Saturday, May 2, 2009

An Aussie holiday

"An Aussie holiday"
Sun.Star Davao, May 2, 2009

Our Qantas plane touched down early morning at Brisbane Airport. Although we barely slept during our eight-hour journey, all the kids in our family seemed not to mind as the promise of a week-long Australian holiday covering Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney awaited them. 

Good day, mate!

After retrieving our luggage, we headed off to Mt. Coot-tha Lookout Complex to catch the splendid sunrise. Witnessing the stunning panoramic view from that vantage point was the ideal beginning to our first day in Australia.
The Brisbane city tour that followed after breakfast was fascinating for the adults but the clock was a-ticking for the restless children. They were excitedly counting down till 10:00 a.m. when the gates of Dreamworld in Gold Coast would be open to the public.


Currently Australia’s largest theme park, Dreamworld has various family-themed attractions that will keep everybody happily busy for hours.

Nickelodeon Central was a hit with the kids as they enjoyed riding Blue’s Skidoo, Dora the 
Explorer Sea Planes, SpongeBob FlyPants, The Backyardigans Mighty Go Round, Rugrats’ Runaway Reptar Roller Coaster and loads more!

As expected, the children were absolutely thrilled every time they saw familiar mascots like Dora the Explorer, Jimmy Neutron, Sponge Bob, Patrick and Tommy of Rugrats.

The colorful Wiggles World was such a sight to behold with gargantuan houses, candies and a host of infant/toddler-friendly rides.

At The Australian Wildlife Experience, my daughter Anicka, nieces and nephews cuddled a live koala as they had their pictures professionally taken with the adorable creature.

In addition, as the Eastern Grey kangaroos roamed around freely at this attraction, we scurried to have photo opportunities with them. It was a hilarious sight. As we posed for the camera, the kangaroos would suddenly hop to another location. However, after several attempts, we managed to get some great shots. Whew!

My brother Jason and I braved riding The Tower of Terror--a two reverse freefall roller coaster and the fourth fastest roller coaster in the world.

We wanted to try the adrenaline-pumping rides The Claw, Cyclone, The Giant Drop and Wipeout, too, but there were height restrictions for the kids and trying them all would break our group.

Other must-see spots in Dreamworld are the Tiger Island, Rivertown, Gold Rush Country and Rocky Hollow.

Warner Bros. Movie World

The next day, after having much-deserved sleep, our group’s itinerary was another exhilarating treat for the young ones—Warner Bros. Movie World!

Dubbed as ‘Hollywood on the Gold Coast’, Movie World is the home of remarkable movie-themed rides and attractions that will certainly thrill even non-film aficionados.

Our first stop was at Batman Adventure-The Ride where we rode an action-packed
motion simulator that elicited shrieks from the kids as we tried to save Gotham City from evil

The Scooby-Doo Spooky Coaster looked deceivingly tame when we boarded the indoor ride. But, just a few seconds after, we realized that we were so wrong! It was an unforgettable action-packed adventure as we rode an elevator and experienced sudden backward drops and wild twists and turns with scary lighting and special effects.

With our feet freely dangling from our seats, we screamed our lungs out at Lethal Weapon-The Ride as we travelled at 85 km/hr and felt the 4Gs of gravity. We dove, dropped, bended, rolled-over, plunged and pulled double spins and loops. The ride only lasted for one minute and forty-two seconds but it felt like an eternity!

On the other hand, we donned our 3D glasses at Shrek’s 4D Adventure and ‘felt’ the 4-D film’s simulating effects such as having spray mist in our faces when Donkey sneezed, air blowing when Shrek passed gas and creepy crawlies under our feet.

At the Kids’ WB! Fun Zone, the younger kids adored the Looney Tunes-themed attractions featuring Road Runner, Yosemite Sam, Taz, Sylvester, Tweety, Marvin the Martian, Speedy Gonzales and Sylvester.

