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Nature’s megafeast

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 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

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.

500 Gannets

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!

Gannets at Wye River

These magnificent soaring birds are often seen from our Sea Zen accommodation at Wye River.

Gannet soaring

Gannet soaring

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

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.

Diving sequence

Diving sequence

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

On ground at Melb Zoo

Gannet facts

  • 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.

Rookery

Rookery

 

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.

window 600

Van Gogh, Cottage 1888

 

Tree trunks

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.

Why were these prints important?

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hygge fire picAh, 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.

cinnamon-rollsSea 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.”

read books take naps2And 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.

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.

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.
ENJOY

Parsley and Thyme now in pots on the back porch.

Parsley and Thyme now in pots on the back porch.

RECIPE
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.

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Wye River beautiful beach.

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.

 

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The Spotted Pardalote, first time we ever saw one.

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.

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.

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.

Surperb Fairy Wren.

Superb Fairy Wren.

The magical bower of the Satin Bower bird, a collection of blue items to woo the female.

The magical bower of the Satin Bower bird, a collection of blue items to woo the female.

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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

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

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…]

sz happy world day

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!

But don’t forget the working dogs!

Old photo sled dogs

Sled dogs Greenland, pic hotel Arctic

A few weeks ago we met some working sled dogs in Greenland, where dogs are so vital for the local fishermen that until recently dogs outnumbered people in the beautiful town of Ilulissat. There it is a tough life, inspiring but brutal. Puppies are free to roam, but stay close to their mother, for one tough reason. Here is the story about where modern meets tradition and tradition lives on, one of our most fascinating dog experiences!

 

Riley
Closer to home, here is Riley the working Truffle dog.  He’s not relaxing, he’s pointing out a Truffle here in the Otways.

Back at Sea Zen, it’s a good life for dogs and their owners. Here to celebrate World Dog Day are just a few past dog pics from our Facebook page.

cosy at Sea Zen

Cosy, warm fire

bird watching

Bird watching

Freedom on the beach

Freedom on the beach

Maybe now is a good time to book that holiday with your dog at Sea Zen again! Calendar is here.