Olive Pink Botanic Garden – A must for wildlife lovers in Alice Springs! All you need to know about visiting this arid zone botanic garden.
We didn’t spend much time in Alice Springs on our 14 day Red Centre road trip. In fact, other than our one night at the lovely Nature’s Delight Granny Flat and stocking up on food supplies, Olive Pink Botanic Garden was our only planned activity in Alice Springs. And it did not disappoint.
About Olive Pink Botanic Garden
Olive Pink Botanic Garden is Australia’s only arid zone botanic garden. Located alongside the Todd River, this free 40-acre (16-hectare) garden is only a short drive or 10 minute walk from Alice Springs CBD. Home to hundreds of plant species, there is a variety of gardens and walks to explore and even a popular cafe to indulge at – The Bean Tree Cafe. But it was the wildlife here that excited us the most and the reason this was our only planned activity for our brief time in Alice Springs.
Flora & fauna of Olive Pink Botanic Garden
The Olive Pink Botanic Garden has a surprisingly large amount of wildlife. Highlights for us included Black-footed Rock Wallabies and Common Wallaroo (Euros) not to mention all the birdlife, especially the Western Bowerbirds. If you’re a wildlife fan, you’ll definitely want to add a stop here to your itinerary. But do not underestimate how much time you’ll want here to see it all.
Tharrarletneme (Annie Meyers Hill)
For many, the highlight of a Olive Pink Botanic Garden visit is spotting the resident Black-footed Rock Wallabies. And this was also the main reason for our visit. Although these wallabies can be spotted throughout the day, the best time to find them here is early in the morning and early evening on Tharrarletneme (Annie Meyers Hill). Tharrarletneme is the hill at the far end of the garden and is a sacred site for the Arrente People. It is associated with Yeperenye (Caterpillar) Dreaming, a dreamtime story that explains how the MacDonnell Ranges were created. You’re able to walk up the hill along the Tharrarletneme Track, which is the best place to find the wallabies. The track starts right by the The Bean Tree Cafe and is nice and easy to follow.
Black-footed Rock Wallabies
Eager to try and find the wallabies, we headed straight for the Tharrarletneme Track on our May visit. Getting there just after the park opened at 8am, we started the short walk up full of hope and excitement. Methodically scanning the surrounding area as we wandered up the track, we had our fingers crossed. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long, as close to the peak we were excited to find our first Black-footed Rock Wallaby peering down from the rocks above.
As we reached the summit we could not believe what we saw. They were literally everywhere, sunning themselves on the rocky outcrop. Over the course of an hour or so we spotted dozens. Everywhere we turned there seemed to be another one (some with joeys too!) Classified as ‘Near Threatened’ in the Northern Territory, we weren’t expecting this!
You certainly don’t need to be a wildlife lover to fall in love with these tiny little creatures. Warming up on the rocks as the sun rose these cute wallabies were pretty relaxed and incredibly photogenic. No telephoto lens required to photograph these little guys. Sadly, it’s this and their tiny size that makes them so vulnerable to introduced species like European fox, feral cats and dogs and even native Wedge-tailed Eagles.
When we finally stopped taking photo’s of the wallabies, we were able to appreciate the awesome views across Alice Springs and along the Todd River from atop of Tharrarletneme. In contrast to the the CBD, it was lovely and peaceful up here. What a way to start the day!
Common Wallaroo (Euro)
As well as the wallabies, we also saw several Euros. Don’t be confused by the name, these macropods are also known as Common Wallaroos or Hill Kangaroos. They can often be seen grazing around the gardens and resting in the shade. We found them hopping around and down Tharrarltneme (Annie Meyers Hill) as we arrived. They can be distinguished from Red Kangaroos as the Euros tend to be more stocky, with coarse and shaggy fur.
The other species we were hoping to see in the gardens was the Western Bowerbird. Known to have a very active population here, it wasn”t hard to find one. Whilst exploring the ‘Bird Attracting Garden’ we saw one fly past us, which led us to its bower. A common endemic species to Central Australia, these were the first Western Bowerbirds we had seen. They were quite different to the Satin Bowerbirds we were used to seeing in Victoria in places like Cathedral Ranges and the Great Otway National Park.
The Western Bowerbirds have dark heads, yellowish underbodies and rufous/yellow spots on the upper bodies and wings. Males have a vibrant pink crest, which is smaller in females. In the breeding season the males call the female to the bowers and perform ritualised dances.
The bowers (which are not nests) are constructed by the males and are elaborately decorated, meticulously arranged and maintained. These bowers of the Western Bowerbirds are adorned with all sorts of green and white objects. As you can see from our picture below this consists of berries, fruits, stones, bottle caps, polystyrene etc. According to signage in the gardens, this was one of three bowers found here.
Other birds of Olive Pink Botanic Garden
With all of our allocated time spent with watching the wallabies and bowerbirds, we didn’t have much time left to see all of the other areas and wildlife of the gardens. But our quick walks through the Bird Attracting Garden and along the Wattle and Mallee Walks was enough to see a good amount of birdlife. These included the Mistletoebird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Australian Ringneck, Black-faced Woodswallow, Yellow-throated Miner, White-plumed Honeyeater, Zebra Finch, Diamond Dove and Budgerigars. Other beautiful birds regularly seen here include Rainbow Bee-eater and Red-browed Pardalote.
Plants and insects of Olive Pink Botanic Garden
The wet start to the year hadn’t just bought abundant colourful Budgerigars that were seemingly everywhere on our 14 Day Red Centre road trip. It also meant there was plenty of colour from the blooming native trees, bushes and wildflowers as well as several species of butterflies.
Our relatively short visit to the Olive Pink Botanic Garden was amazing. We found far more wildlife than we expected and really enjoyed our time there. In fact, we wish we had allowed a lot longer! If you’re in Alice Springs and looking for something to do, do not miss the Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
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