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.

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!

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!

West Coast Swimming Club joins us for performance camp!

Up and coming athletes from the UWA West Coast Swimming Club made their way down to Margaret River for a ‘Performance Camp’ to welcome in the new year. In the pool at the Margaret River Recreation Centre and out on the Cape to Cape Track, everyone had a great time focussing on their skills and immersing themselves in the elements.

West Coast Swimming Club

Day 1 – Walking out of Smiths Beach.

After a training session in the pool, the first day out on the Track saw these young fish out of water walking from Smiths Beach to Injidup! The team took a dip in the ocean and enjoyed a little snorkel at The Aquarium to cool off.

Snorkling at the Aquarium

Cooling off and enjoying a snorkel at the Aquarium

The following day was spent at the beautiful coastal hamlet of Gracetown where these kids completed a variety of team building challenges. From Spider’s Web, to Leonardo’s Bridge, to Raft Building, the group excelled through the activities by maximising communication and assigning competent leaders.

Launching the raft in Gracetown

Launching their competed raft into the bay at Gracetown

It was a really rewarding day for the kids and gave them the opportunity to get out of the pool and reconnect with nature together, whilst having to think on their feet.

Spiders Web

Spiders Web in action!

A great time was had by everyone involved! Well down to all the swimmers and we hope to see them back next year to take on some more of the Cape to Cape Track and continue developing their leadership and team work skills!!!

Leonardos Bridge

The team successfully constructed Leonardo’s Bridge

Looking for a camp for you and your team? Whether you are professional athletes, from the corporate world or just want to pull your organisation together for something fun and rewarding we can tailor a package to suit your needs. Email us at info@capetocapetours.com.au so we can meet your needs and create a program to suit your outcomes.

Year One’s from Margaret River Independent School take on the Track!

The students from the Margaret River Independent School are always so much fun to take out exploring on the Cape to Cape Track! These local kids spend their days learning in small classes in a beautiful bush setting about 10kms south of Margaret River. The schools vision is to provide an environment that caters for the whole child in development of lifetime learning skills as well as academic and creative excellence. This year, the year one students joined our managing director Gene for an overnight camp full of leadership and team building activities.

Gene chatting to the kids out on the Track.

Gene with the Year 1 students from Margaret River Independent School

We are always impressed by the knowledge and respect that these children have for their local environment! These 6 and 7 year olds are often finishing our sentences when we begin talking about some of our endemic flora and fauna species. Their enthusiasm and connection with nature is inspiring.

Kids in Boranup Forest

Enjoying some shade in Boranup Forest

As well as walking through the bush, we worked on some of our favourite team building and leadership activities including Spiders Web and Pipeline.

Being briefed on the Spiders Web activity

Being briefed on the Spiders Web activity

The challenge was set for the children to make their way through the web of the mighty Hamelin Spider, which the kids took to quite well. Without facilitation, they formed a circle, selected a leader and formulated a plan that would see all of their classmates get safely through the web.

Forming a circle in the shade to formulate a plan

An empowering moment for the children

The kids were very impressed with themselves after the activity concluded, and rightfully so! Who would have thought that a group of 6 and 7 year olds could make such a great team!?

Celebrating Spiders Web success

Celebrating Spiders Web success

The class also demonstrated amazing patience and cooperation throughout their pipeline activity, which they very quickly got the hang of. Returning to the Pipeline activity throughout the walk allows the group to try and better their score that is measured by how fast they can move the ball through the pipeline with dropping it to the ground!

Pipeline in action!

Pipeline in action!

The camp finished with an expedition through the awe-inspiring and mighty Giants Cave! With crawling, ladders and sliding, each one of the children made it the entire way through the 500m underground labyrinth. It is always such an empowering experience to reconnect children with their natural environment. As you can see, Cape to Cape Explorer Tours love hosting camps for school and youth groups! We are more than happy to creative a package that suits the needs of your group. Check out our Schools page to find out more information or send us through an email at info@capetocapetours.com.au today!

A special thanks to Lauren Trickett for the incredible photos she took throughout the camp.

 

Lock the Gate on Fracking in the Southwest

The Margaret River Region lies right in the middle of one of the worlds 36 biodiversity hotspots. With over 7,500 plant species with half of those being found no where else in the world, it should come as no surprise that in 1 hectare of pristine bushland here in the southwest you could find more species than in the entire continent of Europe. The unique environment is accompanied by world class surf, artists creating in all forms of media, premium wines and gourmet food attracting around 2 million visitors annually who together inject over $1 billion into the local economy every year.

