Did you know that Australia has unique wildlife that is not found anywhere else on earth? Now that borders are open to international travellers, it’s a great time to bring the kids for an adventure where they can get immersed in nature and wildlife. It’s also a fabulous opportunity for kids to learn how they can support our changing world, and her living creatures.
While many of Australia’s animals are thriving, some wildlife face challenges. The summer 2019/2020 bushfires burnt bushland around the southern and eastern sides of Australia, while wildlife throughout the country faces ongoing threats from feral animals, loss of habitat and a changing climate.
So take the family off the beaten tracks, go beyond the usual tourist haunts, and do your part to wildlife as you holiday. We’re sure it will be a memorable trip that your animal-loving little ones will remember forever!
New South Wales
1. At the Koala Sanctuary, created by the Port Stephens local council along with not-for-profit organisation Port Stephens Koalas, you can get up close to these adorable creatures on a guided tour. Stroll the pathways and the skywalk to see koalas relaxing in a natural-styled habitat. The facility also operates a hospital to tend to and heal sick or injured koalas before releasing them back into the wild.
2. Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley is a 2,800-hectare conservancy and luxury resort. Every stay here supports conservation. If you wish to get hands-on, join the daily conservation program which assists the private reserve in bushfire recovery and ongoing restoration to natural woodland. You may help plant trees that are grown from the one million native seeds collected over the last 10 years by guests, do wombat surveys, test water quality, assess wildlife habitat, and even monitor feral animals!
3. Phillip Island Nature Parks is a self-funded conservation organisation. It runs ecotourism experiences on Phillip Island, which is famous for its wild population of the world’s smallest penguins. Every night after sunset, penguins waddle ashore to return to their burrows, and visitors can watch from purpose-built seating and through special windows that protect the penguins. Funds go into projects like a wildlife rescue clinic, habitat restoration, and education.
4. Since the 2019/2020 bushfires, koala populations need assistance more than ever. Echidna Walkabout offers a private koala tree planting and recovery experience where you’ll not only meet koalas in the wild, but spend time planting new habitat and food trees for them.
Australian Capital Territory
5. Part sanctuary, part research facility, Mulligans Flat Woodland Reserve is bringing back endangered animals such as bettongs and bandicoots – ‘keystone species’ in restoring ecological balance. To have a deeper experience, you can volunteer to help out with sorting video footage of animals from home, or help rangers with guided night walks.
6. Spend a week observing birds, estuarine and freshwater crocodiles, and agile wallabies while learning about Indigenous culture on the Wild Top End tour by Echidna Walkabout. Before heading out to Kakadu and Mary River National Parks, you’ll spend a day in Darwin, surveying tidal mudflats and performing counts and identification of shorebirds (waders), many of which migrated here from Siberia and the Arctic. Significant native animal sightings are recorded and submitted to online atlases to benefit of science, education and conservation.
7. [email protected] is a private sanctuary caring for Tasmania’s carnivorous marsupials, the Tasmanian devil, and the eastern and the spotted quoll. Go on a tour, become a keeper for a day, or join the night feeding. Vital research here includes studies into the devastating devil facial tumour disease as well as quoll genetics. You can also adopt an animal or volunteer your time here.
8. Kangaroo Island is a wildlife hotspot, and the best way to explore is with Exceptional Kangaroo Island. Join their Conservation Connection, a private multi-day tour that includes a dolphin survey, and a viewing of the rare glossy black cockatoos. Take a bushwalk and visit the private Cygnet Park Sanctuary, where you can assist in hands-on bird-banding research projects. Visit scientists who are protecting the critically endangered Kangaroo Island dunnart, found only on this island.
9. Former sheep station turned private conservation reserve Arkaba Conservancy features luxury homestead accommodation in the Flinders Ranges. Here you can track a radio-collared feral cat, set up trip cameras that monitor wildlife, or join a biologist on a land survey. A minimum two per cent of guests’ charges go directly to conservation activities.
10. The Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre assists sea turtles that may have been injured by boats, or fallen sick for natural or unnatural reasons, such as the ingestion of plastic. The centre has a facility at Fitzroy Island and one at Cairns Aquarium as well. Aside from funding the recovery and release of these turtles just by visiting, you can choose to ‘adopt’ a turtle, or volunteer to help.
11. Join the experts from FNQ Nature Tours on the Wildlife and Conservation Safari in the Daintree Tropical rainforest and learn more about the spotted-tail quoll, Australia’s largest marsupial carnivore. Assist with checking motion detector cameras to document sightings and important food sources for these endangered animals, visit the Tropical Wetlands Shared Earth Reserve, spot wildlife from a Daintree River cruise, and walk with the rainforest’s night creatures.
12. Hamelin Station Stay is owned by Bush Heritage, a private land conservancy. Stay at the former sheep station’s renovated shearers quarters. Funds from stays protect 240 species of birds (one third of Australia’s birds, including the rare western grasswren), as well as endemic animals like the Hamelin skink. They also buffer the World Heritage-listed Shark Bay marine environment which has seagrasses, dugongs and stromatolites – which are linked to life-forms from 3.5 billion years ago!
13. Mornington Wilderness Camp is an Australian Wildlife Conservancy private reserve in the Kimberley. Stay in ensuite safari tents or camps, and enjoy long table dinners here. Go on ranger tours by canoe, hiking or four-wheel drives to see how wildlife benefits when feral animals are excluded. All funding goes to conservation. (Note: Mornington Wilderness Camp is currently closed, but will open in 2023)
14. At Ningaloo Reef, join Echidna Walkabout and Exmouth Dive and Whalesharks on the Island Birds and Whale Sharks Tour to help survey the area’s biodiversity. Record and count migratory seabirds, swim with whale sharks, and count rare black-footed rock wallabies as you hike up gorges in Cape Range National Park.
15. Naturaliste Charters offers visitors the opportunity to get up close with Australia’s biggest population of killer whales (orcas), and other marine wildlife over the deep waters of the Bremer Canyon (January to April). During other times of the year, the company has tours to watch other whales from various towns throughout the southwest. Every trip has a marine biologist on board. The company also supports scientists, frequently hosting researchers.
For more inspiration on where to holiday in Australia and how to travel safely, visit www.Australia.com
Featured image: Exceptional Kangaroo Island