Australia has become quite the haven for wildlife and who could blame them really? As an island nation surrounded by aquatic playgrounds, stunning islands and bushland for days it is hardly a surprise. From an unforgettable swim with whale sharks to selfies with kangaroos and quokkas or an evening with the penguins… Here are some of Australia’s extraordinary animal experiences.
Swim with a whale shark
Location: Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth, WA
Don’t let the name intimidate you, the world’s largest fish is a gentle yet elusive creature only found in a handful of locations in the world. Growing up to 18 metres long and weighing a mind boggling 34 tonnes, the Whale Shark is an impressive sight to see. And if you travel to Exmouth in Western Australia you’ll be able to enjoy an extraordinary experience swimming alongside these giants of the ocean.
Little is known about the whale shark which only makes a personal encounter all the more incredible. The mysterious Whale Shark prefers warm tropical waters, feed on plankton or krill and are found swimming in the pristine waters of Ningaloo Reef between April and July. They sure know how to enjoy a vacation choosing the largest fringing reef on the planet as their playground every year.
It’s safe to say that swimming with a whale shark is a once in a lifetime opportunity and animal enthusiasts travel all across the globe to Exmouth in the hopes of witnessing these gentle giants up close.
Ocean Eco Adventures and Ningaloo Discovery are among some of the operators that run these extraordinary animal experiences out of Exmouth with a full day out on the water on modern vessels to experience the magic of Ningaloo Reef and it’s amazing inhabitants. And while the Whale Sharks are the star of the show, you’ll very likely get to see dolphins, manta rays and a bounty of tropical fish too.
Cuddle a Koala
Location: Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia
Where to cuddle a koala in Australia is one of our most asked questions and if you are Australian, chances are you’ve likely got a photo at home of you cuddling up to a koala. This is one of Australia’s unique animal experiences but due to the animal’s ‘protected species status’ there are only a few states in Australia that allow you to handle a koala. Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia are the locations to head to for this special animal experience.
Queensland has the widest range of zoos and koala sanctuaries and many wildlife parks will sell a professional photo package while others may allow you to take your own photos for no fee.
Visitors can cosy up to a koala at Australia Zoo, Currumbin Sanctuary, Dreamworld, Paradise Country and Lone Pine Sanctuary to name a few. If you happen to be in North Queensland then drop into the Rainforestation in Kuranda, the Wildlife Habitat in Port Douglas, Cairns Zoom & Wildlife Dome and Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures or the Billabong Sanctuary in Townsville.
If you are in South Australia then visit Cleland Wildlife Park, Gorge Wildlife Park or Kangaroo Island Wildlife Park while Cohunu Koala Park in Western Australia is the place to go for a cuddly encounter.
Watch the Penguin Parade
Location: Phillip Island, VIC
It’s not just the brave surfers of Melbourne that dare to enter the chilly waters of Phillip Island but a tribe of Little Penguins too. Come by at sunset and every night you’ll get to witness a parade of Penguins very shyly making their way up the beach back to their burrows often to greet and feed their young.
The natural phenomenon is completely fascinating and is well managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks with every dollar reinvested back into world class Penguin research and wildlife habitat restoration. The eco sustainable tourism project does a lot of good for the resident Penguin community and is an incredible animal eco experience to witness in Australia.
The main viewing area at Summerland Beach has grandstand style seating while a Penguins Plus viewing area gives you a closer view overlooking their main pathway up the beach. In addition, there is an underground viewing area which has been designed to place you at the eye line of the cute creatures so that you can view the world from their perspective.
The inexpensive animal experience promises two unforgettable moments in one – a beach sunset and a waddle on the wild side with the penguins on Phillip Island.
Witness Turtles nesting and hatching on the beach
Location: Mon Repos Beach, Bundaberg
It’s not just the famous rum that puts Bundaberg on the map but an extraordinary natural phenomenon that occurs annually. Like clockwork, Mon Repos Beach welcomes hundreds of nesting marine turtles that come ashore to nest and hatch between November to April each year.
Mon Repos Beach in Bundaberg is a globally significant site supporting the largest population of marine turtles on the East Coast of Australia. Returning to their birth site as adults, turtles make their way up the beach in the evenings to lay their eggs (November to January) where they’ll eventually hatch (January to April) and make the treacherous dangerous journey into the sea for the first time. The experience includes interpretive displays and education talks by park rangers bringing a whole new meaning to the circle of life.
Selfie with a Quokka
Location: Rottnest Island, WA
Quokkas are quite possibly the most photogenic animal on the planet and you can find them on Rottnest Island just off Perth. The Quokkas are generally nocturnal and sleep during the day but often their curiosity gets the better of them and they can be found lurking around populated areas of the island making human friends. Although harmless, visitors are encouraged to observe the animals from a distance and avoid touching or feeding the animals.
Rottnest Island is an idyllic getaway from Perth with over 63 beaches and bays and a large range of activities to keep the entire family entertained for hours. Ferries depart regularly from Perth so it’s certainly is a viable day trip option.
Dive with Great White Sharks
Location: Port Lincoln, South Australia
Come face to face with some of the fiercest predators of the sea during a cage dive with Great White Sharks. The cage dive experience in Port Lincoln is a spectacular way to see the sharks up close and will really test your nerves. If getting in the water is a step too far for you there is always the Aqua Sub with Adventure Bay Charters for a slightly safer and drier underwater viewing experience.
See Jumping Crocodiles
Location: North Queensland or the Northern Territory
The Top End of Australia is Croc Country. The predators rule the waterways and the only safe way to encounter them is either in a wildlife park or from the comfort of a wetlands cruise. Despite their fierceness, the animal still manages to completely captivate all those who visit.
A Daintree River Cruise is your best chance of viewing crocodiles in their natural habitat. With a 98% crocodile spotting success rate you can relax knowing that you’ll spot one of them sunning on the river banks or keeping a steady eye on you as you cruise by.
The Northern Territory is where you’ll see jumping crocodiles highly motivated by the treats on offer. And while jumping crocodiles may sound terrifying, it is also equal parts thrilling to see these pre-historic beasts in their natural habitat.
Meet and hand feed Kangaroos
Location: Across Australia
You don’t have to go too far to bump into ‘Skippy’ the Kangaroo and his friends when you come to Australia. A short drive from most capital cities can bring you to a rural area where they are likely to be jumping from paddock to paddock.
If you want to meet and hand feed kangaroos then a wildlife park is the best place to experience this uniquely Australian animal encounter as these kangaroos are used to human interaction.
Swim with Dolphins and Australia Sea Lions
Location: South Australia and Victoria
Cheeky, playful and curious. Three words used often to describe Australia’s Sea Lions and a large population of them can be found in South Australia from the Eyre Peninsula to Port Lincoln and Kangaroo Island. Animal lovers will relish the chance to swim with wild dolphins and seals in their natural environment. Don a snorkel and sit back and watch them swim in and out of the water gracefully. They are just as curious about humans as humans are of them.
To discover more about any of the extraordinary animal experiences mentioned in this article and or to search for discounted zoo and aquarium tickets head to our main experiences page for an animal adventure of a lifetime.