Travel date February 2017
You forget that the hot sands are burning your feet, as you gaze at the charming bush which surrounds the water lagoons and beach of Wattamolla (Royal National Park, Coast Track, Sutherland Shire NSW 2232). Visitors of all ages are forced to trek through a 100 metre walking trail past overgrown tree roots and rocks. Before this outing, Ariana had been pestering me to go to the beach. This was a result of the Peppa Pig beach episode Ariana had stuck on repeat, blended in with the week long heatwave Sydney had been experiencing. On this particular trip the temperature in Sydney peaked at 42 degrees celsius, hence Wattamolla was our saviour from the heatwave. From Ariana’s perspective Wattamolla gave a great account on all the books she read on the Australian bush and beach in one great lesson. It was a great setting for Ariana to have a real life lesson of the natural wonder Australia has to offer.
Wattamolla is a perfect fusion of the Australian bush and the beach, which creates a unique feel of Australiana (a term denoting items, people, places, flora, fauna and events of Australian origins). The windy drive through the Royal National Park, is a preview of the 100 metre walking trail to the lagoon. Ariana immediately recognised the trees and inconceivably thought we were driving through a jungle, which I had to quickly correct. “Daddy look, jungle!!”. “ No Darling this is the bush”. The walking trail is arduous when you are carrying two bags whilst holding your daughter’s hand hoping she doesn’t trip on a tree root or sharp rock. To my amazement Ariana seemed unfazed by the walk, taking in the historic trees and wondrous lagoon that paralleled our walk. As you walk down the stairs onto the hot sands you see two worlds meet. The beach and headlands clashing with the Australian bush. Wattamolla, was unlike any other beach or pool Ariana had visited. The Australian bush was before Ariana’s gaze. All the bush stories she had read, came to life in front of her. Ariana let out a great gasp, and immediately rushed towards the water before we had a chance to set down our belongings. Once in the clear waters, Ariana could not get enough of the wet sand. She endlessly balled sand in her small palms to exert onto her helpless father!!
The spectacular setting of Wattamolla allowed Ariana to contrast the beach from the bush. She experienced a traditional bush walk, that ended in the reward of lagoon waters. Ariana was also enamoured by the rock formations that lined the lagoon waters. Her curious hands grabbed me towards the rock formations, which housed peculiar wildlife. We noticed a scampering crab, moving away from us and shells scattered all over the rocks. Ariana learnt that it was possible to have water based creatures within Australian bush land. This was a new concept for Ariana, as she had thought the bush and beach were two separate worlds.
The lesson Ariana learnt was that nature is best experienced up close. Despite the many books she will read on nature, there is no greater lesson in seeing it in person. In dispelling the idea that the beach and bush were two exclusive worlds, this allowed Ariana to understand that it was possible for nature to surprise her. This was evident from the constant gasps of “wow” which appeared to be an indicator of her development being challenged. Any preconceived notion she had of a bush or beach was being clarified through her experience at Wattamolla. It is my hope that our visit to Wattamolla, compels Ariana to seek out her own experiences in order to clarify the world she learns through the stories she reads in books. As a result creating a passion within Ariana to travel in order to satisfy her curious mind.
As a developing child it is important that children receive real life examples as opposed to a reliance of certain places through the gaze of a computer and television screen. I encourage parents to travel to places which influence your child. If they persist (just like Ariana had done) to visit the beach, then take your child to the beach to help them form their ideas of what a beach looks like. If your child urges you to take them to a cave, then take the time out to walk to a cave to expose your child to the wonderment of a cave. Regardless of your child’s persuasions on nature, first hand exposure is a great lesson which develops their perceptions on nature into the future. If you confine your child to the indoors, and make no effort to complement their urge to learn, then you put at risk stifling their future urge to learn.
N.B Some packing tips for any water getaway:
- Baby powder- helps clean off sand effectively
- Effective SPF sunscreen
- Waterproof hat
- Plenty of water especially on hot sunny days to avoid dehydration
- Towel and a change of clothes
- Swimming nappies
Chris & Ariana.