It is hard to believe that the Department of Mines and Petroleum would even consider an application for invasive gas exploration that could threaten land, water, air quality and existing industries, such as tourism and agriculture in this pristine part of the world. Although the hype has been amplified through effective campaigning by anti-fracking groups of recent, the exploration and extraction of gas in Western Australia has been underway for well over a decade.

So, what actually is fracking? Also know as hydraulic fracturing or hydraulic stimulation, fracking uses high pressure to fracture rock formations and push grit-containing fluids into the fractures to hold them open allowing the gas to escape. The sand/water slurry can include a range of chemicals with potential health consequences. Why are we bothering to extract unconventional gas? Under Australian land there are huge reserves of gas and their exploitation is seen as an answer to the depletion of conventional gas fields. It is also seen as a more environmentally friendly energy alternative when compared to coal.

fracking diagram

Diagram of fracking

What are the problems with fracking in the search of shale or tight (unconventional) gas? Firstly, fracking companies are not required, even by regulation, to disclose the chemicals they are injecting into rock deposits – not even to government regulators. One of the harmful chemicals known to be used in Australian fracking operations is BTEX. BTEX is a volatile organic compound that easily vaporises. It can cause leukaemia, reproductive problems and harm to unborn children. Another risk of fracking is the gasification of groundwater which can result in the water being unfit for human consumption. In the United States fracking fluids are returning to the water surface with radioactive materials, in particular Radium-226 which has an extremely long half-life of over 1,600 years. Additionally onshore gas mining companies are not required to disclose of where fracking is taking place meaning that there is no way to track onshore gas in Western Australia.

Cross section of the aquifers in Margaret River

Cross section of the geological and hydrological composition of what is below the surface of Margaret River

Our water and the Margaret River is keystone to the value of this area. The entire southwest region is hydraulically connected (see diagram above) due to underlying geological formations of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge and the Yilgarn Craton, a landscape crated over 220 million years. Approximately the top 10m below the surface comprises of the superficial aquifer which lies above the Leederville Aquifer (made up of the Upper Mowen, Lower Mowen, Upper Vasse, Lower Vasse and Yelverton Members) making up the next 100-200m, which is on top of the Sue Coal Measures (where the gas is), which lies upon the Yarragadee Aquifer which in some places flows over 2.5kms under ground. All of the water moves slowly between the aquifers. The Margaret River is one of the healthiest rivers in the entire of southwest of Western Australia. With a small catchment of around 40,000 square kilometres (Whicher Ranges), in the below video our managing director Gene Hardy explains the intrinsic connection between this river, our drinking water and the threats of fracking.

So, where are the current leases for coal seam gas in the Cape to Cape region? CalEnergy Resources, Whicher Range Energy and Bunbury Energy are businesses that all currently have permits for onshore gas exploration in the southwest. There are also current mining leases in the area of the map occupied by Whicher Range Energy.

Onshore gas permits in the southwest

Current onshore gas exploration permits in the southwest.

So, now you know the ins and outs of the intrinsic values of the Margaret River Region, onshore gas exploration and the potential threats to our fresh water supply, and we haven’t even touched the surface on some of the other potential consequences of gas exploration including inadequate indigenous consultation, encroaching on private land, exuberant use of our precious water and industrialisation in our pristine natural environment. What can we do to help create more awareness and ultimately cease any gas exploration and mining in the southwest? Luckily, there are already a few groups and individuals trying their hardest to get the message out of there. Check out the Lock the Gate Alliance and Frack Free WA. Next weekend the John Butler Trio is hosting a ‘Frack Off’ concert at 3 Oceans Winery in Margaret River. Click here to book your ticket now! Patagonia is currently undertaking an unbelievable initiative to encourage people to donate funds with the promise to match, dollar for dollar, to total amount raised. With only 15 days of the campaign left, click here to donate now!

Wonderful Wildflowers

Heading into October, the wildflowers are well and truely on display down in Margaret River! With over 1200mm of rain so far this year, all our native flora is absolutely bursting with beautiful colours.

Anigozanthos manglesii

Anigozanthos manglesii – the red and green kangaroo is endemic to Western Australia and has featured as the states emblem since 1960.

Although our native orchids are exquisite, there are also many other flowering species that you can spot on the Cape to Cape Track that can be just as breath taking. One of our favourites is the Mangles Kangaroo Paw. The striking red and green of the flower stalk can grow over a metre in height and is a simply stunning contrast among the darker green foliage.

Kennedia coccinea

Kennedia coccinea – Coral vine is a welcomed splash of orange along the Track.

The Coral Vine adds a splash of warmth to the Cape to Cape Track as it meanders through the surrounding vegetation. Pink, orange and yellow are so dramatically eye catching it’s hard not to stop and take a closer look!

