Feature Species: Western Ringtail Possum

How gorgeous is this video of a baby Western Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus occidentalis)? These little guys are ranked as Critically Endangered using the International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) criteria and are endemic to the southwest ecoregion, which means that they are found nowhere else in the world! The Western Ringtail is a nocturnal and arboreal species who are usually found feeding, sleeping or socialising high in the canopy. With a small home range of around 5ha, they will use 2-7 rest sites which are usually nests or dreys built in low shrubs, thickets, grass trees and various tree canopies.

These possums feed almost exclusively on the leaves of the Peppermint trees (Agonis flexuosa), but can sometimes be found to be chomping down on Marri (Corymbia calophylla) and Jarrah (Ecalyptus marginal) foliage. Interestingly unlike many other herbivorous mammals, the Western Ringtail only has one compartment to their stomach making digestion of there diet quite a challenge. They have solved this problem by consuming their own scat whilst they are resting throughout the day in their dreys. That’s right, they chew their own poo to maximise their nutrient intake from each meal! The first scat that they produce during the day is known as caeotroph and tends to be thick and dark, almost resembling tar. The second scat is much more dry and firm being produced during the night.

Female possums usually give birth in late autumn and winter, however in and around Busselton where populations thrive possums can birth twice a year. Usually one baby is born after a gestation of 2-4 weeks, however they have been known to give birth to 2 or even 3 young in a litter. After 3 months the babies will emerge permanently from the pouch and will continue to suckle milk for up to 8 months. By 8-12 months, the young have left their mothers home range to discover their own territory.

The biggest pressure faced by these gorgeous marsupials is one faced by animals all over the globe, displacement by human development. Many measures have been put in place to ensure that areas where these little guys are known to thrive are managed to conserve these little guys into the future including education programs to raise awareness, protecting critical habitat and surveying any clearings for evidence of possum populations.

Move for Mental Health

Come adventure with us and The Movement Room as we hike from lighthouse to lighthouse, along stunning coastal landscape from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin, to raise awareness for mamas who are struggling emotionally with post natal depression/anxiety. Allowing each hiker with the opportunity to experience and explore how movement/exercise can be a powerful coping strategy in the journey to recovery.

MORE INFORMATION HERE!

All funds raised will be donated to The Gidget Foundation who is doing amazing work, creating change and impacting those mamas that need it most.

Hike for yourself or hike in the place of someone that you know has or is struggling with depression/anxiety.

In registering as a “Move for Mental Health” hiker we ask that you commit to raising at least $500 in sponsorship (hopefully more!) from friends, family, colleagues and maybe those who want to be a part of creating change in your networks. For more information on sponsorship and fundraising contact Kylianne on kylianne@themovementroom.com.au

2017 Margaret River Business Awards

On a cool, clear night on Thursday 3rd August the historical Margaret River Cultural Centre welcomed the regions best small businesses. This year 52 local businesses submitted their entries into the 2017 Telstra Margaret River Region Business Awards with high hopes of making their way up on stage to be rewarded for all their hard efforts.

Margaret River Region Business Awards

Richie, Saul and Gene enjoying a beverage before the gala

Commencing with delicious canapés from Catering Margaret River, sparkling wine from Swings and Roundabouts and freshly brewed beer from the Brewhouse, finalist then made their way into the theatre and were treated to a delicious charcuterie board from Rustico at Hay Shed Hill. While guests were enjoying their entrees, the Margaret River High School Jazz Band helped everyone to settle into the evening before a jaw dropping aerial silks performance by the very talented ladies from Freespirit Trapeze and Volare. The main course from Settlers Tavern was a choice of mouthwatering chicken, beef or vegetarian dishes which were enjoyed by all. An mouthwatering chocolate and orange dessert constructed by South West Regional TAFE was a sensational way to finish the collaborative dinner. Accompanied by some of the region’s finest wine from Vasse FelixHarman’s Estate and Cape Grace Wines, it’s safe to say that everyone was more than satisfied with attention to detail and hospitality throughout the evening.

CCET Best Small Business

Gene, the Cape to Cape Explorers team and other finalists making their way to the stage to accept their finalist awards.

Cape to Cape Explorer Tours are proud to announce that we had a very successful night! Being awarded finalist in the Environmental Excellence and Excellence in Tourism categories as well as WINNERS in the Best Small Business and Community Excellence categories, we are overwhelmed with the recognition we received.

Winners of the 'Best Small Business' award!

Winners and finalists of the ‘Best Small Business’ award!

