You might have noticed if you’ve been reading my blog a while that the thing I love most when travelling is getting to see the native wildlife and the closer I can get (without disturbing them) the better! For anyone like me who loves their wildlife I’ve put together a list of all of the animals I came across in Australia, where I did (or didn’t) see them and a few of the really cool encounters you can have with them in different places.
KANGAROOS & WALLABYS
Where to find them: Everywhere.
Kangaroos are basically considered a pest in Australia – there are that many of them! While this is great news for visitors like you and me it doesn’t mean they’re hopping down the streets of Sydney… but take a journey just a few hours out of the cities and you’ll find them. Kangaroos/wallabys I spotted were in on the East Coast between Sydney and Byron Bay, Noosa, Magnetic Island, Halls Gap in Victoria, Phillip Island… the list goes on.
Where to find them: Pretty much everywhere except the NT.
Although a little harder to spot than a kangaroo, koalas aren’t far behind in their numbers, and so if you keep your eyes peeled you’re likely to see one. Look in National Parks of just generally up Eucalyptus trees. Places like the Great Ocean Road and Magnetic Island are known for their koala presence and remember you might hear them before you see them!
Where to find them: Rottnest Island near Perth, Western Australia
Everyone knows if you want to see a the world’s happiest creature you have to head to Rottnest Island. There are only a very few places in the world you can see these little creatures due to the amount of predators they have on the mainland but this island just off Perth is where they absolutely thrive. There’s no way you can visit without spotting one.
Where to find them: Around Tasmania.
Spotting a wombat is quite common in the National Parks of Tasmania, particularly around the Cradle Mountain area. They’re not at all wary of humans (or anything much as they have no natural predators in the area) so you’re quite likely to spot them munching away on the greenery and they won’t be bothered by your presence.
Where to find them: Victoria
I only spotted two wild echidnas during my time in Australia – one in the Grampians National Park and the other in a koala park (it wasn’t supposed to be there) on Phillip Island. They’re very shy and easily spooked so unless you know it’s there and creep around they’re likely to scurry away at the sound of any movement nearby, making them hard to spot.
Where to find them: North – in the Territory or Queensland
Crocs can be hard to spot but you’ll be warned about them all the time if you head to Darwin or the north of Queensland. Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin is the only place in the world you can “dive” with a crocodile, however, as the crocodiles are captive it’s not a wild or particularly ethical way to see these amazing pre-historic creatures. In tropical north Queensland you can take a crocodile riverboat cruise in the Daintree Rainforest to see them instead. It’s not guaranteed but the thrill when you do see one is unrivalled – just remember to keep your arms in the boat!
Where to find them: Fraser Island, Queensland or in the Outback
Fraser is the last place with pure-bred dingos and if you go there you’re told a lot about them that’ll make you wary (or terrified) about one creeping into your tent to eat you alive at night. They are around for sure, a few people did see one in the night, and there are signs up everywhere warning against feeding them but they’re not roaming around the place in the daylight. The only wild ones I saw were some pups playing on the beach from the safety of our 4WD.
Where to find them: Tasmania
Sadly the Tasmanian Devil are now a threatened species and so the chances of seeing a wild one are probably quite rare. Your best bet would be to head to a National Park or remote part of Tassie but I don’t know anyone who’s spotted one yet. Let me know if you have!
Where to find them: Apparently there are thousands of them roaming around the outback.
Despite their out-of-control numbers the outback is a very large place so unless you’re also roaming around there (not recommended) it’s probably unlikely you’ll see any wild camels. We did actually spot some in the road whilst driving from Uluru to Alice Springs though so it’s not unheard of. It’s best to stay clear of them as the bulls are quite aggressive especially during the breeding season.
Where to find them: Queensland
I spent my whole time in Australia desperate to see a platypus and I never spotted one, despite being on a number of tours that tried to find them. One trip we went on to the Atherton Tablelands took us to a specific area where the platypus make an appearance so often they’ve set up a viewing area for the purpose. They still didn’t show! If you want any hope of seeing one you have to be extremely quiet and they will appear at dawn or dusk only… but even then it’s not guaranteed.
Where to find them: Depends on the time of the year but the humpbacks migrate around Australia. You can spot them on the east coast in October/November time and the west coast June/July.
If you keep your eyes peeled when walking along by the coast it’s quite likely you’ll spot a humpback during their migration. You can take specific whale watching tours in lots of places (and not just the outer cities, they have them in Sydney) or if you’re lucky like I was they might turn up during your whaleshark swim. This year they are actually trialling humpback whale swims up on the Ningaloo Reef if that’s your jam.
Where to find them: Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth, Western Australia
The biggest fish in the ocean can be found migrating through the waters off the west coast of Australia between March and September and the best part is that if you want to take a trip to go swimming with them it’s extremely rare that you don’t see them despite them being completely wild. This is because they’re so easy to spot as they swim so close to the surface and the only thing that really affects the depths they swim at is the weather. Luckily Exmouth has a mild climate, averaging 320 days of sunshine a year!
Where to find them: Coral Bay and up by the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Tours operate from Coral Bay where you can swim with the manta rays. Unfortunately when I visited the weather was terrible but I have since swam with mantas (in Fiji) and I highly recommend it if you get the chance.
