Australia is a huge yet isolated continent filled with some of the most unique animals, birds, and other wildlife in the world. Squirrels, rabbits, deer, and foxes are not native to Australia – instead, you’ll find the spiky echidna, the duck-billed platypus, and the howling dingo. Australia has many nature reserves to protect these native species, but you can still spot them in the wild with some effort and luck!
A trip to Australia would not be complete without seeing a kangaroo. One of the easier of Australia’s animals to spot in the wild, you can find the kangaroo outside cities in most of Australia. One of many marsupials on the continent, kangaroos are the only large animals that move by hopping. Kangaroos can hop as far as 15 feet in a single leap and can travel as fast as 30 mph. A great spot to see wild kangaroos is Murramarang National Park, four hours north of Sydney.
Neither a porcupine nor a hedgehog, this spiny-backed monotreme is an egg-laying mammal, one of only two in the world (the other is the platypus). It is found in all Australian climates, from deserts to mountains, and primarily eats ants and termites. While the easiest way to see an echidna is to look at the back of a five cent Australian coin, the elusive echidna is most likely to be seen at dusk or dawn (when temperatures are not quite as high) and when they are out looking for a mate at the beginning of the winter breeding season. Look under the brush or jutting rocks for the signature spikes.
Found in much of Australia outside of metropolitan areas, dingoes hunt in packs or solo for rabbits, rodents, birds, and lizards. While dingoes are not endangered, they have been interbreeding with other dog breeds, and the pure genetic strain is therefore becoming compromised. Dingoes are active at night, so you might be able to spot some on a night tour on Fraser Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
Australia’s other famous animal is the cute and cuddly koala. Another marsupial, koalas are found in the east and southeastern regions of Australia. Koalas spend up to 18 hours a day curled up in a tree sleeping and are most active at night. Speed limits often decrease at night to avoid collisions with Australia’s active nightlife, particularly koalas. When they’re not sleeping, koalas spend their time eating eucalyptus leaves. While there are many incredible koala sanctuaries, you might be able to see some wild koalas off Great Ocean Road, about three hours west of Melbourne.
One of nature’s most unusual creatures, platypuses (not platypi as they are sometimes called!) have a tail like a beaver, a bill like a duck, and the furry body of an otter. Platypuses are small, averaging just 15 inches from bill to bottom. They are carnivores, and male platypuses are venomous, though their venom is not lethal to humans. Spotting a platypus is not an easy feat, even though they are found all along the east coast of Australia and Tasmania. A famous place to spot them is in Eungella National Park in Queensland, one hour west of Mackay.
The famed Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil was pretty spot on! When threatened or attacking an animal, the Tasmanian Devil often flies into a maniacal rage, and some say it has one of the most powerful bites for its size. The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial. Unfortunately, the population has been plummeting due to a cancerous disease called devil facial tumor disease. Efforts are underway to protect the wild population while breeding in captivity. While there are Tasmanian Devil sanctuaries, you might be able to spot them in the wild on a night tour about an hour south of Devonport, Tasmania.
A relative of the kangaroo, wallabies are another marsupial that are notably smaller. While some wallabies can reach six feet tall, most remain the size of a small to medium animal. Wallabies are found throughout the country but are less prevalent than their famous relatives. You might be able to spot a wallaby on Phillip Island in southern Victoria, an hour south of Melbourne.
Another marsupial, wombats are found in southeastern coastal Australia. Wombats live in burrows, and their colonies often have extensive tunnel systems. These nocturnal creatures feed on grasses, roots, and bark, and they are considered a nuisance by ranchers and farmers. With some luck, you might be able to spot some feeding wombats at dusk at Wilsons Promontory National Park, two hours south of Melbourne.
Also known as a thorny dragon, these spiky lizards are found in the desert areas of Australia in the central and western Outback. Thorny devils feast on ants and, despite living in desert climates, don’t particularly care for extreme hot or cold, making them most active in the fall and spring. They can change color based on temperature or if they feel threatened, and they have a false head, allowing them to tuck away their real head between their forelegs and leave their false head in the place of their real head. On long drives through the Outback on the way to Uluru, keep an eye out for thorny devils crossing the road!
Kookaburras are terrestrial tree kingfishers, and often are used as the bird symbol of Australia. The most common kookaburra – the laughing kookaburra – is named as such because its song sounds like echoing human laughter. Kookaburras are carnivorous, eating insects, mice, and snakes. They are found throughout Australia outside of the deep Outback. The easiest way to spot a kookaburra is to listen for its call first. You might hear one chirping – or laughing – at Airlie Beach in Queensland.
Sharks, Jellyfish, Crocodiles, and Spiders
Australia not only has a reputation for unusual and unique animals, but also animals that could kill you – or at least seriously injure someone unlucky enough to be in their path. While not exclusive to Australia, you can find great white sharks, box jellyfish, saltwater crocs, and deadly spiders in Australia. Encountering these fierce creatures may be a draw for more adventurous visitors. You can swim (in a cage) with great whites off the coast of South Australia, keep your eyes out for box jellyfish off the coast of Cairns, join a croc tour in Darwin to see jumping “salties,” and maybe even stumble upon a Sydney Funnel-Web Spider in its ground-level web near Sydney.
Posted by World Endeavors on March 25, 2016
World Endeavors believes that international travel has the power to change lives, broaden horizons, and deepen intercultural understanding. The world is undergoing rapid changes, with societies becoming more interconnected and environmentally aware; at the same time a more challenging global economy inspires in many a need to reach out and make a positive difference while seeking personal growth opportunities. There has never been a better time than now to travel abroad.