To top off the night, we were awarded with the top honours of the evening, WINNERS of the Business of the Year! Thank you to the Margaret River Chamber of CommerceTelstraSettlers TavernThe Shire of Augusta Margaret RiverYour Margaret River RegionNature Conservation Margaret River Region, Kelly Harwood Photography and all of the other sponsors for making this event a night to remember. We would also like to extend our thanks to the incredible team behind CCET, our talented business partners, the local, regional and state tourism bodies and of course our inspiring clients. Without your support and hard work, we wouldn’t be where we are today!

CCET Business of the Year

At the end of the night, absolutely stoked with the result of all our hard work paying off 🙂

Cape to Cape Explorer Tours are excited for another busy Spring out on the Track! We are really looking forward to meeting all of our upcoming clients on both our guided and self-guided walks! If you are interested in hiking the Track in 2017, why not join our Classic Guided End-to-End Experience so you can enjoy all the challenges of the hike with a group of new friends? Not only will you enjoy the beauty and diversity of the Cape to Cape Track, but you’ll also experience some of the other awesome aspects that this region has to offer. Visiting Vasse Felix, Cape Grace, Miki’s Open Kitchen, Calgardup Cave and The Common; as well as enjoying catering from some of the regions best pantries, this is an experience you will truly remember. Book now for our 9th September 2017 and 16th September 2017 departures and receive 10% off!!! Simply head to our website or click here and when reviewing your order before checking out, type in the voucher code ‘WALK’ to receive your discount.

Our awards!

Our awards!

Caves in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge reveal climate history

The Cape to Cape Track traverses through the incredible Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park. The national park runs along a ridge with a bedrock of ancient granite gneiss, topped with Tamala Limestone, which is home to some of the most beautifully decorated caves on the planet. This limestone is some of the youngest rock in the world, having formed less than 2 million years from wind swept sand dunes cementing together. Being home to 100’s of the karst features that have formed through the porous rock, the ridge that runs between Cape Naturaliste and Cape Leeuwin resembles something similar to swiss cheese.

Caves within the ridge have recently become of great interest to those studying climate science, as the beautiful formations growing inside these magical caverns are well preserved, being protect from the elements influencing the world above ground. The decorations found within caves are collectively given the name of ‘speleothems’, and they all begin as a result of heavy rainfall that can penetrate through the forest floor above. The rainwater picks up carbon from the rotting organic material, turning it slightly acidic, which allows it dissolve the limestone as it moves through the pores like water through a sponge. After several months the supersaturated limestone solution will reach the ceiling of the cave and seep through just one drop at a time. As a drop of water enters the cave atmosphere, it degasses which allows the water to redeposit the dissolved limestone as calcium carbonate or Calcite crystal. The most simplest form of speleothem is cave straws, which form as a thin ring of Calcite is deposited around the drop of water over and over again. When water travels around the outside of a straw a thicker stalactite is born, and when water drips to the floor of the cave, a stalagmite begins to grow.

Calcite crystal in Calgardup Cave

Calcite crystal in Calgardup Cave

Some of the caves in the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge have been open to public for tourism since the early parts of the 20th century, and in 1911 Moondyne Cave down near Augusta received enough foot traffic to warrant the installation of a boardwalk. More than 80 years later when the boardwalk was replaced in 1992, it was found that a stalagmite had grown upon the timber. A cave guide thought that he would keep this blob in hope that it might be of use to someone one day. This stalagmite has led the way to groundbreaking research, led by Dr Pauline Treble. Before now, dating speleothems relied on uranium dating which would give an approximate age to within 100 years. The stalagmite from Moondyne Cave had both a birth and death certificate, allowing Treble to match the recorded environmental conditions with the chemical composition in the layers of the stalagmite that had formed by the cave drip water.

Dr Pauline Treble with some cross sections of a speleothems. Photo credit: ANSTO

Dr Pauline Treble with some cross sections of a speleothems. Photo credit: ANSTO

From around 1970 onwards, the southwest region of Western Australia has experience a 15% decline in annual rainfall and by testing layers in the stalagmite sample from Moondyne Cave for different oxygen isotopes Treble was able to conclude that when more rain falls, the amount of oxygen-18 compared to oxygen-16 also falls. Treble also uncovered clear evidence of annual climatic cycles by analysing trace elements in the speleothem layers. This information has put Treble at the forefront of some of the longest cave monitoring programs around the world and one of the most important places for her research is merely kilometres from the Cape to Cape Track! It also opened up many doors for other scientists to further study not only climate, but also bushfire history, alongside other aspects of cave science.

