“Some days they come in mobs – on others, there are just one or two; but always before dawn,” says 005, a man licensed to protect, decked out in khakis and a sun hat.
My mission, should I accept it, he says, is to forego the languid lie-in associated with most beach holidays and rise before the sun. I do; camera in hand, bleary-eyed and squinting.
It's worth every initial muttering as I catch first glimpse of iconic “Daybreakers”. One, then two strange silhouettes, they quickly turn into a mob, leaving a curious trail of footprints in the sand.
Park Ranger 005, Brian Kunst, has seen it time and again. He instantly answers what has left many others stumped: just what draws the dawn pilgrimage of wallabies and kangaroos to this beach? Not some far-flung cove, but a popular tourist strip that butts up against Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort, 50km north-west of Mackay.
Like most travellers, the wallabies and roos come not just for the scenery, but great food.
“It's a diet thing,” says Brian, whose beat covers Mackay's lowlands, including Cape Hillsborough National Park; an area first named by Captain Cook in 1770, drawing wide-eyed travellers ever since.
“They go for floating mangrove pods that are washed in on the tide. You can see them snap the pod and eat something out of it.”
Lying in commando pose, edging ever closer to the mob, I also see one or two pick up a sand dollar and bite into it, only to comically curl one lip. They bounce then stop; ears pricked, looking around or staring out to sea. A couple seem to play fight. Others scratch and sniff.
It's past 6.30am and I've been belly-down for close to an hour as other tourists emerge from tents, caravans and beach huts at Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort. Its slogan, “Living the dream”, offers something for everyone, whether families or intrepid travellers like myself.
Many visitors return year after year. Clearly, they know something I don't. A few shoot me curious glances. I soon realise that my stealth manoeuvres, no matter how Bear Grylls meets Harry Butler I felt at the time, were not called for.
Two kangaroos in the mob of wallabies bounce over to the group of tourists, to the delight of children and a young mother with babe in arms, visiting from Germany.
I scurry over too, finally able to take close-up shots. As I do, this time lying on my back, one of the roos (an Eastern Grey Kangaroo) moseys over. He sniffs my boots, then my sand-coated trousers. So close, in fact, that I can smell freshly-chewed mangrove pods on his breath.
An hour later, I encounter the same laid-back roos on a walk through the resort's grounds. They've pulled up in a vacant caravan bay, sprawled out, snoozing: a perfect vision of what Generation Y's refer to as “chillaxing”.
Want to stay in Paradise? Check out Cape Hillsborough Nature Resort: www.capehillsboroughresort.com.au
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Author: Tourism and Events Queensland
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