Australia is well known for its stunning scenery, beautiful coastline and fine food and wine but also for its varied and unique wildlife. Most travellers down under are seeking an encounter with a Kangaroo or a Koala but beyond the zoos and wildlife parks but don’t actually know where to find them. Of course, there are plenty of areas in the south where all you have to do is sit out the front of your bush lodge and you’ll find a whole field of Kangaroos grazing in front of you. But where are these lodges and what about the more unique wildlife such as platypus, wombats, echidnas and bandicoots that you hear about? At Turquoise we know the specialist guides to show you where to find these unique animals – locals who’ve devoted their lives to seeking and showing visitors the best of their backyard.
Here are our top five wildlife guides, what makes them special, where they will take you and where can you stay to experience these encounters…
1 – Kangaroo Island
Where: It makes sense to explore Australia’s unspoiled and wonderfully wild ‘Nature Island’ with the local experts. The fascinating eco wonder world of Kangaroo Island (or KI as it is known locally) is only a short 30 minute scenic flight from Adelaide – and yet, its wealth of wildlife, diverse eco-systems and varied landscapes – including beautiful beaches, hidden coves and rugged cliffs – seem a world away from mainland Australia. With the absence of introduced species such as rabbits and foxes, the wildlife thrives. If you want to see koalas, kangaroos, echidnas, sea lions and platypuses in their native habitat – then this is the place to do it. But take note, if you set off on a ‘do-it-yourself’ self-drive tour, the chances are that you will miss much of what the island has to offer.
Who: Only a local naturalist guide can take on a detour ‘well-off–the-beaten tourist track’ to show you wild koalas perched in the branches of the manna gum trees. Since 1986, Craig Wickham, founder of ‘Exceptional Kangaroo Island’, has been creating very special experiences for small groups and private individuals which focus on the island’s wildlife, natural history and heritage. His small team of dedicated, outdoor enthusiasts combine the roles of naturalist, historian, driver, guide and storyteller – to offer a fascinating and very unique insight into island life. Come lunchtime, these same guides become expert chefs – and will conjure up a fabulous barbecue whilst you enjoy a glass of chilled South Australian wine. This is definitely a place to savour and two days is our recommended minimum.
Stay: Exceptional Kangaroo Island also provide guiding for Southern Ocean Lodge, one of Australia’s top lodges, for its stunning setting with uninterrupted ocean views. It is our top choice for any visitors to Kangaroo Island and is well worth the cost. We can also arrange tours with Craig staying in local homestays.
Where: One third of Tasmania’s land mass is national park and UNESCO world heritage wilderness, providing an extraordinary diverse habitat for an abundance of native wildlife. The state boasts a mix of ancient temperate rainforests, spectacular coastlines, rugged mountains and sparkling highland lakes provide refuge and habitat for a rich array of rare and endemic plants and animals. Tasmania is renowned as a prime spot for marsupials including quolls, bandicoots, bettongs, potoroos, kangaroos, wallabies, pademelons and wombats.
Who: Born and bred in the bush there is simply no-one better to introduce you to Australia’s beautiful ‘Natural State’ than Craig Williams – a larger than life character who has an undying passion for the ‘Tasmanian Bush’ – along with the wildlife found in it. Craig has a unique and unusual affinity with wildlife and after a few days spent with him, you will return all the wiser, having listened to the wealth of ‘bush knowledge’ which he so enthusiastically shares with all who travel with him. Craig and his wife, Janine, established ‘Pepper Bush Adventures’ over 15 years ago, to provide visitors with a real ‘hands on’ bush and wildlife experience. Based in Scottsdale in north-east Tasmania, Craig has access to over 200,000 acres of private land, lakes and rivers. He will take you off-road in a 4WD to meet Tasmania’s bush characters – wombat, wallaby, platypus and quoll spotting all comes very naturally to him, as does being a ‘Bush Chef’! Craig will take you to a secluded mountaintop, his ‘kitchen in the clouds’, where he will ‘tantalise your taste buds’. Enjoy such dishes as succulent glazed tenderloins of wallaby with native pepper berry and port sauce – complemented, of course, with Tasmania’s award-winning cool climate boutique wines – and served up with nature.
Stay: Turquoise Holidays can incorporate a day with Craig into a self-drive itinerary around Tasmania. An ideal self-drive destination, perfect for exploring with some charming unique accommodation options. Amongst our favourites are Henry Jones Art Hotel, Cradle Mountain Lodge and the luxurious Saffire Freycinet.