Moreover, we were like mad paparazzis as we eagerly took our photos with mascots Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Daffy Duck, Justice League, Catwoman, Shrek, Austin Powers and Scooby-Doo with Mystery Inc. buddies Fred, Shaggy, Velma and Daphne.

Gun shots, explosions and car chases enthralled us as we witnessed the 30-minute Hollywood Stunt Driver show. Professional stunt drivers screeched around corners and drove on two wheels as they pretended to shoot an action film set in Italy.

The All-Star Parade showcased costumed characters with their vehicles and movie-themed floats.

Mesmerized in Melbourne

After two fun-filled days in Brisbane/Gold Coast, we flew to Melbourne for the second leg of our Australian vacation.

At Phillip Island, we saw the world famous Penguin Parade which is the country’s most
popular natural wildlife attraction.

Considered the world’s smallest penguins, the Little Penguins emerge from the sea after a day of fishing and return to their sand dune burrows every night at sunset.

We waited quite a while for the penguins to arrive and when they did, they were so tiny that from afar I thought they were just seagulls. It was a mesmerizing scene reminiscent of the animated movie “Happy Feet”.

Afterwards, we silently observed some more penguins from the elevated boardwalks and viewing stands.

The following day, our tour guide took us to Sovereign Hill in Ballarat, Victoria. Nestled on a former gold mining site, Sovereign Hill is an awesome re-creation of life in Ballarat during the 1850s.

People dressed up in period costumes amidst a backdrop of old buildings. We experienced the daily activities of that time like riding in horse-drawn carriages, panning for real gold, traveling underground for the Red Hill Mine tour and many more.

Towards evening, we dropped by the Fitzroy Gardens to visit Captain Cook’s Cottage. Captain Cook is James Cook, the famous English navigator, explorer and cartographer.

What’s so interesting about Captain Cook’s Cottage is that it was originally located in England. “It was deconstructed brick by brick and packed into 253 cases and 40 barrels for shipping on board the Port Dunehill from Dull. Cuttings from ivy that adorned the house were also taken and planted when the house was re-erected in Melbourne”.

Soaring in Sydney

The last leg of our tour took us to Sydney where we started our stay by boarding the Captain Cook Cruise. As we savored our buffet lunch, we were awed by the breathtaking landmarks, fabulous architecture and beachfront houses.

As we disembarked at Darling Harbour, we immediately went to Sydney Aquarium where we ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ at the myriad of Australian aquatic life consisting of more than 6,000 individual fishes and other sea and water creatures. Key exhibits include the recreation of a Great Barrier Reef coral environment and underwater, see-through, acrylic glass tunnels where sharks swim above guests.

It was photo shooting galore time again as we set foot at the Sydney Opera House, definitely one of Australia’s most recognized symbols. We stood, sat, jumped and posed in the most unusual ways while being photographed. In the end, my husband Gary took one of my most favorite shots of me soaring gracefully against the imposing Australian icon.

We capped the day by going to the city’s tallest free-standing structure, Sydney Tower. At the observation deck, we marveled at the spectacular 360-degree night view of Sydney and its surroundings. The 3D OzTrek virtual reality ride transported us to Australia’s beautiful tourist spots and white water rafting via a 180-degree cinema, real-motion seating and impressive effects.

On our last day in Sydney, after a short trip to the Sydney Olympic Park, we visited Scenic World Blue Mountains--a mountainous region in New South Wales. One of its best-known attractions is the sand rock formation The Three Sisters.

We held our breaths and tightly locked our hands on the railing as we rode the steepest incline railway in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The railway line descends through sandstone cliffs and features fantastic views of the lush fern-filled rainforest.

In the afternoon, we had our final animal encounter at the Koala Park Sanctuary. The children played with cute koalas, fed the kangaroos and even petted a wombat, an Australian marsupial.

Taking in Australia’s magnificent scenery, nature, wildlife and theme parks in just a week was quite hectic and yet, the 3 to 12-year old kids in our tour never got tired. They all agreed that they had a jolly good time!

A rousing cheer for Australia! “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!”

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