An OZ wildlife Safari
‘If it isn’t venomous, carnivorous, or has foot-long claws, it’s a tourist’, or so the saying goes, but there are opportunities aplenty to see the cuddly and not so cuddly inhabitants of Australia on a family wildlife safari Down Under.
Starting with the big guns – the crocs; these ancient predators enjoy ‘snoozing’ along the banks of the Mary River, 2 hours’ drive east of Darwin. There are more saltwater crocodiles here than anywhere else on earth. Take a boat ride out and watch from a safe distance, but maybe don’t trail your fingers in the water! For an altogether more daring experience, head to Crocasuarus Cove in Darwin and its ‘Cage of Death’ where, safely contained, you can join the crocs in their pen for a ‘face-to-face’ encounter – good for pushing those comfort boundaries…..
Just round the coast is Queensland’s World Heritage Daintree Rainforest. Enjoy seeing Birds of Paradise and Cassowaries (one of the world’s most dangerous birds) by day, and by night spot tree kangaroos – yes, really!
The Great Barrier Reef needs no introduction and once you’ve got your head around the size of the colourful tropical fish, you’ll be busy spotting whales, stingrays and exploring coral reefs teeming with life. Grab a mask and dive in or stay dry in a glass bottomed boat – there aren’t enough superlatives to convey the magic of this place. At the southern end of the reef, you’ll find Heron Island and two of the world’s most vulnerable turtle species; green turtles and loggerheads. While these precious island-dwellers are much protected, you can enjoy them just by wandering onto the beach, as long as you respect the rules; don’t get too close or use flash-lights.
On to the emblem of Australia; the beloved kangaroo. While these hopping marsupials can be found everywhere, the friendliest mob can be found in Murramarang National Park’s Pebbly Beach (about four hours’ drive south of Sydney). Be warned though – they are partial to a packed lunch…
While penguins might not spring to mind when it comes to Australian native wildlife, there is a small colony who return to Phillip Island at sundown to rest after a hard day swimming. These little guys (literally the smallest penguins in the world) are protected by the Phillip Island Nature Park who organise viewings; choose from a skybox, or take a ranger-led eco explorer tour. It’s an easy day trip from Melbourne.
Fans of the very cute and bashful Platypus should head to Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne for a truly hands–on experience, which just might involve their favourite activity – tickling! Who knew?
Drive the Otway Coast on the Great Ocean Road and you are sure to come across a koala or two. We recommend heading to Kennett River to stop at the Koala Cove Café where you can walk the eucalyptus lined path, home to many of these endearing little, big-eared creatures.
Meanwhile, Rottnest Island, just off the coast of Perth, is home to the Quokka. Known as the happiest creatures on earth, these little marsupials have the most endearing of grins (selfie anyone?) and are inquisitive and friendly – but please note feeding is strictly forbidden as it can be dangerous for them.
Next, it’s on to the gentle giants of the ocean, the Whale Sharks. From April to July, Ningaloo Reef (Western Australia’s answer to the Great Barrier Reef) is home to these mammoth creatures and you can take to the translucent waters to swim with them as part of an organised tour group.
Heading inland to the red centre, spot rock wallabies – the smaller cousin of the kangaroo, as well as an extraordinary array of lizards and reptiles, including the Frilled Lizard and Bearded Dragon. A little unexpected and random, but you might also come across wild camels walking the highways and in Kaja-Tjuta National Park. Introduced as far back as 1860, they are now a firmly established part of the landscape!
Finally, we can’t leave the topic of animals in Oz without a nod to our old friend/ foe, the spider. Whilst no-where is really safe from them and some can admittedly be rather hair-raising in appearance, you might be somewhat re-assured to hear there were no deaths from spider bites between 1979 and 2015. We won’t ask what happened in 2015 but apparently more Australians are killed falling off horses than by a spider bite! It won’t stop you shrieking and standing on a chair if you spot one, but it might help a little.
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