For Luke

August 2015.

Down and around

Dear Luke,

Traveling with a family is a rewarding—and sometimes challenging—endeavor. Australia, I believe, is a destination up for this challenge. Here, you will find unparalleled biological, cultural, and geographic diversity. Whether touring wineries, learning about indigenous cultures and the challenges of life on the Australian frontier, connecting with locals, or exploring magnificent reefs and outback, your whole family will be delighted—and, yes, challenged. But, as we have discussed, travel can do far more than provide a relaxing escape; it gives us the opportunity to engage with worlds and places unknown and unimagined, and to grapple with the unfamiliar within ourselves. In this way, the journey I have planned for you will allow your family to grow together, as travelers and as human beings.

Day 1: Arrival in Australia

Arrive today in Australia. Your guide, Leigh, will meet you upon arrival in Melbourne and will accompany you for the rest of your trip. This first day will be dedicated to settling into your hotel and resting.

Day 2: Melbourne, Victoria

Your first morning will begin with a visit to Yarra Valley. On the way, you will stop in the Warrandyte Forest to see koalas in their native habitat, the eucalyptus forest. After seeing the koalas, you will continue to De Bortoli Winery for a private cellar tasting and lunch.

After lunch, arrive in Healesville Sanctuary for a guided tour of Australia’s most popular wildlife park. Your children will have an opportunity to get close to a broad range of Australian native wildlife including koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, possums, lizards, and birds. This is a great introduction for children to the varied wildlife they will encounter throughout their adventure in Australia, and Leigh will provide a wealth of knowledge to keep them learning.

You will return to Melbourne in the late afternoon via the towering Mountain Ash trees of the Dandenong Ranges, where you will see flocks of colorful wild parrots among the trees.

Dinner this evening will be at your leisure—choose from the vast array of restaurants within close proximity to your hotel. Leigh will offer recommendations based on our conversations.

Day 3: Kangaroo Island, South Australia

This morning, you will fly by charter to Kangaroo Island. There, you will continue by private vehicle to a stunning bush location for lunch where our fascinating Echidna (Spiny Ant Eater) researcher will bring along one of her charges and present an educational talk on the life of these amazing monotremes.

The afternoon will be at your leisure—this will be a great opportunity to indulge your children’s curiosity and explore the surroundings and your lodge.

Day 4: Seal Bay

Your day will start with an introduction to Kangaroo Island. Begin with a marine tour that provides a look at the natural biodiversity of Nepea Bay and its surroundings. Meet the local dolphins, see marine creatures up close, and view a large variety of sea-birds, including sea eagles, little fairy penguins, petrels, terns, oyster catchers, pacific gulls, cormorants, pelicans, and more.

After lunch, you will continue to Seal Bay Conservation Park and walk near Australian sea lions. Watch pups nursing or see old bulls, with their scars from territorial disputes, and learn about their unique breeding biology. The remainder of the afternoon will be spent exploring more of the southeast region of the island with destinations and experiences determined by the day´s weather.

Day 5: Alice Springs

Today, you will arrive in Alice Springs, where Leigh will take you to the Overland Telegraph Station, a building of huge pioneering significance in the Australian Outback.

Nearby is “The School of Air,” a classroom for students who live on cattle stations hundreds of miles from any town. All their learning is done at home, via the post, TV, radio and internet. You will have an opportunity to talk to these children, and no doubt your own children will be fascinated to learn about their unusual lives.

Then, venture to the Alice Springs Desert Park where you will be introduced to the distinctive natural environment of Central Australia. A highlight will be the free-flying “Birds of Prey” exhibit, described by Sir David Attenborough as the best in the world.

Later in the afternoon, you will head south and make your way into the heart of Australia. You will stay at Ooraminna Homestead, the home of Bill and Jan Hayes, a pioneering family with a wealth of local knowledge.

Your experience here will offer insight into the harsh conditions local people have to contend with to make a living in the Red Centre. At night, you will be entertained with stories around the campfire and, per our discussions of your daughter’s astronomy interest, a local astronomer will point out the various constellations of the endless night sky. With no man-made light for miles, the clarity of the Milky Way is exceptional.

Day 6: Ayers Rock

This morning, you will have time to walk to the top of one of the numerous rocky outcrops surrounding the homestead and take advantage of the early morning light which creates a breathtaking view. After breakfast, you will move on to Ayers Rock.

Once you settle in, you will discover the Kata Tjuta and Olga Gorge. Adding anthropological texture to this experience, an Anangu aboriginal guide will describe the geology and the medicinal properties of the various plants that are unique to this area.

Return to the resort to embark on your “Sounds of Silence” dinner on a high sand dune which provides a 360-degree view of Uluru and Kata Tjuta. Enjoy champagne and canapés as you observe the Uluru changing color as the sun sinks on the horizon.

After sunset, enjoy a barbecue of Australian delicacies, including barramundi, kangaroo, emu, crocodile, bush salads, and classic deserts complimented by some of Australia’s finest wines. Once you’ve eaten, your astronomer will take you on a tour of the southern night sky before you gather around the campfire to share stories with fellow travelers.

Day 7: Heron Island

This morning, you will be flown into Heron Island. Heron Island is a true coral cay right on the Word Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef. Here, you can swim straight off the beach into a garden of coral where the waters teem with colorful fish and marine life. The resort is located on 18 hectares of land and lies on the Tropic of Capricorn, just 23 degrees south of the equator. You will have the opportunity to explore the reef, encounter marine life, and discover some of the best diving areas in the world.

Activities at your fingertips will include reef trips, sailing trips, fishing trips, private charters, sea kayaking, diving, snorkeling, sea plane tours, and helicopter rides. Leigh will help you arrange these on location, and will arrange private charters of the reef as well.

For your children, the Junior Rangers Program offers a variety of nature-based activities designed to nurture a sense of exploration and environmental stewardship. These activities range from reef walks, bird watching, and beachcombing to paper making, and tree planting. For the more entrepreneurial, the program even offers the opportunity to design and run your own resort island. Babysitting services have also been booked at the resort.

Day 12: Sydney, New South Wales

This morning you bid farewell to Heron Island. You will get a chance to survey the site of your adventures as you depart, though, as you transfer by helicopter to Gladstone, where you will connect to your flight home.

Luke, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for your family. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.