Dear Australian Tourism Bureau,
First thanks for having an Australia to promote as a Tourism Bureau, it’s a lovely place. We had a genuinely delightful trip to your continent/country. While we saw only a little of a huge place, what we saw was wonderful, excellent, and amazing. But. Unfortunately, with all due respect, and in full politeness, you have failed us terribly as a country, continent, and tourism bureau.
You might not be familiar with who we are, since Her Highness is not so well known in Australia, so we should briefly introduce ourselves.
We are hedgehog aficionados, regular commenters on hedgehog culture, and deeply dedicated to the study of hedgehog arts, literature, history, etc. Therefore, the echidna, the most hedgehog-like animal was the one we specifically visited Australia to meet. And yet, somehow, we did not see a single echidna.*
We saw this kangaroo mom with her joey, mom standing in an area that seemed like a fine meeting place for echidnas, yet look very, very carefully at that photo. The most prominent aspect of the photo is a clear lack of echidna.
Echidna-ness-less matters deeply to us. Not only are echidnas very hedgehog-esque, making them subjects of great interest, but they are also monotremes who lay eggs and raise their young in a pouch like a platypus and have a very ancient divergence from other mammals that makes them extremely fascinating. The fact that they are adorable also made them a very important animal to meet. Look at this photo someone else took when they were blessed with a meeting with an echidna!
Everyone in the world obviously would want to meet one of those, and as a tourism bureau you know this! Naturally, we assumed Australia would deliver on our reason for going there.
Echidnas aren’t Australia’s national animal (oddly), but they are still a prominent national symbol. Looking closely at this Australian flag, you might spot the echidna cleverly embedded in it…
It’s part of the echidna constellation. Echidnas play a large and prominent role as a national symbol, another reason we came to the Homeland of Echidnas (our motto for Australia which we really think Australia ought to adopt, please consider this, Australian Tourism Bureau).
It’s such a lovely place. Gorgeous coastlines everywhere and beaches that feel like this:
We began our trip in Tasmania, which is a majestic wonderful place full of rugged natural beauty and very long hikes that leave your legs sore but you happily run out and do more of the next day. There are so many beautiful and fascinating habitats all full of slightly odd but lovely plant species (so many lovely mosses and ferns and the fern trees are glorious), as well as animals that were all new and interesting.
Wild koalas are fascinating and adorable and we saw them a number of times! Amazing! What’s also amazing is that many and various websites discussing these areas mentioned echidnas as a thing you would see sometimes, we were fully expecting to meet an echidna to help promote interspecies friendship and understanding, yet there were none. Many of those websites mentioning the high echidna levels contained in Tasmania had ads from the Australian Tourism Bureau so you knew full well that you were promoting this information that was completely false as we met no echidnas. Our concerned queries to locals claimed that it was colder so they were going into hibernation, a thing these websites had not mentioned, or maybe something we skimmed past a bit. No echidnas. This is on you Australia.
We did have the distinct pleasure of meeting Molly the wombat and having some really wonderful talks/experiences with her and several other wombats. We stayed at the Wombat Haven in Tasmania, an orphanage for wombats whose mothers have died (generally in car accidents). Wombats are rather unusual in that they’re very playful and sweet as children (young wombats are called “joeys”), but they hit a terrible teen stage where all bonding to humans is dropped, and they become the grumpy, solitary, and kind of frightening animals we know and love in the wild without issues from initial human and/or hedgehog contact. We guiltlessly pet a wombat joey and played with it. They are very playful and intelligent little wonderful creatures of marvel and happiness.
We enjoyed introducing Molly to the Pricklepants Media Empire. She was delighted. We worked on opening up possible interspecies kindness and mutual tolerance were hedgehogs and wombats to interact.
We also introduces Molly to hedgehog art, which she was also delighted by. She liked this notebook’s art so much she even tried to eat it!
So, with that kind of an experience with a wombat (a creature rare to see in the wild, though we did see one in Hobart at the Waterworks Reserve), a creature much less common to encounter than an echidna in Australia, we assumed this portended well for the Echidna Emissary Quest we had made the long journey for.
We saw a lot of very pretty parrots in the trees in Australia like this crimson rosella. Just look at it!
There were a lot of parrots. These red-rumped parrots were also fairly common. It was a little distracting, since we know echidnas do not dwell in trees, but we had to look in them regularly as there were parrots in them. We still did monitor every potential echidna habitat with great care.