Petrophile axillaria

Petrophile axillaria – A prickly but beautiful pink flowering shrub

Although the flowers on this shrub are pretty and pink, the foliage is prickly and straggly! These beautiful flowers can be seen through the forest section of the Track and at nearly Cosy Corner.

Donkey Orchid

Dirus sp. – The Dunsborough Donkey Orchid is the most common orchid found on the Cape to Cape.

These rather tall and common Donkey Orchids are a funky and fun looking flower that can be found in various sections of the Track over early spring. Growing very tall, they are absolutely magnificent when poking out from the vegetation. If you want to take a step away from the coast and into other vegetation types, why not check out our Wild About Margaret River Tour? Not only will you get the chance to spot lots of native orchids with an experienced guide, you’ll also get the chance to learn some of the fascinating local history.

Walking Back in Time with Kalgoorlie Primary School

The year six’s from Kalgoorlie Primary School recently visited the Margaret River Region for they school camp. Staying at Wharncliffe Mill just by the Margaret River, the kids spent a whole week exploring through the area.

Kalgoorlie Primary School kids on the Cape to Cape Track

Hiking the newly opened section of the Track between Ellenbrook and Joeys Nose

As part of their camp they joined Cape to Cape Explorer Tours for a full day hike between Ellensbrook and the mouth of the Margaret River on our ‘Walk Back in Time’ schools package. Boasting rich geological, ecological and human history, this stretch of the Track was the perfect place to truely immerse these kids in nature.

Ellenbrook Pinnacles

The newly opened section of the Cape to Cape Track features limestone pinnacles

A new section of the Cape to Cape Track has recently opened between Ellensbrook and Kilcarnup Beach and the kids from Kalgoorlie Primary were some of the first to walk it! Similar to ‘The Pinnacles’ in Numbung National Park, the pinnacles are made of Tamala Limestone, unique to Western Australia.

Kalgoorlie Primary School kids walking on Kilcarnup Beach

Kilcarnup Beach in all of its glory.

These 11 year olds were also lucky enough to visit some of the regions amazing caves with plans to spend some time learning about the Wardandi Nyoongar people with Josh from Koomal Dreaming. A mountain biking experience was also on their agenda. If you’re planning a camp in the Capes region with a group of young people, why not check out some of the tours available on our website? We love taking kids out on camp and encouraging them to both reconnect with nature and work as a team in a fun and safe manner!

 

 

 

Splendid July School Holidays

This July school holidays have been the busiest yet at Cape to Cape Explorer Tours! Even though we have had some wet and windy weather in the Margaret River Region, we’ve been out and about on the Track and underground.

Low family exploring Calgardup Cave

The Loh family explorer the underground wonders of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge in Calgardup Cave.

The Loh family joined us last week for a Sunset, Forest and Cave Explorer Tour through the southern end of the Cape’s region. Although the rain was heavy outside, once we made our way down the steps and underground into Calgardup Cave our soggy thoughts were long forgotten. Escaping the Singaporean heat to visit Margaret River in the winter months has been a very popular choice for families from South East Asia. The Loh family used the holiday as a reunion as their youngest daughter Jaz is currently studying in England and their daughter Jana has recently been in Sydney completing her tertiary education.

Rainbow the Mehta family at Wydup Rocks

The Mehta family enjoying a rainbow mid-hike above Wyadup Rocks.

The Mehta family also joined us for a full day of hiking from Smiths Beach to Moses Rock. Although a few showers graced us throughout the day, we were lucky enough to experience lots of fantastic rainbows after each downpour. Living in New South Wales, the family are often very busy after school and on weekends with sporting commitments. The families favourites include soccer and cricket, whilst sun Anish also likes to surf when conditions are right.

The kids enjoying a hike in Nannup

Youth from Nannup, Margaret River, Manjimup, Pemberton and Northcliffe hiking the Timberline Trail in Barrabup.

To finish off the holidays, we spent two days out in the bush with youth from Margaret River, Northcliffe, Pemberton, Manjimup and Nannup for a Bush Survival Camp funded by the Local Drug Action Group. Camping at Workers Pool in Nannup was a great experience! We pushed on through some pretty extreme weather with the temperature dropping to -2.5 degrees on Wednesday night and over 75mm of rain overnight on Thursday and through pack up on Friday morning. The kids aged from 12-17 years old showed amazing amounts of leadership as they shared the responsibilities in the kitchen and around the camp fire. They were also incredibly respectful to all the supervisors, camp visitors and each other.

Overall, we’ve had a fantastic school holidays here at Cape to Cape Explorer Tours full of fun and adventure. If you are visiting Margaret River next holidays with the family why not try one of our day tours? We can also organise a customised trip for you and your family to help you reconnect with nature and learn a little bit more about the true nature of this amazing region.