As a tourist I’ve been bussed and shipped and loaded onto trains and pushed and shoved and photographed in front of a lot of the major attractions of the world.
There is often a production line feeling to many types of tourism. There’s that Mona Lisa – ‘click’. Now move on, feeling.
The Bruny Island Cruise by Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, on the other hand, is the opposite. It’s intimate and friendly and tailored to your needs. The cliffs and crags of Bruny are (almost) world famous and Pennicott haven’t let a wall of awards go to their head. There’s no rudimentary nature to the tour. They understand that you not only want to see nature, you may want to photograph it as well and will hang around the ‘best bits’ till you get that shot. While the main attraction is of course the scenery, from the enthusiasm of our tour guide Mick, you would think it was his first time, given his exuberance for all things Bruny and the sea.
To get to Bruny Island is a pleasant drive of around 45 minutes down the Channel Highway. Through the coastal-clinging town of Snug (yes, that’s really its name) and ending up in the gorgeous cove of Kettering where yachts out number houses.
A quick twenty-minute ferry ride and you arrive at Bruny. Then it’s another short trip down to South Bruny and Adventure Bay.
To get there you have to drive the narrow isthmus called The Neck which connects north and south Bruny.
If you have time and feel like exerting yourself, then a stop off is recommended to climb the stairs to the top of the sand dune lookout.
At the top there is a small but poignant reminder of Bruny Island’s (and Tasmania’s) most famous indigenous inhabitant Truganini.
It’s difficult to imagine the horror of her tragic life as you stand there with spectacular 360 degree views of Adventure and Great Bay, crashing waves on the beach and conservation areas.
Proving that Bruny Island is another part of Tasmanian where fortunately beauty has prevailed over brutality.
Learning more about Truganini’s history makes for interesting, and often sombre reading, but is well worth investigating.
The little township of Adventure Bay is more sleepy and languid and one suspects the ‘adventure’ happens out on the water. Not before a fuel stop at the Adventure Bay cafe on the waterfront where the pumpkin soup is worthy of its glowing reputation!
Onto the main event, the cruise!
Within two minutes we had done the boating equivalent of a burn out. Personally, I was glad we did a bit of thrill seeking first. It got me conditioned right away.
I’m not much of a dare devil, and with mild anxiety, had asked a few friends who had done the tour before, how rough it was going to be.
Mostly it’s like a bumpy car ride, occasionally it’s like a fairly tame ride at the show and on a few occasions you may feel your stomach rise up to tickle your throat. However, knowing that our guide has a dozen years experience under his belt and the boats are as tough as nails, I always felt completely safe and grew to love the ‘burnouts’.
As our guide pointed out, the boat is ‘air-conditioned’ so you will smell the salt air first hand and you may even taste it too when you round a few corners. So if you’re taking your expensive camera equipment, you may want to be a bit careful, especially near the blow hole which isn’t ferocious but its spray will reach the boat.
The company provides big red coats to cover up and while they break the wind and catch the spray it’s recommended to wear something quite warm underneath or at least a beanie.
While there is a fairly tried and true course for the tour, there is room for some ad-libbing especially if it’s particularly calm and the boat can go closer into a few nooks and crannies, or if a pod of dolphins pop up, which they frequently do! Our little off-piste was a foray into the Great Southern Ocean. Which quite frankly looked pretty scary. But our little boat ducked and weaved through the bigger waves with aplomb for a few adrenaline-infused and sea-spray imbibed minutes.
A special moment of the cruise, was when a playful pod of dolphins started popping up either side of the boat. Although you can’t control nature, and there is only a hope of seeing them, it feels as though they knew just the right time to say hi, and it feels like they enjoy the company of the Pennicott boats just as much as we loved being invited into their home.
Maybe this is testament to the Pennicott company’s deep love and respect for the environment and fauna of the area. The tour blends with the water rather than being a blight on it. Their environmental credentials precede them and their philanthropy is admirable. For the conscientious tourist it’s a rewarding experience.
The seals are a more reliable drawcard. You can smell them before you round the corner to see them but they are so darn cute that the smell can be excused. If they’re not soaking up the sun flat out on the rocks, they do love a frolic in the sea amongst the curtain of kelp that rings the island.
This was an unexpected highlight too, as it is so abundant and filled with such beautiful colours. There was also a patch of the water where a kelp forest was growing at the unimaginably quick rate of one metre per day.
Which lead to the ‘interesting’ story about the origins of the Two-headed Tasmanian which is a long and ongoing joke about people from Tasmania, usually suggesting inbreeding or backwardness (pre MONA!)
Apparently the indigenous people were smart enough to eat the kelp because it contained iodine and the white people just chewed on it which led to a deficiency. This caused the thyroid gland to turn into a goitre which was then removed and left a scar, hence the second head.
Because of his jovial nature I wasn’t sure if some of the stories our guide Mick told us were a bit tall but this is the most plausible story I’ve heard about the Tassie Two Head legend.
Indeed, Mick’s enthusiasm oozed through his sun-kissed skin and not only was he humorous, he was a veritable encyclopaedia of history of the island, the ocean and its inhabitants. I could honestly do the trip again and just pay attention to all the information he imparted.
The ride back is more direct but with commentary on any birdlife that we saw on the way. Now is the time to put down the camera and really take in the spectacularly high cliffs, the rainbow of nature’s colours and being welcomed into the home of many a beautiful creature.
Oh…and it’s when the complimentary chocolate biscuits come out too! (Thanks Susie)
It is easy to see is why this is an award winning experience!