The huge variety of animals, plants and elements of nature that can kill or hurt you in Australia is almost comical. Actually, it IS comical:
“Australians are very unfair in this way. They spend half of any conversation insisting that the country’s dangers are vastly overrated and that there’s nothing to worry about, and the other half telling you how six months ago their Uncle Bob was driving to Mudgee when a tiger snake slid out from under the dashboard and bit him on the groin, but that it’s okay now because he’s off the life support machine and they’ve discovered he can communicate with eye blinks.” – from In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
I knew about all the dangers of Australian wildlife before I came here. What I didn’t know or realize before arriving was how absolutely extraordinary all the wildlife is in Australia, and how regularly I’d get to experience it up close.
One of the first things I noticed was the birds. They are stunning. Looking up and seeing a flock of beautiful Magpies or Galahs in flight above you makes you realize right away that the wildlife in Australia is special. It was amazing to look over and see a Kookaburra sitting on a picnic table in our campsite in Fraser Island. And when we went to a cattle station one morning to help feed the animals, I saw several Rainbow Lorikeets sneak up after the feeding was over to snack on the leftover breadcrumbs. I’ve never seen birds that beautiful and colorful outside of a zoo or pet shop.
It was incredible to see five Wedge-tailed Eagles on the side of the road in the outback, and then to see two more take flight during the next day’s drive.
(I should note also that a bird took a gigantic shit on my head about 10 seconds after I stepped off the bus in William Creek, but even that did not dampen my appreciation for Australia’s birds.)
When you think of animals in Australia, Kangaroos are the first thing to come to mind. I had no idea how many wild kangaroos I’d actually see though. I saw Grey Kangaroos. Red Kangaroos. Albino Kangaroos. A joey at a Kangaroo rescue center. I ate Kangaroo. (Many times.) By the end of the trip you could say “There’s a Kangaroo” and no one would turn their head. But they are such cool and unique animals, and it’s awesome to see so many of them in the wild. Here are the first two wild ones I saw:
I went almost the entire trip without seeing a Koala in the wild, but then, on my second to last day in Australia, just under the buzzer, I got to see two. Here’s the one that was actually awake at the time:
But I think my heart belongs to the Wallabies. They are so ridiculously cute. One of my favorite experiences was in Alice Springs – they come down from a huge rock wall in the evening near the hotel we stayed at, and you can feed them. If you sit quietly they will hop over and timidly eat from your hand. It’s one of the coolest things ever.
Most of the camels I saw on the trip were on farms, but we did see a few in the wild. I didn’t even know there were camels in Australia. They are not indigenous to Australia, but now there are more camels in Australia than in Saudi Arabia. (I ate a camel burger too.)
The amazingness of snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef will need its own post, but I can’t write about the wildlife in Australia without mentioning the reef. I saw thousands of fish, and swam with Sea Turtles. I loved everything about snorkeling the reef, and it was my favorite part of coming to Australia. Here’s one of the many Parrot Fish I got to see.
Dingos! I saw plenty of wild Dingos, most of them on Fraser Island, where the purest strain of Dingo is found. Here’s a Dingo on the beach:
I also met an amazing tamed Dingo named Bert in William Creek. They keep him very well fed, and he helps to keep other, wild Dingos away from the town.
And then there were the reptiles. We saw a 3 meter red-bellied black snake in the rainforest, right at the start of our hike. I saw Goannas while hiking in the Whitsundays. Tons of Water Dragons, they hung out all over our hostel at Byron Bay:
While driving through the outback, our guide Brett spotted a Horned Devil and pulled over so we could all have a look. It was, hands down, the coolest and most unusual animal I saw on the trip:
Flies. Australians don’t mention the flies in the outback. Maybe because most of them don’t live or go there much, but I think you should be warned about them before getting on a flight to the outback. They are unreal. There appears to be billions of them, and they circle around you trying to go up your nose, into your eyeball sockets, your eardrums, and – if they are very lucky, right into your mouth. We all bought fly nets, but the relief that sunset brought (they are only active sunrise to sunset) usually outweighed the beauty of the actual sunset. Here are a few photos of flies camped out on us during the hike around the base of Uluru.
And then there’s whatever this thing is:
I really have no idea what that is, but it looks like it stole Liza Minnelli’s eyelashes. It was just hanging out near the Great Ocean Road. Australian wildlife is amazing, and full of weird surprises. I’ll rather miss it.