It’s one thing to see wildlife in a nature park; quite another to encounter it in the wild. Check out some of Australia and New Zealand’s best wildlife experiences.
Valley of 1,000 Kangaroos, ACT
Best for spotting: Eastern grey kangaroos by the hundreds
As any Aussie hosting an international visitor knows, the myth of a land literally heaving with kangaroos can be difficult to substantiate but the Valley of the Kangaroos in the ACT truly lives up to its moniker. Visitors to this secluded valley, less than an hour’s drive from Parliament House, will find themselves under the curious gaze of hundreds of Eastern grey kangaroos. Take the 3km Birrigai Time Trail to Yankee Hat rock shelter, one of the best examples of Aboriginal rock art in the ACT.
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Corroboree Billabong, NT
Best for spotting: saltwater crocodiles
There’s a catch 22 when it comes to spotting crocodiles: most people want to see them but not at the expense of losing a limb. About 1.5 hour’s drive from Darwin, on the way to Kakadu, lies the perfect opportunity to spot crocs safely. Corroboree Billabong is home to the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world. Cruises around its muddy expanse during the dry season, May to November, allow you to watch the creatures swimming or resting on the riverbank from the safe confines of a croc-proofed boat.
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Otago Peninsula, New Zealand
Best for spotting: yellow-eyed penguins
The world’s rarest penguins are treated with the respect they deserve on the Otago Peninsula headland. This working sheep farm doubles as a conservation area and is home to more than 60 breeding pairs of yellow-eyed penguins. Odds are you’ll encounter seals, cormorants and other penguins as well on this well-regarded wildlife-watching experience. But owner, Perry Reid, makes no guarantees on nature’s behalf: “It’s not a zoo,” he reminds us. “The animals move to their own beat.”
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Bruny Island, TAS
Best for spotting: Australian fur seals and marine life
About 600 humans live on Tasmania’s Bruny Island, but most visitors are more interested in spending time with the residents of the surrounding waters: seals (Australian and New Zealand varieties), two species of dolphin and whales (Southern Right, humpback, and the less common orca). An easy day trip from Hobart, Bruny Island’s long checklist of wildlife extends from sea to sky: the area shelters a significant population of native seabirds, from albatross to eagles.
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Mackay Hinterland, QLD
Best for spotting: platypus
Few Australians will ever see a platypus in the wild: these elusive marsupials are found only in selected areas. Broken River, in Eungella National Park, about 80km from Mackay, is one of the best locations in Australia for spotting platypus. Viewing platforms make the wait more comfortable but the key to success is timing and patience: go early in the morning or around sunset, and make the commitment to sit and wait. Platypus are such captivating creatures that when you do succeed, the memory will stay with you for years.
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