Nine Hong Kong secondary school students – from Y.C.H. Lan Chi Pat Memorial Secondary School, Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School, The Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School, and Chong Gene Hang College – recently won the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to the Gold Coast and Cairns in Queensland, Australia under the Hong Kong Airlines “Embrace the World” Student Sponsorship Programme. The programme is an initiative offering students the chance to broaden their horizons in another part of the world, exposing them to a range of experiences Hong Kong may not offer.
As soon as we landed in Australia, the heat gave us a welcome hug. The air was cleaner, so despite the similarly hot and humid Hong Kong climate, the sun seemed to shine a little brighter.
With no time to waste, we went straight to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, a zoological garden home to some of the continent’s favourite fauna. The students were allowed to roam about and encountered species unique to Australia: koalas, kangaroos, Tasmanian devils and more.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary wasn’t the only opportunity for these students to get up close and personal with our animal friends. A visit to Cairns Zoo and Wildlife Dome towards the end of the trip had students testing themselves in an obstacle course built inside an open enclosure, full of exotic rainforest animals; cockatoos circled from above as the students made their away across the wrangled rope bridge.
The students also visited the Cairns Tropical Rainforest through the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, built by the same company that built our Ngong Ping 360. Each of the cable car’s four stops presented interesting facts and built a very strong case for Australia having the most deadly wildlife on Earth!
Meeting Australian animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and being stunned by the beauty of Gold Coast
“A strangler fig starts growing on top of a tree, and its roots grow down to make its way to the soil,” explained tour guide Mike Gailer. “At the same time, the roots form a cage-like structure in the process to become a solid trunk. But, and this happens a lot, its host tree will fall over before the fig’s roots reach the soil. Nine times out of 10, the strangler fig kills its host tree, and both fall into the darkness of the forest floor. Gone.”
Dangerous figs aside, the visit to Australia was more about appreciating the country’s amazing flora and fauna.
Students were also exposed to more extreme activities. “I’ll never forget trying indoor skydiving,” said Joyce Leung Hong-lok, 16, of Christian and Missionary Alliance Sun Kei Secondary School. “It’s something we don’t have at home, and the instructor was great – he taught us the basics but also let us test ourselves. It was a magical and unexpected feeling to be up so high.”
The students also experimented with water sports, spending a full day surfing and kayaking. “Kayaking was so much fun and the views were gorgeous,” revealed Ann Lee On-sang, 19, previously of The Hong Kong Taoist Association Ching Chung Secondary School.
Meanwhile, Lee’s school friend, Isaac Zheng Jinqin, preferred surfing. “I really thought I wouldn’t be able to do any of it. Turns out, I managed every to do everything except stand on my board. Still, it was unforgettable,” said Isaac.
To balance out all these physically demanding activities, the programme also provided an invaluable opportunity to immerse in Australian culture. This included finding out what it takes to become a pilot, to visiting the The City of Gold Coast Council Chambers to discover what politicians do during a chamber session.
Perhaps the most unforgettable moment was visiting the Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park. Not only were the students introduced to Australian Aboriginal culture – its legends, songs, medicine, and dances – it gave them a chance to try their hand at throwing spears and boomerangs. The students were excited to master the art of throwing but had to be careful, because we all know that boomerangs come back to you!
The “Embrace the World” programme brought a whirlwind of activities, from throwing ancient hunting weaponry, to riding waves, to hiking through rainforests in the dark, to greeting the Tasmanian Devil. This journey to Queensland, Australia with Hong Kong Airlines proved to these young minds that there is so much more to see in our world.
This trip was sponsored by Hong Kong Airlines.