A Pomme’s Perspective of: TOWNSVILLE

Usually when I mention Townsville to an Aussie all they say is ‘Bogan central’. Being a Brit, I had no idea what that meant so I ignored it. I had pre-organised a month housesitting a parakeet and a bearded dragon for a lovely Canadian couple who were off to introduce their baby to their family back home.

I’d managed to organise this via Trusted Housesitters where for a small fee you can create a profile and contact people who need sitters. This is a great way to get free accommodation somewhere whilst living in a normal house setting and having the wonderful company of all sorts of animals.

Townsville itself is relatively quiet. The town is formed around the base of a hill, and has Magnetic Island just a ferry ride away. Whilst I’ve been here I’ve been to Reef HQ and Billabong Sanctuary, two great places that help teach people about all the different kinds of animals found in the area.

Reef HQ is more of an education centre than an aquarium. It’s been created to teach people all about the Great Barrier Reef; from what lives there, to how it’s being damaged by us.

It’s main tank is a man-made reef with natural sunlight, and it contains a large variety of fish and sea creatures. They also have a turtle sanctuary which you can go around on a tour at certain times of the day.

The Billabong Sanctuary is also very educational but not like Reef HQ. Where Reef has lots of things to read, Billabong has constant talks and shows on each animal.

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I spent all my time there hopping from one talk to the next whilst checking out other animals in between. I learnt all about native birds to the area, wombats, koalas, dingoes, crocs, and turtles.

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You can also buy packets of food for the kangaroos and birds that live on the billabong and hand feed them.

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Housesitting in Townsville was a great month for me. I got to chill out with some beautiful animals, see the local wildlife, and bask in the sun whenever I wanted. It may be a quiet town with a few boy racers, but I wouldn’t let that put you off stopping there on your way up/down the coast.

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How to be an excellent House sitter

Being an excellent house sitter is common sense really; respect that person’s home and look after it. I’d say ‘as if it was your own’ but some of you might not be as house proud as I am!

There are loads of websites to choose from for becoming a house sitter. After reading a few reviews from people and comparing the membership costs, I settled on Trusted Housesitters.

It all starts from the moment someone’s chosen you to be their house sitter. Make sure that you stay in contact with that person, and ensure that you’re in agreement with how everything’s going to be. Trusted Housesitters has a contract that they recommend gets signed by both parties, and allow you to elaborate on. It’s important that you know how everything works in the house and garden, and all the emergency numbers if something were to go wrong.

Before arriving I send the host my flight itinerary so they have proof of my arrival and what time to expect me. You may also need to send them a scan of your driving license if you’re being added to their car insurance. Anything that can be arranged before arrival should be with minimum fuss so that the host who’s already got enough to think about can be calm in the knowledge that their house and pets will be well looked after when they leave.

If you’re looking after an unusual pet; research it. I’ve looked after birds and reptiles in the past, but I wanted to make sure I knew as much as I could before my housesit began. Look up what they can and can’t eat, signs of illness, even games you could play with them to keep them entertained while their ‘parent’s are away.

When you do arrive, make sure that you’re shown around all the appliances, where everything is, and also any local knowledge if you don’t know the area. I was kindly given a drive around the area which gave me a good view of where everything is, what there is to see, but also how the roads are laid out and what the car’s like.

It’s good to know the pet’s habits. If there’s anything that they like, their daily routines, what to do if they’re being naughty; everything! It’s important to remember that these animals will miss their owners too so you may witness some odd behaviour. If you’ve been shown all you can about them before the owners have left, then you should be able to keep those pets happy.

During your stay it’s good to offer skype conversations once every one or two weeks not only to give peace of mind, but also because owners truly miss their pets and will want to see them! If they don’t have skype, you can send pictures in emails, or even text messages just so that the host feels comfortable instead of worrying on their holiday.

I always like a clean house so I generally stick to this rule at all times anyway, but it’s good for you to clean up any mess as soon as it’s been made. If you start leaving things around the house and not tidying up after yourself, you might soon find that you can’t remember where that pan lived, or where does the remote for the AC go? Rather than leave the house with the owner’s belongings in all new locations, it’s good to keep a habit of putting things back where they were as soon as you’re done with them so that when the owners come home they don’t keep finding things in the ‘wrong’ places.

I regularly clean anyway, but when I’m leaving a housesit I will give the place a thorough clean so it looks absolutely spotless. I also like to leave basic food items so that there’s no urgency in getting to a shop when they get back.

So that’s it! Keep the place spotless, leave everything where you found it, and make them feel at home for when they get home. Communication is key; as long as they’re happy and comfortable with you looking after their house and pets, it should all go smoothly. Good Luck!