Discover the highlights of Tasmania on our wildlife and wilderness self-drive here.
3 –Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Where: A few hours’ drive north of Adelaide, the Flinders Ranges, famed for their rugged mountain ranges, offer the perfect conditions to host a huge diversity of wildlife and plant life, with about 1,200 species of plants and nearly 300 species of birds recorded within the ranges. The ranges are one of the best locations in Australia to see Macropods due to the year-round pockets of water and limited population of Dingoes. The largest living marsupial, the Red Kangaroo, is in very healthy populations, as are Western Grey Kangaroos and Common Wallaroos. They are also famous for hosting Australia’s largest population of the endangered Yellow-footed Rock Wallaby with Brachina Gorge providing guaranteed sightings of this incredibly rare and beautifully decorated species.
Who: Under the leadership of founder Charlie Carlow, Arkaba Station implemented a program to remove sheep from grazing the region. By the year 2013, all sheep had been removed from the 60,000-acre property and Arkaba was officially developed into a wildlife conservancy. The team at Arkaba all have a background and interest in ecology and bring their enthusiasm to showing guests the region. They will showcase the region and guests can take part in tracking and identifying species.
Stay: Arkaba is a charming homestead stay and one of the Luxury Lodges of Australia. It is one of the most picturesque outback stations in Australia. Wild Bush Luxury bought the property in 2009 with the African safari model in mind, to blend tourism and conservation in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Turquoise can build a stay at Arkaba into a bespoke holiday itinerary to Australia. Click here for inspiration.
4 – Whale Shark Swim, Exmouth, Western Australia
Where: Located off the coast of Western Australia the Ningaloo Reef is home to a myriad of marine species including one of the rarest, and largest fish ever found, the Whale Shark. Up to 18 meters in length, Ningaloo is one of the few places in the world where visitors can swim with Whale Sharks from March to August, when the plankton rich waters draw them close to the reef in search of food. Humpback Whales are also in abundance, with over thirty thousand whales migrating to the area. Calving & resting whales take advantage of sheltered warm waters in their masses with Humpback swims occurring from August to late October.
Who: Debbie and Mark Fergason, owners of Exmouth Dive & Whalesharks Ningaloo, have been involved in taking eco-tours around Western Australia for over 20 years. Fuelled by their passion for the ocean, above & below the surface, the couple have travelled the world, enjoying the wildlife and marine life on every continent. But it was the unparalleled megafauna congregations found across Ningaloo that convinced them to call the area home.
Stay: Turquoise can include this once in a lifetime experience in a tailored holiday to Australia. Accommodation choice in this remote region is limited to the four stay Manta Rays resort in Exmouth or the unique luxury tented camp Sal Salis.
5 – Arnhemland and Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Where: Kakadu National Park is World Heritage listed – renowned for its wetlands abundant with wildlife, its rock art sites, diverse ecosystems and amazing floodplains with stunning waterlily-covered billabongs. Aboriginal Arnhemland is a special and mystical place – almost exclusively owned by Aboriginal people – and acclaimed for its ancient rock art which goes back 50,000 years.
Who: Sab Lord is one of the most knowledgeable guides in the Kakadu and Arnhemland region. Sab’s father, John, was a pioneer of Kakadu, prior to it becoming a National Park. Sab grew up in this area (his parents first travelled to the Northern Territory in 1959 to establish a successful buffalo and crocodile hunting operation on a station near the South Alligator River) and as a result, he is fortunate to share a mutual respect with the local Aboriginals. It is this respect which has been instrumental in him gaining sole access to some exceptional regions of Arnhemland. On a personalised 4WD safari with Sab, you will have the opportunity to visit ancient rock art sites, bush walk through what he describes as ‘some of the last unspoilt country’ in Australia, swim in pristine pools and waterfalls, visit a working cattle station, cruise a billabong teeming with wildlife – and even see saltwater crocodiles. To have the opportunity to visit these unique regions of Australia is a privilege in itself, but to explore with Sab as your guide is an experience which you will almost certainly never forget.
Stay: Sab can create an itinerary camping out in remote areas of the region but he also works very closely with Bamurru Plains, a wilderness camp located just off the highway to Kakadu National Park on the Mary River Wetlands. A trip with Sab usually includes a stay here.