A year after their incentive trip to Australia, a group from Sun Life Insurance located in Hong Kong still remember with fondness the seven days in May 2008 spent under the sunny skies of Down Under.
One experience that sticks in the minds of the nearly 400 participants was the two hours spent at the Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park in New South Wales, where they experienced an unforgettable bush experience “mixed with some challenges and fun”.
“They chose Australia as somewhere they had not used as an incentive reward for many years and the choice of Gold Coast and Sydney came out of a joint decision,” says Sue Ryman-Kiernan, director of Wise Connections, which organised the event.
The trip to the Walkabout Wildlife Park was included as part of their sojourn in Hunter Valley. A unique sanctuary in the Australian bush, the 69ha property protects endangered native animals and plants where they roam and grow freely. It is only a 50-minute drive north from Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The group arrived on eight coaches in the morning and was greeted with the call of the didgeridoo welcoming delegates to the park. The group was ushered into the waterfall field, where different activities had been planned for the two-hour stopover.
Waterfall field can hold up to 1,000 people. Tables, chairs, marquees and shade were provided, so that at any one time, delegates could move on their own will to participate in what took their fancy. The first order of the day was morning tea with bush jams and condiments.
One of the key highlights of the programme was indulging one’s senses with taste and smell of bush tucker and bush medicine.
“Many of the delegates were of Chinese descent and they were fascinated at how the Aborigines of our area (the Darkinjung people) lived with plants and used them for medicinal purposes,” says Jay Yip, Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park director of international marketing.
He adds: “For those who have visited Australia many times before, this experience was different as they also tasted many unique and natural products which is part of our Australian bush. In fact, many wanted to buy our Australian plants to take home to Hong Kong.”
There was a Fear Factor area where delegates were encouraged to sample witchetty grubs, termites and worms. It was very entertaining and quite a few rose to the challenge. The group also put a lot of energy into the boomerang-throwing and spear-throwing activities. What made them interesting was the use of authentic instruments. Guests were thrilled to handle a number 7 boomerang, also known as the “killing” boomerang, that is used by Aborigines to hunt kangaroos and wallabies. They also got to hold authentic “Grass Tree” spears. For those who are more musically inclined, they were given a quick lesson on how to play the didgeridoo.
The park has no enclosure, making it easy for the group to get up close and personal with the kangaroos and other marsupials. Several rangers were on site carrying animals and reptiles for guests to pet and hold and had pictures with.
Yip recalls a moment of amusement: “I was taking photos and I was at the Snake Fear Factor and Photo area. The ranger was explaining about the diamond python and its characteristics. And while the people where queuing for their photos, I overheard comments made by the delegates. They were admiring the condition of the snakes and discussing the many possible ways that they could cook and eat them. I had no heart to explain this to our ranger.”