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Aussie is full of some of the most bizarre and baffling creatures in the world. They're easily found in the countries many excellent zoo's (and even in our own zoo's), but there's nothing quite like the thrill of seeing them in the wild, so we've put together this list to help you track them down...
SEA TURTLES and MANTA RAYS
Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
On the very southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, and about 80 minutes flying time from Brisbane is Lady Elliot Island. The reef surrounding the island is home to numerous sea life, including the massive manta rays which come here to feed. Snorkellers and divers can see these friendly creatures year round. The island is also home to a sea turtle breeding sanctuary. These majestic animals visit from November to March to lay their eggs, and hatchlings emerge from January to May. Lucky travellers can sit on the beach and watch as turtles clumsily make their way to the ocean.
Hidden Valley, North Queensland
About an hour and a half inland from Townsville is the Hidden Valley Cabins, a small eco-retreat that has been operating for over 28 years. It’s also the best place in Australia to see platypus in the wild. The retreat owners take guided tours even further out into the wilderness to see these bizarre creatures, and they have a 98% success rate! Tours are also operated at night to see possums and many other nocturnal animals.
Rottnest Island, Perth
Describing them is a bit hard because they somewhat resemble a cat sized rat. However, they’re definitely not yucky like rats, they are in fact, outrageously cute thanks to their facial features which make them look like they’re constantly smiling. The island is one of the few places these wee guys survive today, and you’ll have no problem spotting them as they laze in the gardens or on the grass under the shade of a trees. While you’re not allowed to handle them, they are very tame and inquisitive so they’ll most probably come over to check you out.
Kakadu National Park, Top End
Heading down to the river for a swim is certainly not as straightforward in Australia as it is here! First you must find out if crocs also like to swim in said river. There’s actually two types of crocs in Aussie, the Freshies and the Salties (Freshwater and Saltwater Crocodiles). Freshies are the smaller of the two, and actually don’t target humans unless in self defence. It’s the Salties you have to worry about, and unfortunately their name isn’t all that apt as they spend more time in fresh water than they do salt. The best place to see both these crocs is undoubtedly the Kakadu National Park near Darwin. Here one of the top attractions in the park is cruising the murky rivers and mangroves by boat to spot crocs out on the hunt, or just simply chilling on the river banks.
Flinders Chase National Park, Kangaroo Island
The aptly named Kangaroo Island is a must for any animal lover thanks to the sheer variety of animals available in such a small area. One of the most common is the wallaby, who have the freedom to roam without having to worry about predators. For an added bonus, book in to the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Retreat where you can feed the wallabies from your balcony!
Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island
This is hands down one of the best wildlife experiences available in Australia. At the beach is a ranger station where you’ll be assigned a guide (mandatory) who’ll take you down the boardwalk and onto the beach. Along the way you’ll no doubt spot several mammoth sea lions taking advantage of the shade underneath the boardwalk. You’ll then be taken for a walk along the beach to see the sea lions as they come back from a day fishing, or more likely just a day lazing in the sun.
Fraser Island, South Queensland
Dingoes are a breed of wild dog, and are the largest predators in Australia. The best place to see them in the wild is Fraser Island where the local population is fairly tame. Although rare, there has been attacks on humans so it’s highly recommended to view them from afar, and not to feed them!
Mountain Valley, Tasmania
Tassie Devils are the size of a small dog and look very cute… until they open their mouth that is! The notoriously bad tempered creatures have razor sharp sets of teeth and produce screeches that you’d find in any horror movie or nightmare. They’re nocturnal and extremely difficult to see in the wild, but a stay at the Mountain Valley Wilderness Cabins is your best bet. The cabins are set within a wildlife sanctuary and Devils can be scurrying past at night in search of food.
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
An echidna is an Australian version of a porcupine or giant hedgehog. They have long snouts and even longer quills which they’re happy to use in defence if you get too close! They’re rather timid creatures though, and spotting them is difficult. They don’t like the heat, so tend to hang out in the underbrush of forests throughout southern Australia. Kangaroo Island is your best spot to see them in the wild.
Phillip Island, Melbourne
A few hours south of Melbourne is Phillip Island, famed for its Grand Prix track which hosts superbikes and V8’s. The other major attraction is the Penguin Parade. Every night hundreds of Fairy Penguins (which we have in New Zealand, but call Little Blue Penguins) come back to the island after a day out fishing and can be seen battling through the waves and quickly scurrying up the beach to the safety of their burrows. You need to buy tickets to the park to see this, and they have a large grandstand style set up with floodlights, so it’s perhaps not strictly ‘in the wild’. However, if you head to the end of the pier in St Kilda (back in Melbourne) and stay super quiet, you can sometimes see them there too.
WHALE SHARKS and DUGONG
Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
It takes a bit of getting to, but the reward is worth. Way out on the west coast of Australia, a few hours flying time from Perth and Exmouth and Shark Bay. This massive marine sanctuary is home to Australia’s second largest reef, which itself is home to the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. There’s day trips out to see and swim with these massive, yet very placid beasts. The reef is also one of the last strongholds of the equally placid dugong which can be seen on the same trip.
The Kimberley, Western Australia
Far out in the remote northwest of Australia is a region known as ‘The Kimberley’. With few towns and little infrastructure, this is real outback Australia. It’s also the best place to spot some of Australia’s reptilian wonders, being home to 178 of the 300 lizards known to exist in the country. To get here, you’ll need to book onto a guided 4WD tour which operate anywhere between four and fourteen days long! We did say it was remote.
KOALAS and KANGAROOS
Pretty Much Everywhere, Australia
Probably the two most famous of Aussie’s weird animals, are the kangaroo and the koala. They’re also perhaps the two most common, and can be seen in rural areas outside of any major city. Simply take a drive to Sydney’s Blue Mountains, Melbourne’s Great Ocean Road, or the Gold Coast Hinterland, and you’re bound to spot these guys.
Pretty Much Everywhere, Australia
Are you crazy? You want to see snakes in the wild? One with venom that’s lethal to humans? Didn’t think so.
> READ MORE ABOUT AUSTRALIA HERE
*Thanks to Joe McNally for the Tassie Devil being held image, David Ireland for the croc image, and Tourism Australia for all the images.
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