I'm not sure how many of you have had the privilege of visiting the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary in Bli Bli - we've attempted it once before, only to be blanketed in mosquitos from head to toe. Wrong season? Yep, it definitely was, so now with winter on its way, we decided our backyard adventuring needed once more to extend to the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary.
The Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary is managed in a three-way partnership between Sunshine Coast Council, who provide the land and facilities, maintenance and administration; the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary Support Group whose volunteers provide very informative displays (including the Information Centre and Mangrove Room), minor ground maintenance, information, guided walks, species identifications and welcoming visitors; and Education Queensland, who staff and equip the Bilai Environmental Education Centre. The Information Centre is beautifully set up and well worthy of a browse.
The Information Centre is well worthy of a browse - Images: Elaine de Wet
On the day of our visit we met John, who is one of the extremely helpful volunteers from the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary Support Group Inc. This gentleman very kindly offered us relevant information about the area as well as providing the all-important mozzie-repellant - just in case! John also informed us that should it be low tide, we would have the opportunity to spot the Orange-Clawed Fiddler Crabs. Of course not having checked the tides, we had no idea whether it was low tide or not, but to our absolute surprise, discovered we had chosen the perfect time to do our walk and were fortuitous indeed, as these little critters were out and about.
Crab viewing platform for tall and vertically-challenged (like me!) - Image: Elaine de Wet
The Sunshine Coast Council have very generously built a viewing platform - viewing areas for tall and vertically-challenged visitors (like me), to enjoy the diverse variety of crabs scurrying along doing their very important work within the mangroves. The mangroves provide a protective habitat for the crabs with the droppings of creatures that consume the mangrove leaves enriching the surface detritus (organic waste). This detritus together with leaves dropped by the mangroves form the basis of the crab diet.
Orange-Clawed Fiddler Crabs - Image: Elaine de Wet
So, having had our 'sticking-out appendages' totally mozzie-sprayed, off we went! This stunning Sanctuary is rich in biodiversity, with a kilometre of beautifully maintained boardwalks that meander through eucalypt forest, rainforest, melaleuca forest, casuarina woodland, salt marsh and mangroves, making for an easy and leisurely stroll. Local Aborigines called casuarinas 'bilai' - to make plurals they repeated the name, 'bilai bilai' which is how Bli Bli got its name -Bli Bli means many casuarinas.
Visitors are given a free self-guided walk pamphlet, which lists all the species of wildlife and also the relevant sites within the Sanctuary. There are over one hundred and eighty birds that have been identified in this area which include bush birds, raptors, water birds, pigeons, doves, ground-dwellers and night birds. Your stroll is definitely enhanced with the calls and songs of the chirpy residents.
Bookmark the dates for the free guided walks - Image: Elaine de Wet
From May until September this year, visitors can enjoy a free guided walk on the first Sunday of every month i.e. 4 June, 2 July, 6 August and 3 September at 10.00am, are the upcoming dates to bookmark. As per my usual norm, I didn't have this information in advance, so we chose a Sunday without the guided walk, but were quite happy to explore on our own!
Beautifully maintained boardwalks - Image: Elaine de Wet
Look out for the relevant marked sites in the booklet, explaining the different vegetation and how important these resources are to the local wildlife. Benches are positioned throughout the Sanctuary should visitors wish to relax and enjoy the cacophony of sounds from the local residents.
Sit and enjoy the cacophony of sounds - Image: Elaine de Wet
Hubby and I spent an enormous amount of time enjoying the diversity of crabs, but especially the Orange-Clawed Fiddler Crabs, which the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary have adopted as their logo. At low tide, the Fiddler Crabs emerge to feed and court on the muddy banks. Male Fiddler Crabs stand at their burrows, waving and rapping their oversized orange claws to entice a female Fiddler Crab inside. When another male ventures too close, the crabs engage in a grand mock battle, using their large claws as combat shields. One has to be as quiet as a mouse, as the minute they sense movement or even your shadow, they scurry off into their holes - a photo opportunity missed!
The walk through the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary continues all the way down to the Maroochy River to a Pontoon, which is solely for the use of authorised visitors to the Sanctuary. The entire walk is only two kilometres return (allow an hour plus for photos etc) and is perfect for families to get out and about for the day. The boardwalks are also suitable for wheelchair users and prams.
Trails end at Maroochy River - Images: Elaine de Wet
The Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary's main aim is to preserve and restore the Sanctuary to create a permanent reserve of indigenous flora and fauna. In order to achieve this, they have a few rules in place:
Remain on the boardwalks (though in saying this, moving off the boardwalks into the water definitely wasn't too appealing to me);
As the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary is FREE admission, a donation box is left out (with the obligatory mozzie spray and self-guided walk pamphlets) and I just know that they would love a thoughtful donation to achieve their continued efforts to preserving and restoring this very important bio-diverse Sanctuary.
Remember to bookmark the first Sunday of every month until September for FREE guided walks at the Sanctuary and get your walking shoes all spruced up, it's the perfect time of the year to visit the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary in Bli Bli. Check the tide times first!
Mozzie identification - just in case! - Image: Elaine de Wet