Where to find them: Great Barrier Reef & Ningaloo Reef
You’ll probably see a turtle at some point if you make a trip to one of the reefs but your likelihood of swimming with one might not be so great. Although I saw several turtles bobbing their little heads above the water (adorable) I still haven’t been in the water with one! It’s my new life goal – where are all the turtles? Answers on a postcard please!
Where to find them: Can be spotted all over. You can swim with them near Penguin Island in Perth and for a guaranteed sighting you can see them fed at Monkey Mia further up the West Coast.
Does anyone else find that dolphins always show up when you’re not looking for them? For example, on our cruise around Shoalwater Marine Park we didn’t spot a single dolphin (note, it wasn’t the Dolphin Swim tour I was on, I’m sure they’d work a lot harder to find you a dolphin on that!) but on the ferry over the Rottnest Island lo-and-behold some dolphins just started swimming alongside the boat. For a controlled and guaranteed sighting you’ll want to check out Monkey Mia where they’ve been feeding the dolphins every morning for years and you get the chance to see them up close as they swim into the shallows for their fishy breakfast.
GREAT WHITE SHARKS
Where to find them: All over the southern coast of Australia but not in a way you’d want to encounter them. For safe encounters head to Port Lincoln, 12 hours from Adelaide in South Australia.
The horror stories about Great Whites swimming around the beaches of South Australia aren’t exactly true… or at least they’re not as common as most people outside of Australia would believe. Basically if you’re at the beach in Sydney in the middle of the day the chances of you encountering one are very slim. But if you do want to see one you might want to check out Shark Cage Diving in Port Lincoln. I personally haven’t done it but I know some people who have and apparently it’s an epic experience!
Where to find them: Port Lincoln, South Australia
Add this to your bucket list: Port Lincoln is the one of the only places in the world where you can swim with the mighty southern bluefin tuna (and it looks pretty amazing). They’re endangered worldwide but due to the introduction of sustainable fishing methods for these fish in Australia they now thrive in the waters of South Australia, making this experience unique to that area of the world.
Where to find them: Port Lincoln, South Australia and around Perth, Western Australia
Port Lincoln is the definitely the hub of marine encounters in Australia as this is also the only place you can swim with the sea lions. This is the one thing I really wanted to do ithat I didn’t quite get to squeeze in. However back to Shoalwater Marine Park near Perth and there are a colony of sea lions living on one of the islands. It’s not one you can actually step foot on but you can get close enough to see them all lazing around on the beach if you take their wildlife cruise.
Where to find them: Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef
Everyone wants to see Nemo and his friends now when they come to the Barrier Reef. In all honesty you might see a clown fish snorkelling but probably not in the areas where most of the trips go as the anemones that they stay close to are usually a lot deeper. You will most likely see them if you go diving (I did) as I think most of the guides make an effort to seek them out as a point of interest now. It is also possible to see them whilst snorkelling in less well-known areas, we spotted some near the Whitsunday Islands.
Where to find them: Phillip Island, Melbourne, Perth
When you think of Australia one animal that doesn’t exactly spring to your mind immediately is the penguin but yes some penguins do reside in warmer climates. The breed you’ll find in Australia is the smallest – and cutest – of the bunch the Little Penguin (sometimes also called Blue Penguin). They live all around the south coast but there are a few guaranteed places to spot them such as the breakwater at St Kilda Beach in Melbourne and Penguin Island in Shoalwater Marine Park in Perth. Then of course there’s Phillip Island’s main draw the Penguin Parade, a spectacle where people gather to watch hundreds of little penguins emerge from the water and waddle up the beach back to their burrows every evening. It’s horribly touristy and you’ll leave hating people but loving the penguins – and it’s honestly worth it.
Where to find them: North-West and Central Australia
I was thrilled by the “watch out for emus crossing” road signs I came across in Exmouth, Western Australia, and when I read that occasionally wild emus just wander through the resort I was staying at but sadly I never spotted one. I was told in Adelaide that you could spot them in some of the parks down in South Australia too but I didn’t really come across any until I headed up the west coast and through the red centre. There are an inexplicable amount of emu attractions (basically just a bunch of emus in a pen) at cattle stations near Alice Springs. Two things you need to know about emus is they may try to get into your belongings and they’re hilarious when they run.
Where to find them: All over but specific areas include Penguin Island in Perth and Phillip Island near Melbourne
I love pelicans!!! I was always a little bit intimidated by their huge beaks until I watched them being fed on Phillip Island and was able to get really close without them being at all threatening. They do a great daily pelican feeding show there which is probably the closest you’re likely to get and it’s quite a small group of birds so not overwhelming. The other place I saw them (but from quite a distance) was on Penguin Island in Shoalwater Marine Park where there were hundreds!
Where to find them: Tropical north Queensland
When I found out cassowary are also endangered I was confused at first because they’re terrifying and quite obviously wouldn’t have many natural predators but apparently it’s due to the destruction of their rainforest habitat, which makes a lot more sense. I never saw a wild cassowary (thankfully) but when I was up walking through the rainforest areas near Mission Beach there were a lot of signs warning about them so they’re definitely present up there. If you’re confused as to why they’re so scary search the internet for videos of them kicking humans.
Let me know about any amazing wildlife encounters you’ve had anywhere in the world in the comments. They’re my favourite thing to talk about and I probably want to add them to my bucket list!