The worlds biggest island, Australia, is filled with interesting and rare animal species that can be seen only downunder. Whether on ground, on trees, in the sky or in the sea, there is always something to see or be cautious about. Kangaroos and koalas among spiders are probably the first impression of Australian wildlife. Parks, reserves and sanctuaries are excellent places to have all kinds of animal encounters. Have a peek on what’s inside two parks and what you can easily encounter in the nature too. One thing Australia is apparently good at, is productizing and commercializing. Based on visits in April 2017 during our RTW-journey.

Famous penguin parade in Phillip Island

Cute little penguins wobble ashore after a long day out on the sea. Hundreds of them! Coming in packs of four to ten. Phillip Island just south of Melbourne in the South coast of Australia is an excellent place for seeing wildlife animals in their natural environment. Penguins, koalas, kangaroos and what not. 

We had been trying to see penguins on many occasions in New Zealand just a month before, but with no luck. In New Zealand and Australia there are several beaches to with penguins often return after their days or time at the sea. We just had no luck before. We had heard about Phillip Island being an almost certain place to spot penguins. Litlle had we done our homework before, obviously, since there is definitely a great place called the Penguin Parade to spot penguins and learn about them too! 

As we approached Phillip Island on our roadtrip from Sydney to Melbourne in April 2017, the sun was about to set too. We made an instant decision to drive by the Penguin Parade as it was clearly marked with good attraction signs. Our impression was to just go to the boardwalk for 5-10 minutes to see whether there would be some penguins and to take a couple of nice shots of the sunset. When we approached the Penguin Parade parking lot, we realized that it was something much much bigger than we had thought…

Penguin Parade is a massive information center with many many commercialiced services as well the actual animals, that are being observed and cared for. Other than that to us it seemed a productized show with all kinds or side products for sale. You could buy popcorn, hotdogs and soft drinks and take them to the auditorium like benches and witmess the coming of the penguins with a host guiding you thru what’s happening thru loudspeakers. And of course, there’s a VIP section, where you can get even closer…. 

On one way this seemed way too much to deal with since you can actually see these animals in many places too for free in stead of paying 25AUD for a general viewing ticket. But then on the other hand, this a way the ashore comong of the birds can be done in peace. All the about one thousand people are not wildly running around on the beach scaring and harming the little penguins with their flash cameras wtc. Still, despite strictly forbidden, sadly too many of the crowd still used flash when photographing the birds. And one more, people just don’t see, to have any patience. They leave once they’ve seen one pack of penguins come ashore instead of just sitting still quietly and waiting for the beautiful sight of hundreds of them to come inland to rest! 

Koala cuties in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane

This park was one of the best wildlife animal parks we have ever visited in Australia or anywhere in the world. And despite the name, there’s a lot more to the park than just koalas. Even with koalas it’s plenty. Many say this is pretty much the only park where you see koalas this active! Due to their digesting fromeating only eucalyptus leaves koalas need to sleep a lot to gain energy, that is easily 20 hours a day. So no surprise there if you see a koala sleeping. But in this sanctuary, at least what we saw too, was tens of koalas being active, moving around and eating. And there are koalas in many age groups: kindys for little ones, nursery for the mothers with babies, a retirement spot for the elderly and another for active males. You learn quite much about them and can have actual close encounters.

This sanctuary has many other Australian animal species too. Kangaroos and wallabies in a big field hopping around waiting to be fed and photographed. You can buy kangaroo food from the store and feed them to get that awesome selfie. But you can actually see a lot of kangaroos in the wild too. Obviously they are not tamed, but may come quite close to you, like the ones we had in our cabin yard in Canberra. And unfortunately some you may see on the roadsides not jumping very far anymore. 

Besides koalas and kangaroos, there are for example dingos, Tasmanian Devils, bats, eagles, owls and sheep as well as other farm animals. You can see a sheep herding show and an eagle flight show. There are also platybus, a rare species in the water, a quick swimmer, as well as snakes, lizards, crocodiles and such. Daily programs include such shows but also different animal caretakers tell about their work and the animals they care for. So you can go take a photo with holding a koala (extra charge, not too ethical in my opinion) and go pad a big snake if you dare.

There is a koala park in Phillip Island too, but its much smaller and there are only a few koalas there. Apparently some others too, one in Sydney at least. This one in Brisbane had a family ticket for 85 AUD in April 2017 during our visit.

Sea full of life

Australia is the largest island in the world. I guess you cannot mention Australian water species or sealife without mentioning Great Barrier reef, the world’s largest coral reef. Unfortunately we could not make it to see the reef this time, so I’ll just say it must be a must see and visit place, which we will definitely return to quite soon! Snorkeling (or diving) is on our bucket list for next round, when our junior is a bit older.

Besides the several hundred kilometres long reef you can see and experience quite many other sea animals on the coasts anywhere. Penguins I mentioned already, but otherwise sharks and dolphins can at times be withnessed even on beaches. And whales, well, the Eastern coast line is apparently the place where thousands of whales come every year from June to November to rest, to breed, to nurse and theach their babies. For example humpback whales and killer whales are common near shore all the way from Gold Coast to Phillip Island in the south. 

For those who are not too keen on exploring the wildlife on a boat or getting wet swimming or surfing, Sealife & Underwaterworlds provide drier facilities to explore what’s going on under the surface. All big cities Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) have them. They are great with kids to spend a halfday admiring beautiful and weird looking sea creatures without getting wet yourself. 

Spiders, snakes & lizards

Yes, there are plenty. Venomous and not venomous ones. Big and small. Nasty and cool. Luckily you can’t see them all over, but unfortunately can be spotted even in towns We hear. We saw some smaller ones in just bushes around and withnessed some bigger ones in Sydney Botanic Gardens. And going on those nature trails, even around main attractions you might want to watch your step, look in the bushes and also upwards since some snakes climb the trees. Yes, I’m the one terrified of snakes ans many say they never see any, but others do. You just need to let them be, not bother them and they won’t bother you.

Look up in the sky

For those who come from the Northern countries seeing parrots fly free in the neighbourhoods is a remarkable experience! Cockatoos, galahs, cocaburras and colorful parrots are a daily sight in all of eastern coast. Besides parrots you can easily spot hawks and eagles as well as bats. It’s such a beautiful sight to see a large school of beautiful cackatoos flying over you very close – and not just see them, here them too as they are very loud…

Parks for fun and good cause 

While many of these organized and commercial parks have a purpose of entertaining people, many of them also are built for reserving the species and educating people about the animals. Parks with endangered or dangerous species are a safer way of seing them that close. Unfortunately some seem to have quite high targets for profit making, which immediately is seen in poorer conditions for animals. The same with daytrip organizer agents, who for example take people on excursions to the rare reef – and do not take enough care to inform their customers about how to treat and how not to better reserve to reef. After all its one of a kind and shrinking in size by dying. 

Australia is THE place to visit to see rare animal species. As we spent more than four weeks touring on the East Coast, we saw so many funny, pretty, cool and scary looking animals in wild and in the parks provided. And not just saw, but experienced and learned about them. A very educational and inspirational trip for all of us.