreshed and relaxed without a doubt!”