Welcome to the Outback! I know, it wasn’t quite what I pictured either. It’s beautiful and charming in a way I didn’t think it would be. We spent the last three days exploring and working in this wonderful little section of the Outback called Little Desert. Unlike the red, bare earth you see in many pictures of the Australian Outback, Little Desert is full of fine white sand, wheat fields and massive trees.
Fine white sand, like the beach? Yes, exactly like the beach! Trust me, I was just as surprised. It’s not easy to keep sand out of your boots on hikes! When I asked our guide about the sand, he explained that Australia used to be covered by massive seas that stretched throughout different parts of the outback. As the land was pushed up from the ocean floor, the seas eventually disappeared leaving behind their sandy bottoms. If you look hard enough, you can even find the remains of shells.
We stayed at a wonderful little place called The Little Desert Nature Lodge. The lodge is run by Conservation Volunteers of Australia and serves a wide range of purposes. Educational classes and nature tours are the center piece of their mission. Thanks to several well maintained ponds on the property, the birding is some of the best in the area. Being half way between Adelaide and Melbourne along Highway A8 makes the lodge appealing to those needing a place to stay for the night.
My favorite feature of the lodge is the abundance of wildlife! Since it is a large reserve, it acts as a great protection area for a great deal of wildlife. This allows people to get a little closer to the animals without invading their territory. Hannah and I could sit out on our deck and watch kangaroos grazing each evening. It was amazing! George the Emu is a cherished member of the lodge. George is quite the curious one, coming over to investigate all new visitors. We had a lot of fun hanging out with him.
As I said, the grounds of the lodge serve many different types of animals. Mammals, reptiles, birds and a variety of plants. One of the driving forces behind the lodge’s creation was to help protect endangered species. This includes the Malleefowl bird.
This big guy is a Malleefowl. Malleefowls have become very rare in the Outback. When Conservation Volunteers took over operation of the lodge, it continued the original owner’s efforts to protect the Malleefowl and give them a place to thrive.
Conservation Volunteers of Australia also manages several other large properties around Little Desert totaling in the thousands of acres. Much of the land was used for livestock grazing. CVA has been slowly developing and implementing programs designed to reintegrate these areas back into the Outback by getting rid of invasive species and replacing them with native ones. It’s an incredible undertaking, but the work is paying off.
This was our first Wallaby sighting! It’s a shame we couldn’t get closer.
I love how the bark on this tree looks twisted.
Old farming gear slowly being taken over by Mother Nature. There is something very poetic about that.
We found this guy in the middle of one of the reserves. Isn’t it beautiful?
The most amazing thing about touring these reserves was the stark difference in plant life in relatively small area. It’s crazy to think how much of a difference there can be in the minerals and soil composition in such a short distance. That greatly impacts which plants grow where.
Our last afternoon at Little Desert was spent hanging out by one of the ponds with the manager and his family. They are such a lovely, open family. They welcomed us right in. So it should come as no surprise how quickly Hannah made a new friend.
For the first time on this trip, I was actually sad to leave. Our time at Little Desert was special and unlike anything we had expected to see. I loved every second of it! The itch to return is great, and I hope I can make it back again in the not-too-distant future.
I highly recommend including a trip to Little Desert Nature Lodge if you are planning to visit Australia. You will not be disappointed. Please tell George we say hi!