As we pulled into the campsite next to Lake Mungo in New South Wales we stopped to watch a pair of kangaroos resting in the shade of a Eucalyptus tree sitting out the heat of the day. Looking around we saw more and more and knew this would be good few days for wildlife.
Before heading to Tasmania, we had come to Lake Mungo to experience some arid outback habitats before our move south to the more lush habitats of Tasmania. The name ‘Lake Mungo’ is somewhat misleading since the lake has been dry for several thousand years, the bed now a landscape of dense scrub.
The lake holds a special place in Aboriginal culture. The oldest human remains in the world have been found there, dating back some 26,000 years. Erosion caused by sheep grazing and the introduction of the rabbit has meant an increasing number of Aboriginal artefacts are being uncovered on the eastern edge known as a ‘lunette’ – a constantly shifting line of sand dunes.
The lake has a 70 km dirt rack running around much of its perimeter which is perfect for seeking out wildlife. On the second day, we stopped at a place called Vigar’s Well, a natural soak in the ground consisting of many small puddles and scrapes, used historically by pastoral farmers.
Now the well’s only use is as a drinking hole for the Park’s wildlife. Despite a constant flux of visitors, wildlife in the park (campsites excluded) remains wary of people. On arriving at the watering hole a number of emus and kangaroos scarpered immediately. But we approached slowly and after just 10 minutes the wildlife returned and seemed to accept our presence. Of course each time another tourist car turned up, everything ran away again, but always returned within a few minutes.
Emus and kangaroos came very close, giving us a real insight into waterhole politics. Generally the emus ruled here and tended to gently discourage the other animals if they came to close; the rabbits certainly came of worse under this rule of order.
At one point three goats (another destructive, non-native species) arrived and just stood waiting for a chance to drink. I wondered if we were keeping them away and considered moving further back. But then more people arrived, the emus ran off and the goats wasted no time in going to get a drink; the emus were clearly the cause of their hesitation.
But one animal turned up that really did stand up to the emus. A huge male eastern grey kangaroo claimed one of the small soaks for himself and after some grunting tolerated a couple of juvenile kangaroos (one red, one grey) who came to join him – and all this right under our noses.
One particular emu decided this hole should be his and sidled up to the group. Following a seemingly incoherent exchange of grunts and snorts the big male kangaroo squared up to the emu who responded similarly. In return the kangaroo stood to his full height, well over 6 ft and jumped toward the emu sending it packing.
The whole thing happened so close and so quickly I couldn’t fit it all into a single frame, let alone focus! But it didn’t matter. It was just a pleasure to witness such interactions when so many people only arrived at the water hole to see the animals run off before getting back in their cars and going. In all we spent six hours watching the animals here and enjoyed every minute.
Our time at Lake Mungo was great and if I should ever have the chance of a return visit I would jump at it.
We have now just arrived in Tasmania for the next six weeks. We plan to join the University of Tasmania dive team with some of their underwater work but first, while the sun shines we are off to the northwest region for a week exploring the habitats and wildlife it has to offer.