Australia | World Safaris

AUSTRALIA

Australia–the island continent–is a land of extreme contrasts.   From the deserts of the center; to the Great Barrier Reef; to the temperate forests of Tasmania; to the tropical rainforests of northeast Queensland, Australia has much to offer wildlife and nature enthusiasts and photographers.  Being isolated for millions of years, the island’s fauna is dominated by marsupials—primitive mammals that give birth to underdeveloped young that are subsequently reared in a pouch.  It is also home to two of the world’s unique egg-laying mammals—the duck-billed platypus and echidna. World Safaris offers several options for experiencing the natural wonders of this incredible place.  Australia is as large as the continental United States, so seeing everything in one trip is difficult. World Safaris can customize your itinerary to experience as many landmarks and wildlife species as possible.

Tropical Northeast: Brisbane to Daintree National Park and the Great Barrier Reef

World Safaris offers an exciting tour of Queensland, which allows the adventurous traveler to experience the many natural wonders of the tropical northeast. The first stop is the world famous O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat outside of Brisbane.  This is one of the world’s best bird watching destinations, with abundant crimson rosellas, king parrots, regent’s bowerbirds, scrub turkeys, and a wide variety of other avian wonders.  Crimson rosella and king parrots are so tame here that they often land on your shoulders and head.

Nearby Lamington National park is home to paradise riflebirds, green catbirds, Albert’s lyrebirds and many others.  Many marsupials inhabit the region as well, including red-legged and red-necked pademelons, eastern grey kangaroos and whiptail wallabies.

The Great Barrier reef is the world’s largest structure built by living organisms and home to thousands of varieties of marine fish, invertebrates, sea turtles, and seabirds.  Its crystal clear waters are a major attraction for snorkeling and scuba diving. World Safaris’ tour includes a day on Michalmas Cay, where one can spend the day snorkeling among colorful reef dish and corals, giant clams, and viewing numerous seabirds, such as bridled, lesser, black-naped and crested terns, brown boobies and great and least frigatebirds.

Daintree National Park and environs highlight the unique character of the northeastern Australian rainforest, home to a wide variety of birds, including the yellow-breasted sunbird, Macleay’s and graceful honeyeaters, and eastern spinebill.  Fascinating amphibians and reptiles also abound here, such as the giant tree frog and Boyd’s forest dragon.

Subtropical North: Darwin, Fogg Dam and Kakadu National Park

Fogg Dam, located just outside of Darwin in the Northern Territory, is well-known for its wetlands, large lagoons and patches of monsoon forest.  It is home to many bird species, including brolga cranes, purple swamphens, jabiru storks, and jacana.  Kakadu National Park is home to over 280 species of birds, including magpie geese, rainbow bee-eaters, red-collared lorikeets, red-tailed black cockatoos, white ibis, and white-bellied sea eagles.   It is also one of the best places to view the mighty salt water crocodile, as large specimens are found here in abundance.  Kakadu has a long history of human habitation and is the location of some of Australia’s best known examples of Aboriginal rock art.                                 

The Dry Center: Uluru and the Olgas

The vast, dry center of Australia is probably best known for Ayer’s Rock, a huge, ancient precipice rising directly out of the flat desert, and the Olgas, another fantastic rock formation. The area is also home to a wide variety of fauna and flora, including the blue-tongued skink, thorny devil, sand goanna, and red kangaroo.  Walking around Ayers Rock, which is called Uluru by the Aboriginal people, one can see why the formation is sacred to the tribes that inhabited this arid region; each unique feature of the rock is the source of an important origin story.

The Western Coast: Perth, Broome

The city of Perth is the largest on Australia’s west coast. Leaving from Perth, it is possible to visit many areas with abundant wildlife, including the Dryandra Woodlands, Stirling Range, and Cheynes Beach.  The unique bird life here includes regent parrot, elegant parrot, western rosella, Australian owlet nightjar, western whip bird and many others. Mammals include the diminutive honey possum, brown bandicoot, quokka, red kangaroo, western grey kangaroo, and common wallaroo.

The Southern Coast: Flinders Chase National Park on Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island, the second largest island off the coast of Australia, is located almost directly south of Adelaide in South Australia. With nearly one-third of the island set aside as parks and reserves, this location is a veritable hotspot of wildlife viewing. Flinders Chase National Park is a 200,000-acre wilderness.  The island’s diverse landscapes provide habitats for a wide variety of birds, mammals and reptiles, including kangaroos, koalas, echidnas, platypus, goannas, possums, and bandicoots.  At Seal Bay Conservation Area, it is possible to get up close and personal with a colony of rare Australian fur seals. On one end of the island, it is also possible to view Australian sea lions.

Temperate Island: Tasmania

Tasmania, Australia’s island state, lies off the continent’s southeastern coast. Inhabited by giant tree ferns, 100-meter high giant swamp gums, and other incredible plant life, its deep green ancient forests look like they should be home to dinosaurs. However, the current denizens of this landscape include the Tasmanian devil, common wombat, eastern quoll or native cat, and eastern-barred bandicoot.  A visit to Desired locations include Mount Field, Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Parks.  Bruny Island provides an opportunity to view some of Australia’s rarest endemic birds, including the forty-spotted pardalote, black-headed and strong-billed honey eaters, green rosella, and yellow wattlebird.

Conservation Challenges

As on mainland Australia, the native species of Tasmania are experiencing many threats to their continued existence.  Habitat loss and alteration are always a concern. In addition, the Tasmanian devil population is being threatened by a virulent form of facial cancer that is passed through contact.  The Tasmanian devil, made famous by a popular cartoon character, is the largest of the extant carnivorous marsupials.  It gained this distinction following the relatively recent extinction of the Tasmanian wolf due to human persecution.  The recent introduction of the non-native, placental fox is also a great concern, as it can prey on native species and spread disease.

Personal Perspective

I’ve traveled to Australia 18 times and collectively spent over one year of my life there observing and photographing the continent’s unique wildlife and habitats.  I guess you could say that I a bit of an Australo-phile. I’ve been to every corner of the continent save for two places: the north end of the Cape York Peninsula and the Kimberly’s in the northwest.   I’ve always been fascinated by both the incredible natural beauty of this place, its unique history and its friendly people.  I was once walking behind two young Australian school girls in a park in downtown Sydney with some colleagues from the states. The girls, both in their school uniforms,  overheard us talking and one turned to the other and said, “I love their accents.” Funny, I thought they had wonderful accents—growing up in the Midwest, I never thought of myself as having one! Australia is so similar, yet so different.

My experiences with Australian nature and wildlife here have been nothing less than incredible. I learned to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef in 1985, and was able to dive with manta rays and sharks, colorful reef fish, and even fed a tame moray eel in the waters off Heron Island. I have seen many of the continent’s fascinating mammals, birds, amphibians  and reptiles, and learned about Aboriginal culture and art. I’ve hiked on its beaches, and through its deserts, tropical rainforests, temperate forests, wetlands, and dry grasslands.  I look forward to sharing these experiences with adventure travelers through World Safaris’ many travel options into Australia.

 

Michael Hutchins, Ph.D.

Founding Partner/Director, Conservation and Science

World Safaris