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Published January 29th 2014
A unique outback experience in the SA Riverland
The popular Major Mitchell cockatoo can be found at Gluepot. Restricted to arid and semi-arid inland areas of Australia and vulnerable in Queensland, it requires extensive woodlands to survive. Image courtesy Duncan McKenzie.
Do you want an outback experience where you can do more than go for bushwalks or laze around the campsite? Want to learn more about the environment? Gluepot Reserve (north of the Riverland in SA) offers a range of environmental education courses held from March to September each year. Or you can just camp at any of their unpowered campsites in this unique and timeless area of outback Australia.
Gluepot Reserve is a 3.5 hr journey from Adelaide through the picturesque Riverland area which boasts plenty of wineries, historic towns and great picnic spots. The River Murray is perfect for house boating, fishing, canoeing, skiing and swimming.
The lush green landscapes of vineyards and citrus groves of the Riverland suddenly give way to red dirt and mallee scrub as you leave the main road 15 kms north of Waikerie. Gluepot Reserve is a further 50 kms away through several gates via a well graded dirt track. Image by writer.
The 54,000ha Gluepot Reserve is part of the largest block of intact mallee left in eastern Australia. It has diverse vegetation which supports 190 species of birds (18 of them nationally threatened), 53 species of reptiles and 12 species of bats.
One of the lizards that can be found at Gluepot Reserve. Image courtesy Duncan McKenzie.
Camping and walking at Gluepot All roads at Gluepot can be used by two-wheel drive vehicles. Camping is minimal impact; only gas fires are permitted and all rubbish must be carried off site with you. You need to bring your own water, as only a limited amount for washing up is supplied. Gluepot also has many fine walking trails, ranging in length from 850m up to 14kms.
The shy Malleefowl are now considered a threatened species but may be seen at Gluepot. They build a ground nest about a half-metre high, consisting of an egg chamber with compost and an insulating layer of sand on top. Before the arrival of Europeans, the Malleefowl was common over large areas of Australia.
Gluepot's 3 designated camping areas (Babbler, Bellbird and Sitella) have around 16-19 unpowered sites with 'drop-toilet' facilities. All campsites offer shade and provide ample space for a couple of large tents and a vehicle. I was surprised at just how quiet at night my campsite was; the only sound was the gentle rustle of the wind through the trees. The remoteness of this location and the lack of light pollution made the stars appear even brighter than usual.
My campsite in the Babbler area at Gluepot Reserve. Image by writer.
Environmental education courses Gluepot Reserve offers a range of 2-3 day environmental education courses which include nature photography, bats, botanical illustration, GPS & GIS, reptiles, mallee vegetation, painting, bird watching and bird banding. You can download a pdf of the course brochure here.
Bird Banding Course Last October I tried the bird banding course whilst camping at Gluepot for two nights. Even though I'm not an avid bird watcher I still enjoyed the course as it offered a 'hands on' experience. It was also an opportunity for me to meet a range of people from diverse backgrounds, some of whom had travelled from interstate to do the course. We learnt how to catch, band, measure and weigh each bird. The age, sex, species, location, date and method of capture were all recorded; this information is vital to help monitor bird population, migration and feeding habits. The two day course was conducted by bird-banding expert Wally Klau and included information about the history of bird banding in Australia, methods of capture and the types of permits required.
The resident expert bird bander Wally Klau with a red-capped Robin in hand. Previously a train driver, Wally has banded over 700 birds, but who's counting? Image by writer.
Gluepot is not only a haven for birds; there are also a wide range of native mammals present including euros, possums, dunnarts and kangaroos. Native Australian frogs, skinks, geckos and legless lizards can also be spotted around the site. Gluepot Reserve helps to protect these species by conducting a feral control program to reduce fox and goat numbers.
The appropriately named Rainbow bee-eater. Image courtesy Duncan McKenzie.
After the 2 day course I left Gluepot feeling satisfied that I had spent an interesting weekend in a unique part of Australia whilst learning a bit more about our native wildlife along the way. For an escape into nature in a timeless part of the country, I can highly recommend Gluepot Reserve.