If you love nature and get a kick out of being among wildlife, Australia is the place to be.
AUSTRALIA is huge! In terms of land mass, it’s the sixth largest nation but has only 22 million inhabitants, making the Land Down Under one of the most sparsely populated places in the world.
A whopping 90% of the island-continent is uninhabited, meaning if you have a fear of crowds, this would be a good choice. But more importantly, if you’re into nature, like I am, Australia is definitely the place for you.
A lot of the wildlife here is endemic. Hopping kangaroos, needle-nosed echidnas, and cuddly koalas are just a few examples of animals found in the wild only in Australia.
And with unique species come unique experiences.
Check out Kangaroo Island in South Australia and take a stroll on the beach to catch a glimpse of sea lions. I recommend visiting during the mating season as this allows one to experience all the drama of a Latino soap opera played out in sea lion terms – lumbering males competing for the affections of equally lumbering females. More entertaining than a whole season of reality TV series Jersey Shore.
Want to spot animals in the wild? Head for the rainforests of Queensland, and step lightly while trying to spot the elusive giant chicken-like cassowary – which I succeeded in doing – and try not to get attacked by it – which I didn’t succeed in doing.
And with Australia’s reputation as a home for poisonous species – every single snake species in the continent is venomous – this adds to the adventure of seeking wildlife on your own; it did for me, but I also took solace in knowing that any real danger is an illusion as the chances of receiving a fatal bite in Australia are minuscule, worrying about it is as good as worrying about getting hit by an asteroid.
Even then, if getting out into the wild and doing it on your own isn’t really your thing, don’t sweat, there are lots of wildlife sanctuaries that offer unique experiences with endemic species. Check out legendary Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where the staff have a mandate to get visitors hands-on with any number of animals. While I was there, I walked a wombat and fed an echidna. Not too many other places in the world to check those off your bucket list!
Or if you want to get up-close with koalas, and I know you do because everyone openly or secretly has this urge – visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and watch the cuddly critters hanging out in the trees. Be careful, though, as watching koalas is strangely addictive – most likely because of their extreme cuteness.
Which brings us to the most iconic of Australia’s species, the kangaroo. At all these places you can spot kangaroos, but after you’re in Australia for a day, you’ll soon realise that these jumping marsupials are like convenience stores – they’re basically everywhere, on beaches, in grassy areas even waiting for you in a parking lot to come back from a hike. So, if you’ve got any aspirations to see kangaroos in the wild, come to Australia and make it happen. In some parts of the country, it’s easier to spot kangaroos than people.
When discussing natural experiences in Australia, it’s easy to focus on wildlife, but what becomes immediately apparent when you’re there is how equally beautiful and exceptional the landscape are.
The Blue Mountains, named because of the blue tint the scenery gets from the oil released by the abundance of eucalyptus plants, are home to the stunning rock formations called The Three Sisters. These pillars of rock jutting out from the cliff face and into the rustic forests of New South Wales attract thousands of visitors every year.
If you want an even quirkier scenery, then head on to the Pinnacles Desert in Western Australia. The seabed of a prehistoric ocean, the Pinnacles comprise thousands of phallic rock structures protruding from the sand that will make male visitors check their pants with envy.
Not to be outdone is Victoria, home to the Twelve Apostles, a tremendously striking stretch of craggy cliffs that the ocean has carved into incredible shapes, which are best viewed by skimming the sea in a helicopter.
For pure wild forests and rough rocky scenery, nothing beats Tasmania. It’s easy to take a hike in Freycinet National Park and imagining that you’re the first person to discover this beautiful landscape. It makes it all the more rewarding to make it back to the lodge and kicking back in front of the fireplace at night.
The part I liked best about Australia’s scenic areas and interacting with its unique wildlife is that it’s inexpensive. Admission fees to wildlife sanctuaries and national parks are affordable and provide experiences that can’t be had anywhere else, and won’t soon be forgotten. As they say, the best things in life are free, or at least, easily affordable.
> Catch Jason Down Under (rerun) next Thursday at 11.30pm, exclusively on Life Inspired (Astro B.yond Ch728). To plan an incredible trip to Australia, check out www.australia.com to get started!