Treble’s research is currently focussed around creating a paleoclimatological record for the southwest and to make predictions as to how the trend of declining rainfall may impact our lives and the environment in the future. The rain we receive in the southwest region is driven by westerly winds and it is evident that these westerly winds have shifted southward since the 1970’s taking the rain with them. There are many factors that are thought to influence the southerly migration of the westerlies, of which some are natural and some are theorised to be influenced by us, increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere for example. Using large speleothems from nearby Golgotha Cave, Treble is now attempting to map out the rainfall history of the area to eventually deduce how big of an effect our climatic changes might have on the westerly winds.

Entrance to Golgotha Cave. Photo credit: The Australian National University

Entrance to Golgotha Cave. Photo credit: The Australian National University

Ultimately, the research conducted in the cave’s of the Leeuwin Naturaliste National Park is bound to have an astounding impact on our understanding of where we live. With Treble’s incredible research being fed into climate models to forecast and map to world future potential climate, many climate change sceptics might be able to appreciate how things could change and what we can do work with those changes.

Cooler Weather for Walking

The winter months are a great time to get out into the elements and warm up the good old fashioned way with some nature based exercise. There are many things you can do to stay dry, warm and safe throughout your winter hikes and here is a list of some of our best tips.

warm winter walking

Check the Weather Forecast

Before heading out into the elements it is a good idea to check the temperature, the wind direction and speed as well as if any rain is forecasted so you can prepare both physically and mentally for the conditions.

Replenish Your Energy and Fluids

Sometimes in the cooler weather it can be more challenging to remember to drink enough water, but it is important to stay hydrated on a hike of any length. Your body also uses up more energy trying to stay warm so it’s important to bring a lot of high-energy foods like trail mix, fruit and bread to sustain energy.

Layer Your Clothing

Wearing the right gear while out in the elements can be the most important factor in determining your experience during a light sprinkle of rain, a storm or even snow. Generally, the modern technical clothing available to us in the 21st century is designed to the be used as a layering system where each layer is serves a purpose in retaining warmth. Therefore, you are able to combine different layers to tackle different conditions which is particularly important for activities like hiking so you avoid overheating whilst on the move but still stay warm when you are taking breaks. Typically there are three integral layers that you will need:

Base Layer: This is the layer closest to your skin so it needs to be breathable but moisture wicking. Your base layer should either be wool or synthetic, both of which have different advantages and disadvantages.

Mid Layer: Your mid layer should be used as insulation, but should also be breathable. Often, fleece, wool, synthetic or down are the top picks for hikers depending on the weather conditions.

Outer Layer: An outer layer should shield you against the rain and wind. Fitting snug over your base and mid layers, it is important to make sure your shell is comfortable and easy to access.

Small Pieces of Clothing Make a Big Difference

It is always a good idea to pack a beanie, some gloves and an extra pair or two of socks on your hike. These lightweight accessories are worth their weight in gold when you are cold.

Protect Your Pack

It’s a great idea to pack a waterproof cover for your pack, even if wet weather isn’t forecasted.

Thermos

There is nothing like pouring a hot tea or coffee out in the wilderness while taking a break from a hike! It’s also handy for carrying soup which can make a yummy lunch teamed with some fresh bread.

Plan your Breaks

Take shorter breaks more frequently so that you do not loose too much heat. If you do require a longer break to eat or recharge, add another layer and remove it once you begin hiking and warm up again.

With some planning and the right gear, winter can provide some of the most rewarding and memorable hiking experiences. Cape to Cape Explorer Tours offer all of our self-guided walks throughout the winter months and we would love to help you stay warm and fit this season!

Salmon seek warm water for spawning

The migration of the Western Australian Salmon (Arripis truttaceus) draw crowds in their thousands to Australia’s south-west corner every year. Although not as delicious as the mouth-watering pink fleshed Atlantic salmon (Salmo solar), and not at all related, the Aussie salmon sure is good fun to fish! More closely related to herring or tommy ruff, anglers enjoy fishing for these fighters right from the beach where fish will often take to the air and run hard out to see once hooked. The fish are also sought out by commercial fisherman, with some licensee’s historically catching over 2,500 tonne of fish per year.

