Top 5 Australian Wildlife Encounters
Australia is renowned for its diverse range of native wildlife species. While zoos are popular, it is also possible to spot birds soaring in the sky or cute koalas hanging from tree branches in their natural habitat when enjoying a wildlife-themed holiday. If close encounters of furry creatures top the list of priorities, visitors won’t be disappointed when they touch down in Oz. Here are five of the top Australian wildlife experiences and some tips to find the best locations to spot the famous residents Down Under.
Wombats may not be the best-known Australian animal, but they’re guaranteed to leave an impression for first-time visitors in Oz. Wombats are small, four-legged marsupials, who are native to Australia. They have short tails and thick fur coats, and they usually measure around 1 metre in length. Wombats can be found in the wild in some parts of the country, but visitors can maximise their chances of meeting these unique creatures by visiting wildlife reserves and animal sanctuaries.
The best place to try and catch a glimpse of wombats in their natural habitat is Tasmania. For intrepid explorers, there’s nothing better than embarking on a voyage of discovery in the Cradle Mountain Range and combining a cycle ride with the chance to see wombats roaming free. Ronny Creek and Dove Lake are great spots to watch out for wombats. In New South Wales, it’s possible to see wombats in the wild at Kangaroo Valley and Kosciuszko National Park. Regular sightings have also been reported in the High Plains and Khancoban areas.
As well as enjoying life in the wild, wombats are commonly found at Australian zoos and wildlife parks. Examples of the best places to see wombats in captivity include Australia Zoo, Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve on the Great Ocean Road and Halesville Sanctuary in Badger Creek, Victoria. Australia Zoo offers a wombat experience, which affords the opportunity to stroke and feed the wombats for an additional fee. This giant Queensland zoo is home to thousands of species and is a great day out for visitors of all ages.
Perhaps the most famous Australian animal, the koala draws attention from tourists visiting Oz from all corners of the globe. Boasting a languid lifestyle, which predominantly involves snoozing in the sunshine and chomping on eucalyptus leaves, koalas are undeniably cute, and many people touch down with the desire to tick cuddling a koala off their bucket list. It’s no longer possible to touch and hold koalas in every state, but there are koala encounters available, as well as excellent opportunities to spot them in the wild.
Those keen to enjoy the unique experience of handling a koala can visit an array of zoos and sanctuaries in Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia. Australia Zoo, which is located on the Sunshine Coast, offers a cuddle a koala experience for a fee of approximately $50, with small group sessions available on a daily basis. It’s also possible to hold a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary just a stone’s throw from Brisbane city centre, Billabong Sanctuary in Townsville and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast. Further south, koala encounters are available at Clelend Wildlife Park in Adelaide and Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park on Kangaroo Island. Experiences are also available at Cohunu Koala Park in Perth.
Australia has a large wild koala population, but sometimes, these animals can be elusive, as they tend to hide away in the treetops. It’s possible to locate koalas in the wild across Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, but the best places include Kangaroo Island, Raymond Island, Kennett River, Bimbi Park and Port Stephens.
Visitors eager to watch kangaroos bounding across lush grasslands or dusty plains will not be disappointed. Kangaroos occupy most of Australia, and they are among the most amenable species in terms of human encounters. It’s very common for wildlife parks and zoos to offer the opportunity to meet and feed kangaroos, and it’s also possible to spot kangaroos out in the wild almost anywhere in Australia.
To meet kangaroos and provide them with a hearty meal or a mid-morning snack, it may be best to visit a reserve, zoo or wildlife park. This way, there’s a guaranteed chance of coming into contact with kangaroos that are used to human interaction. Examples of places that offer kangaroo encounters include Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary in Hobart, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast and Woodlands Historic Park.
There’s a dazzling array of locations that are ripe for roo spotting in the wild. Highlights include the aptly-named Kangaroo Island, Grampians National Park, Narawntapu National Park and the Great Ocean Road. Keen golfers can even enjoy a morning on the greens combined with a specially designed guided kangaroo tour at Anglesey Golf Club. Kangaroos can also be spotted at Bells Beach.
The Australian coastline provides a spectacular setting for whale watching. Between the months of May and November, several species of whale descend upon Australian waters, as they make their annual migration to warmer waters for breeding. Southern Right whales can often be spotted off the shorelines of South Australia and Victoria, while it’s not uncommon to see humpback whales making their way north to the pleasant climes of the Great Barrier Reef.
Visitors who are keen to enjoy whale watching during their time in Australia can join guided tours, many of which operate daily during peak season. The best places to catch a glimpse of these majestic animals thundering through the water include Oyster Bay, Adventure Bay and Mercury Passage in Tasmania and Flinders Bay, Geographe Bay and Albany in Western Australia. The best locations in New South Wales include Watsons Bay, the Sapphire Coast and Merimbula Marina. In South Australia, whales can often be seen at Ceduna and the Fleurieu Peninsula. Hervey Bay is a hot spot for those searching for whales in Queensland and the Gold Coast is affectionately known as ‘humpback highway’, with numerous bases offering whale watching opportunities. Wildlife lovers staying in Victoria should make for Cape Nelson, Lady Bay and Logans Beach. Often, whale watching voyages will also treat explorers to sightings of seabirds, dolphins and fur seals.
Guided whale watching tours increase the chances of spotting whales in the wild, as crews use technology to detect and track their movement, but it is also possible to see whales from shoreline viewpoints.
Less well-known than kangaroos and koalas, the quokka is a small marsupial, which is most commonly found on the islands off the coast of Western Australia. Quokkas are usually a similar size to a domestic cat and they are herbivores. They are very small and light usually measuring around 40-50 cm and weighing around 2-5kg. Despite their diminutive stature, quokkas can hold their own, and they are stocky and muscular. If you’ve never seen a quokka before, it’s very easy to mistake it for a small kangaroo. A baby quokka is also known as a joey!
Quokkas are native to Western Australia, and they can usually be found on the islands off the coast of Perth. Rottnest Island is perhaps the best place to enjoy a close encounter with these tiny furry creatures. This island is popular with tourists and Perth residents keen to escape the city for a day at the beach. The quokka population has become accustomed to human interaction, and their cute faces and friendly nature have even sparked a ‘quokka selfie’ social media trend. Quokkas often look like they’re smiling, and this is part of the reason travellers find them so adorable. There is also a small population of quokkas at Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve on the mainland near Albany.
Australia offers a spectacular array of wildlife encounters. There are numerous zoos, wildlife parks and animal sanctuaries, but often, it’s possible to spot some of Australia’s most iconic native species out in the wild. Zoos offer encounters and the chance to meet the animals, but there’s nothing more exhilarating than spotting a kangaroo leaping through the outback or a koala clutching eucalyptus leaves in the tree canopies. Wildlife lovers can plan a tour of individual states or the country as a whole that focuses on wildlife experiences, both in the wild and in captivity. The islands that are scattered off the coast also provide outstanding wildlife spotting opportunities, and some, such as Rottnest Island, boast species that are virtually impossible to track down on the mainland. For visitors keen to discover new species and see animals that they have long admired from afar, a trip Down Under will not fail to deliver once in a lifetime experiences and memories. When visiting Australia, it’s always worth taking time to hang out with the locals, whether the itinerary includes excursions to the zoo, trips to national parks or days out on the islands.
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