Early morning on the Murray, and the pelicans are fishing
27 March 2016
After breakfast today we will join the First Officer on a guided nature walk at Saltbush Flat. I decided to get up early as the previous day there were dozens of pelicans on the river – and today was no exception. They looked so stately and serene in the early morning light paddling over the water looking for fish for breakfast, one passenger said he counted 65 pelicans, and had counted a similar number the previous evening. They always amaze me that such a large bird is able to take off and land so gracefully – and they always remind me of the Coorong and the movie “Storm Boy”.
The stately River Red Gums and elegant Willows at Salt Bush Flat
It was Easter Sunday and some eggs were left on the dining table for breakfast, as well as “planted” in very obvious places as we started our nature walk. The River Red Gums are spectacular trees, and there was saltbush in abundance. We wandered along the river and to a spot overlooking a wetlands area where the pelicans breed – we were able to see a great number of them in the still water, but my camera is not really adequate to photograph them from that distance. The First Officer also showed us a “canoe” tree (right) which still has the outline of the bark cut out by indigenous people many years ago to make a canoe, and he explained to us how the canoe is then made. A very advanced technique for the times!
The serene wetlands area where the pelicans breed
On our return to the Princess at 11am we made our way to the dining room to discover the river’s Food and Wine Trail while the Princess started her cruise to River View Lodge. A staggering one third of all Australia’s grape production comes from the riverlands. The region is also a fruit bowl of orchards and farms with a huge array of citrus fruits, stone fruits, apples, almonds, olives and cheeses. We were invited to taste some wine, and from a large selection of cheeses, almonds, olives, dips and marinated mushrooms, all very delicious. Our Chef explained the produce of the area (below right) and we had the opportunity to purchase some of the delicious chutneys, sauces, marinades, jams etc. (below left)
Then followed lunch – we seem to be eating a lot on this cruise!
By 2pm we had arrived at River View Lodge and moored beside a lovely green grassy area. A cruise was available on the vessel “Dragonfly”, an all weather flat-bottomed cruise boat, known for its capability of observing nature “up close”. The boat carries 20 passengers and the cruise lasts about 30 minutes, first cruising close to the high cliffs to see the nests of the tiny fairy wrens, built of mud on the sides and “shelves” of the cliffs (below left). We also saw the long webs of the Golden Orb Spiders waving in the river breeze (below right).
Our host apologised that there were not as many birds on the Murray at the time, because some had already migrated. We did spot a spoonbill in a tall tree finishing off a nest, and the noisy galahs and cockatoos are always around!
During the afternoon the Murray River Fishing challenge was in full swing, as well as the Murray Princess Bocce challenge!
After a full day it was time for pre-dinner drinks with the Captain and the Ship’s Officers and we were excited to learn that Captain James McDougall was sitting at our table. We enjoyed an entree, then a buffet roast dinner with choice of beef or pork, and of course dessert!
The Captain, Officers and Crew say goodbye (above), lining up for a delicious roast dinner (below left) and our table group (plus Captain James McDougall) (below right)
Sadly tomorrow is our last day on the Princess, we leave River View Lodge at 6.15am, cruising during breakfast to our final destination of Mannum arriving about 9am.
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