 

Salmon fisherman

A Salmon fisherman from the south coast (Photo: ABC Rural – Tyne logan)

The fish begin to arrive in mid-March and tend to stay around all through April after migrating along Australia’s south coast from as far as Victoria and even Tasmania. Adult fish form large schools along exposed beaches and rocky reefs. Western Australian Salmon can grow up to one meter in length and can reach a whopping 9kgs. Mostly, they feed on bait fish and they are eaten by sharks, seals, dolphins and of corse, people.

A school of Western Australian Salmon under water

An underwater shot of the Western Australian Salmon (Photo: WA Museum – Barry Hutchins)

They make their journey west to take advantage of the Leeuwin Current, which runs from north to south along the Australia’s west coast, around Cape Leeuwin and then eastward along the south coast. Teamed with the offshore winds, these conditions are perfect for the fish to spawn.

A school of Salmon in the clear waters of Contos Beach.

An uninterrupted school of Salmon in the clear waters of Contos Beach.

Eggs and newly hatched fish are carried in the Leeuwin Current and settle along the south coast between South Australia and Tasmania where they mature for three to four years before moving westward to live in schools around Hopetoun and Esperance. This is where most of the schools we see along the Cape to Cape Track head home to after their visit to the Ngari Cape Marine Park to spawn.

School of Australian salmon at Contos

An enormous ball of salmon spotted from Contos Cliffs

Connection to Country Confirmed

Last week Nature published the first findings from the Aboriginal Heritage Project, which aims to build the first genetic map of Aboriginal Australia and help indigenous Australians trace their ancestry and family history. Analysing DNA in samples of hair has revealed that since their initial arrival in Australia around 58,000 years ago, communities of Aboriginal people have remarkably remainded in the same regions across the continent.

Studying the mitochondrial DNA from over 111 Aboriginal hair samples collected from across Australia between the 1920’s and 1970’s has uncovered that all Australian Aboriginal’s living today are decedents of the first population to arrive in the country and  over 1,500 to 2,000 years, groups of people spread across the land to both east and west coasts before eventually meeting in South Australia. Mitochondrial DNA is often used to trace maternal ancestry and map out ancient linages from deteriorated samples.

Field stations visited between 1928 and 1965, indicating sites where hair samples were provided.

Field stations visited between 1928 and 1965, indicating sites where hair samples were provided.

“These findings confirm what the Aboriginal community have known all along – that their deep ties with country stretch back thousands of years,” said Dr Raymond Todler, co-author of the study from the University of Adelaide. The study confirms that there is a real deep connection between Aboriginal people and country that has developed over thousands of years.

Feature Species: Slender Tree Frog (Litoria adelaidensis)

So far this summer has shaped up to be one of rather tropical characteristics. Warm days, high humidity and unseasonal summer rains in the southwest have created the perfect breeding ground for an array of insects.

With all the extra water around this summer, the insectivorous Slender Tree Frog, along with many other native frogs have been out and about making their presence known along the Track and in our gardens.

With their loud calls, these little beauties are often in great interest to our pets. Be sure to keep a close eye on your dogs and cats if you happen to suspect one of these little guys, or any other type of native animal may be living in your backyard.

Slender Tree Frog

A striking green Slender Tree Frog

They are a small frog, reaching a maximum length of 4.7cms with a narrow and tapering head. They have long slender un-webbed fingers, however their long legs end with webbed toes. These little Amphibians come in a range of colours, from green to all shades of brown.

Often making an appearance through winter and spring, it has been a real treat to spot a few of these guys enjoying all the water and feasting on a variety of tasty morsels so early in the year!

Hens Day Hike a Hit!

Hens group in front of the bus at Smiths Beach before the hike

Getting ready for the hike at Smiths Beach!

Last week a group of lovely local ladies joined us to take a look at their own backyard and enjoy a pre-wedding celebration for their dear friend Mandy! A hen’s day with a difference, we started the adventure with a hike from Smiths Beach to the Aquarium.

Hiking through the granite gneiss south of Smiths Beach

Hiking through the granite gneiss south of Smiths Beach

With the weather on our side, we were presented with light winds and clear waters, making a dip in the sheltered waters a highlight for many! In the shade of a marquee we enjoyed a delicious and fresh roll from the Margaret River Bakery before a game of quoits and bocce.

Cooling off at the Aquarium

Cooling off at the Aquarium

We continued our hike along to coast to eventually reach the protected nook at Canal Rocks. Indulging in an afternoon feast of fresh fruit, dips, cheese, chocolate coated strawberries and of corse, champagne!

Enjoying the shade of a Melaleuca tree

Enjoying the shade of a Melaleuca tree

Congratulations to Mr & Mrs Mills, we wish you a happy and long future together :).