Captain of the iconic Murray River vessel MV Proud Mary, Dave Farren reports the ecosystem of the river is literally bursting with life.
Captain Dave Farren has worked onboard the Proud Mary for 26 years and has Captained the iconic cruise vessel for the past nine years.
As part of his duties, he escorts his Proud Mary passengers on intimate Eco Cruises aboard a flat-bottomed boat that allows access to the wetland lagoons, tributaries and creeks that the larger Proud Mary can't enter. It also allows passengers to explore the river's anabranch at Big Bend.
Captain Farren explains that because of the high water levels, passengers can now discover - at the most intimate ecological level - that Australia's longest river is literally bursting with life.
"We can witness the natural cycle of the Murray at close quarters, in the quiet inlets, sleepy backwaters and wetland lagoons of the river system. You can see it's back to its mighty best. In fact, it's the best I've seen it in 15 years," says Capt. Farren.
"When you talk to the aboriginal elders or the traditional farmers they all tell you Mother Nature is on a 7 to 10 year cycle. Meaning you get 7 to 10 years of good, then 7 to 10 years of bad," explains Captain Farren.
"But what people don't realise is that even the drought plays a big role in the health of the river.
"When the water level drops during a drought there is a huge re-vegetation of plant life, so when the water returns, this plant life helps regenerate and cleanse the river.
"The aftermath of Cyclone Yasi in November 2010 heralded the beginning of this cycle of river regeneration, when the water reached our parts during February to April 2011. All the new plant life that had grown during the drought then attracted micro-organisms, bugs, grubs, insects, birds, animals and reptiles. In addition, the massive plant re-vegetation oxygenated and purified the water.
"Although now dead, the plants' root systems have stabilised the banks and the bed of the river providing a safe haven for underwater life. Meanwhile above water the dead plants become a roosting, resting and nesting area for birdlife.
"Then around six months later, the Queensland/NSW floods sent more water down the river, giving it an additional top up of fresh water and making it really fit and healthy," says Capt Farren.
There's never been a better time to cruise the River Murray on board the iconic Proud Mary. The Proud Mary operates 2, 5 and 7 night cruises from its Mannum base in South Australia.
The Murray Darling system supports 250 species of native birds of which anyone onboard the Proud Mary with a keen eye will see from 160 to 180 species on their trip. Even the most casual observer will spot at least 50 species of birds.
THE HOT SPOT
Spotted perched in a tree near a lagoon at Teal Flat in mid May 2012 by a passenger on our regular Proud Mary eco cruise ... an Osprey, or Sea Eagle, an ocean going bird normally only spotted at sea.
For more information, contact Matthew Sims on 0409 991 884.
The Proud Mary cruising down the River Murray.
An Eco Cruise aboard the flat-bottomed boat.
The Proud Mary.