101 ways to holiday in Australia: Connect with wildlife

If you had to come up with a true Aussie icon, it would most likely come in the form of one of our animals.

Maybe a kangaroo, or maybe a koala. It could even be one of the 83 per cent of mammals, 89 per cent of reptiles, 90 per cent of fish and insects and 93 per cent of amphibians that inhabit the continent and are endemic to Australia.

When you see the stats, you quickly realise that most Aussie wildlife can only be seen in Australia, Unless, of course, you count seeing them in a zoo as an experience.

And while zoos are certainly a good fallback, you can get up close and personal with much Aussie wildlife. Although we recommend staying away from wild roos. They can box – and kick. In fact, as cute as most of our wildlife seems, beware, many of these creatures pack a punch, so it’s best to see them with trained keepers, rangers and guides.

Tourism Australia has released its 101 ways to holiday in Australia. So, if you’re looking for the ultimate Aussie bucket list, here’s the perfect place for inspiration. We’ve already covered food and wine must-dos, how to get your fix of art and culture and epic experiences.

Today, we continue the countdown and show you how to safely connect with Aussie wildlife.

53. Spot a sleeping koala
Koalas can be found across Australia, but they’re often hard to spot. To guarantee a glimpse, head to one of the many wildlife parks across Australia that allow you to get up close with koalas as they rest in their habitats. To see them in the wild, Australian Wildlife Journeys and Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours offer one-day and multi-day trips in Gippsland and along the Great Ocean Road.

52. Play with a platypus
Queensland’s Mackay region is known for its waterfalls, rainforests and ancient volcanic soils – but you can also dive with the notoriously shy platypus. Dives take place at dawn and dusk when the animals are most active. Look out for turtles, fish and other fascinating underwater life, too. If you’d rather not get wet, then head to Healesville Sanctuary.

Read more: Scuba diving in a rainforest? You can do it!

51. March with tiny penguins
Phillip Island’s iconic Penguin Parade allows visitors to catch a glimpse of the island’s native little penguins as they come back ashore after a day of fishing. Watch the colony of penguins waddle onto the sand from tiered seating, or book a VIP or guided tour for an up-close look with ranger commentary.

50. See tiny turtles hatch
Watching baby turtles hatch and scurry to the sea is a very special bucket list experience. Queensland is a turtle haven, with six out of seven of the world’s sea turtle species calling it home. Each year (between January and March) some Queensland beaches are swarmed by thousands of baby turtles marching their way to the sea, and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service run ranger-guided turtle encounters.

49. Schedule a beach day with a kangaroo
You’ve likely spotted a kangaroo in your lifetime, but have you shared the sand with one? Eastern grey kangaroos at Pebbly Beach in New South Wales love to relax on the beach and don’t mind posing for photographs, either. In Western Australia, head to Lucky Bay to see them lounging on the white sands, and in Queensland, you’re guaranteed to spot them on the beach at Cape Hillsborough.

Read more: A Cape Hillsborough National Park morning is like no other

48. Meet a Tassie devil
If you’re driving around Tasmania, it’s possible to glimpse Tasmanian devils scampering near the roads. But for a guaranteed encounter, head to a wildlife sanctuary where you can observe these endangered animals up close.

47. Contribute to the management of the Great Barrier Reef
With 2300 kilometres (1429 miles) to explore, Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef offers hundreds of experiences – and with an ‘Environmental Management Charge’ built into every ticket price, you can feel good that each experience you book helps protect the long-term outlook of the reef.

46. Cage dive (or not) with sharks
Australia is home to some of the world’s largest great white sharks, and a handful of local cage diving operators offer the chance to safely meet them face to face. If the thought of diving doesn’t appeal, South Australia offers the world’s first aqua sub that lets you see sharks up close without getting wet.

Read more: Swimming with the sharks at Ningaloo

45. Swim with sea lions
Sea lions are some of the most playful underwater animals, so a tour that allows you to swim with them is guaranteed to be unforgettable. Slip into the water and let these inquisitive creatures twirl, dart and blow bubbles nearby. Sea lion encounters are available off the coast of Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia.

44. Smile at a crocodile
Few animals fascinate visitors as much as saltwater crocodiles. These prehistoric creatures grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long and resemble dinosaurs more than any modern-day animal. There are several places to see crocs in the Northern Territory, including a crocodile swimming experience in which you are lowered into the crocodiles’ water in a see-through enclosure.

43. Visit a wildlife sanctuary
Australia’s wildlife parks and sanctuaries play a vital role in conservation efforts for Australia’s native animals, and adding a wildlife experience to your next itinerary is a great way to contribute. Perfect for adults and kids alike, you’ll see everything from kangaroos to crocodiles at Australia’s sanctuaries.

42. Snap the perfect #QuokkaSelfie
Australia is known as the home of some of the world’s cutest animals. But none are more photogenic than the quokkas of Rottnest Island. Quokkas are naturally curious, so you do not need to approach them or offer them food to get close enough for a photograph. Simply get down to their level and wait for them to come to you.

Read more: The three best places to go wildlife spotting in WA

41. Swim with gentle giants
Swimming with whale sharks is one of life’s most breathtaking experiences. Each year between April and July, Ningaloo Marine Park becomes the only place on the planet where whale sharks visit so close to shore and in such large numbers. Join a tour in Exmouth or Coral Bay and pick a boat with its own spotter plane for best results.

40. Wave at a whale
The Australian coastline provides bountiful opportunities to see whales. Between May and November, you can spot southern right whales journeying near South Australia and Victoria, while energetic humpback whales continue north to the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley region. Off the southern coast of Western Australia, you have the chance to see pods of orcas.

What’s your favourite Aussie animal? How often do you connect with wildlife? Why not share your wildlife wanderings with our members in the comments section below?

Article edited from 101 ways to holiday here this year originally published on www.australia.com.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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