All in a day's work: a campground host's perspective
We had set up camp one afternoon and while enjoying a glass of red and watching another theatrical Kimberley sunset, the conversation once again turned to 'What are we doing next?' We were more than half way through our Kimberley road trip and while Broome was the destination we had not yet made any solid plans. That evening we remembered some fellow travelers had previously told us about the Broome Bird Observatory having camp hosts and that the position was highly sought after as it was a great opportunity. A quick search revealed a recently placed add seeking a camp host couple to fill a spot next month. Could it be? What perfect timing! Two weeks later we arrived at the Broome Bird Observatory and were greeted by big smiles and passionate people, instantly we knew it was going to be a great month.
In no time at all we had set up our home in its new location and were settled in. With a new routine to establish and lots of jobs to do, our first week flew by. To no surprise what kept us most busy was the Birds! The Broome region is home to more than 330 species of birds, including 55 species of shorebirds, which is nearly a quarter of the world’s total. With the Broome Bird Observatory being located right on the pindan cliffs of Roebuck Bay, whether on a Shorebird or Plains Tour, trudging through the muddy mangroves or walking the trails at camp we see a variety of species everyday. Identifying and making note of the different species has become an integral part of our days. Each night in the communal camp kitchen all the Wardens, Visitors and Campers come together for the ritual that is Bird Log, an important data collection that has been on done nightly for 3 decades. It's a social event where we exchange sightings with new friends and listen to the excitement of their story as they tick off the rare species they have traveled from far away to see.
Being an avid birder is not a requirement for camping at the Broome Bird Observatory, however being a nature lover is. Along with the birds we have a myriad of animals regularly visiting our campsites. You are likely to encounter Green Tree and Desert Frogs in the 'Adventure Loo's' or in your coffee cup if you don't put your dishes away overnight!
Gould's Monitors can sometimes be seen having a refreshing dip in the bird baths, look closely and you might see a Northern Blue Tongue Skink sunning himself in the leaf litter. If your really lucky at dusk after Migration Watch or on the way to Bird Log you might just see a little Stimsons Python or Blackheaded Python heading out for the evening. Then of course there is Roebuck Bay, right on our doorstep. Pick from one of the trails and wander down to the beach, while down there keep an eye out for the endemic Snubfin Dolphin, Flatback Turtle and amphibious mudskippers.
We have been lucky enough to camp host in several beautiful locations across Australia and each position has its own unique personality, history and features. Hosting offers a slightly different perspective of every campground. At this stage you might be wondering what does a Camp Host do? At the Broome Bird Observatory our role is to meet and greet visitors and provide information about the Observatory facilities. To clean and maintain the ablution blocks, camp kitchen and campgrounds. We also assist the Wardens with the day to day maintenance of the site. One of the great things about having camp hosts is new skillsets they bring and we find our hosts quickly find tasks which suit both parties.
Something we often get asked by other campers is "Why do you volunteer to do extra work when you could just enjoy camping?" For us the answer is easy, we love to volunteer because it provides us an opportunity to develop new skills as well as build on our existing knowledge. By spending an extended amount of time at the Broome Bird Observatory we have had the chance to submerge ourselves in a new environment, learning from professional and enthusiastic people. Through giving, we create experiences that money just can't buy, we spend meaningful time with co-workers who then become friends. Most importantly we take pride in knowing that no matter how big or small, we do make a difference and bring new ideas and skillsets which ultimately helps non-for-profits like the Broome Bird Observatory.
As our time as camp hosts at the Broome Bird Observatory draws closer to an end we look back on the month, and cherish the memories we have made. Experiencing the weather, animal life, shoreline and onsite projects grow and change throughout this time. A campsite we now know intimately and feel privileged to be apart of it. We recommend and encourage anyone thinking about visiting the Broome Broome Bird Observatory to get out here. Come and meet the friendly Wardens, they are nature interpreters who readily share their knowledge and resources in pursuit of educating us all about the precious ecosystem that makes Roebuck Bay an important part of the East Asian Australasian Flyway. Take a tour and participate in the nightly Bird Log, because with yours and the communities support, important research facilities such as this can continue. And if you have the time, stay awhile, volunteer your skills, you just never know what you will find when you stop and take a moment in a new and exciting place.
Shell and Luke