Tasmania’s Southwest National Park is almost four times larger than Singapore, twice the size of Hong Kong. Unlike these urbanised cities however, humans are heavily outweighed in this UNESCO World Heritage park.
Landing at Melaleuca’s gravel airstrip, about an hour south of Hobart, in a ten-seater Britten Norman Islander our small group virtually doubles the entire park’s human population. Even the extremely rare and almost extinct Orange Bellied Parrot (OBP), of which there are thought to be less than 30 wild birds in existence, outnumber humans. So, it’s quite extraordinary that within a few hours of touching down we’ve spotted half a dozen of these exquisite migratory birds. At 43 degrees south, the landscape is as wild and untamed as the few hardy souls who have attempted to carve a far-flung home here.
Like Pieter van der Woude, who recently launched an indulgent expedition-type eco cruise, Tasmanian Boat Charters, through Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey waterways. A former police search and rescue officer, abalone diver and cray fisherman, van der Woude is completely at home in these waters on board his purpose built 20m vessel. Luxuriously appointed for a maximum of six guests in three light and bright cabins, Odalisque is like an opulent floating home complete with Skipper, gourmet chef and nature guide. All have encyclopaedic knowledge of the flora, fauna and history of Tasmania’s far south.
A waterway three times larger than Sydney Harbour, the land and sea scapes are as dramatic as they come. Little impacted by man beyond the odd cottage or pier built by optimistic pioneers, tin miners, lumberjacks or whalers, it remains much as it would have when inhabited by the indigenous Needwonnee people.
The peak of Mt. Rugby dominates the jagged Western Arthur range, while at sea level, island beaches are tinged dark by tannin-stained water. Narrow trails wind their way across rolling plains and mountain summits, rewarding hikers with panoramic views of island-dotted bays, snaking rivers and knuckled peaks.
Vividly coloured wildflowers poke through endless plains of button grass, the favoured food of OBPs. With a long-term captive breeding program now declared a miserable failure, the future looks bleak for OBPs. Let’s hope we’re not the last humans to lay eyes on this near-extinct species. Tasmanian Boat Charters tasmanianboatcharters.com.au
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