We spent a lot of time at aquatic habitats like this one where we saw this lovely white-necked stilt. The shore birds were sometimes the same as those one would see elsewhere in the world, but with many species like this that have similar relatives elsewhere making them extra interesting.
For instance, these brolga are huge cranes with relatives like the sandhill cranes in the US. Magnificent creatures, and an absolute privilege to be able to see such a glorious thing in nature.
While the parrots were the show stealers, the finches were absolutely gorgeous. The red-browed finches above are also known as Firetails for their bright red rumps. We also saw a wild flock of zebra finches which was fascinating and wonderful!
We saw a lot of rainbow lorikeets, another bird common in the pet trade out in the wild living their best rainbow lorikeet lives, which was wonderful. Again note that in all these pictures there have been no echidnas!
One parrot we saw quite a lot of was cockatoos. They’re very beautiful birds.
While beautiful, they did attempt to steal our binoculars. They can become a bit too clever if people leave food out for them, though this is really a human-related issue.
Cockatoos are very clever. Despite our directing the handservants to close that lid and even put a rock on it, they managed to find their way in.
We also saw emu chicks, and melted inside. Emus get to be about as big as ostriches.
Please, share the road with Emus.
We did meet one King Parrot, and it was delightful to make a calling on parrot royalty. While slightly less polite than we had expected, they were very noble, lovely, graceful, and generally stunning. Their etiquette issues only appeared in areas humans were hand feeding them, which is a human issue, really. They remained uninterested in our Echidna Emissary Quest.
The Great Ocean Road was especially beautiful as there were lovely islands, beaches, habitats with various interesting creatures, a fern rainforest that was near magical, and general loveliness all around.
We also met a number of laughing kookaburras. Their call is featured as a generic “jungle” sound in various movies, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tarzan, Jurassic Park and other films not set in Australia which made hearing them very curious. They’re very patient birds that don’t mind people or hedgehogs much, so they were very nice, though none had seen echidnas.
I don’t think we mentioned the lighthouses, but there many lovely sweeping views from the cliffs, and the heather and other habitats we meandered through were all lovely in themselves and full of birds, especially fairy-wrens.
Fairy-wrens! Superb fairy-wrens are cute little birds, small puffs that are fairly curious and great tiny hunters. The males are incredibly lovely in their breeding plumage (less showy but still lovely in their non breeding plumage).
There are so many other new and fascinating things we saw, like spoonbills.
And New Holland Honeyeaters that were incredibly common.
And so many birds of prey! Many kites, a number of hawks, and even a few falcons. And we saw the strange and super-cleverly camouflaged frogmouth.
We saw the frogmouth at the Serendip Sanctury where it was captive and part of a breeding program. Despite much time spent searching for frogmouths at the Victoria Botanical Gardens (lovely place) and elsewhere we did not find any. Much like echidnas.
We also met many wallabies as well which are macropods like the kangaroo, but smaller and more common in most areas we were in.
While we have mentioned the breathtaking views, they were really stunning. This is honeymoon cove in Freycinet National Park. It’s literally impossible to look at this cove and not experience a sense of awe, wonder, and delight. And yet even with that, there is still that nagging sense of lack of echidnas.* Australia Tourism Bureau, why did you hide the echidnas from us? We don’t expect a refund, that would be unreasonable. But we would be very pleased and happily accept were you were to offer a replacement Echidna Emissary Quest so we could have a do-over and find your national animal.
Kind and Noble Regards,
(and handservants not notable enough to be named)
* We did see one echidna in a wildlife rescue
this doesn’t count. It was nearly hibernating, and since we must meet animals in the wild in their natural habitat for it to actually count.**
** Also, at one point drive we were driving along the road, the handservant driver spotted the echidna, turned around to investigate, but the echidna fled almost instantly, long before there was any hope of a photographic record which makes spotting wildlife count doubly since there’s clear evidence and nearly properly counts.***
*** To properly count we need an excellent photo.
For example, this photo’s reasonably well shot for an action shot, nicely composed, tells a story that’s very interesting, and has great things going on with color. We expected something similar with an echidna, obviously.****
**** Now we’re done with these footnotes. If you’re reading this, thank you for your careful followup and attention to detail.