19 Unusual Animal Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss On Your Big Lap

by Meri Gasem

The Big Lap will lead you to the doorstep of Australia’s unique wildlife. Forget zoos and blend into the natural habitat of wallabies, cuddle koalas, spot some baby Tasmanian devils, and smile with the adorable quokkas! Once you dip your feet in the water, you’re a step closer to spotting platypi and swimming with manta rays or seals.

Whether you’re travelling with kids or not, animal encounters are always exciting; some are heartwarming, while others can be adrenaline-spiking (think crocodiles and sharks!)

Here are the exceptional animal experiences you can’t afford to miss on your Big Lap!

1. Wave At The Penguin Parade, Philip Island

Philip Island is home to over 32,000 penguins. Every day of the year, at sunset, you get the chance to see the resident penguins waddle their way at Summerland Beach. Take a snack, settle somewhere along the free access area at Nobbies Centre, and follow the birds coming from the sea, waddling through the beach to their nests. Remember to respect the animals’ space; even if they happen to come close to you, don’t touch them.


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2. Finding Nemo At The Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Dive off the east coast of Queensland to admire one of the best snorkelling spots on the planet. Find Nemo in the crystal clear water with perfect visibility. You can come centimetres away from green turtles, manta rays, dugongs, whale sharks, blue-ringed octopus, peacock mantis shrimp, and weedy sea dragons.


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3. See Sea Lions, Kangaroo Island

Visit the funny, clumsy and adorable sea lions on Kangaroo Island’s beaches. The colony has lived on Seal Bay for thousands of years and roam free all around the bay. No enclosures or cages are keeping these endemic animals imprisoned. You can take a self-guided tour on the boardwalk and enjoy the sounds and sight of the majestic animals flapping through the sand.


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4. Swim With Whale Sharks, Ningaloo Reef

Are you a great swimmer keen on adrenaline sports? Ningaloo Reef has something special for you. Every year from the middle of March until September, you can swim with whale sharks! One of the best adventures you can go on in Western Australia, and a remarkable experience to tell over and over again. A spotter plane locates the closest shark; all you have to do is get in the water and go for a swim with your shark pal! No worries, safety is at the highest level.


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5. Walk With Koalas, Raymond Island

The Koala Walk is an easy trail on Raymond Island that gets you close to the natural habitat of these fluff balls. Try to take the free ferry in the morning when the koalas are awakening and on the lookout for their eucalyptus breakfast. They’ll be climbing up and down different trees. In the afternoon, they’re full and resting on the trees. You’ll easily spot over 20 koalas! They seamlessly blend into the forest, but if you look harder, you’ll spot a bunch.


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6. Adopt A Koala, Port Macquarie

The bushfires terribly affected the natural habitat of thousands of koalas, and many of them were seriously injured. The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie took great care of the wounded fur pals and took on a wild breeding program to make up for the lost lives. You can learn how to help these animals, volunteer, plant trees, or just let them know when you spot an injured koala in the wilderness. You can visit the hospital for free, but a donation is greatly appreciated. The most exciting part is that you can actively contribute to the koala population by adopting one for just $40 a year!


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7. Look For Smiling Quokkas, Rottnest Island

Approximately 10,000 Quokkas are inhabiting Rottnest Island, and you can see them everywhere. To learn more about them, you can take a “Meet the Quokkas” free tour. Don’t let their adorable beaming smiles fool you – they’re still wild animals. So please don’t feed them, don’t touch them, pick up your rubbish and be careful when driving on the island.


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8. Wade With Platypi, Healesville

Platypi are extremely hard to spot in the wilderness, so the Healesville Sanctuary is the perfect, ethical place to get close to this cartoon-looking animal. It’s the world’s first sanctuary to breed platypi in captivity to fight extinction. You can wade with the platypi, hold them, and feel their softness. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the whole family!

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9. Wombats Encounters, Kangaroo Valley

Contrary to what the name tells you, Kangaroo Valley is the place to see wombats in the wild. Spotting a wild animal in its natural habitat is always more exciting than a zoo or park. The best place in the valley is the Bendeela Camping and Picnic Area. The wombat is a nocturnal animal, but here you can see them roaming around during the day! Please don’t disturb them; admire them from afar.


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10. Follow The Turtles, Mon Repos Turtle Centre

Mon Repos is unique in what it offers – seasonal loggerhead nesting and hatching tours. Depending on the season you visit, you can see turtles early in the night laying eggs or hatching and shuffling their way to the water. The largest concentration of nesting marine turtles and the endangered loggerhead turtle reside here. You can get educated on marine turtle research and protection. Very dedicated volunteers run the centre.

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11. Dive With The Saltwater Crocodile, Darwin City

Are you in need of an adrenaline rush? Spend 15 minutes with a 5-metre long predator, the saltwater crocodile. The Cage Of Death in Crocosaurus Cove is the home of Wendell, Axel, Leo, William and Kate (yes, like the royals!). It’s an activity not recommended for the faint of heart but a mesmerizing experience. It’s hopefully the only way you’ll be that close to a deadly animal. If you’re not that brave, go through the see-through tunnel to see the crocs or join the staff feeding the juvenile crocs.

Read Next: Every Free Camp You Need To Know About In Northern Territory


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12. Ride Or Walk A Camel, Beltana Station

You don’t have to travel to another continent to experience scenic camel rides – Camel Treks Australia offers you the best experience. You get to ride or walk rescued, well looked after camels, learn a lot from the cameleers and have fun! If you want a trip of a lifetime, get away from the concrete jungle and try the extended 4 or 5-day treks. Explore Beltana Station, learn how to brush, lead and saddle the camels, and sleep under the stars.


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13. Track Tasmanian Devils, Taranna

The Tasmanian Devil faces extinction; there are less than 25,000 left in the wild. Visiting the Unzoo in Taranna will give you a better insight into what they’re doing to protect the remainder of the devils. A Devil Tracker Tour is a 4WD adventure through the Tasmanian forest to the hidden cameras that monitor Tasmanian Devils’ activity. Their role is essential in saving the last isolated, natural population of disease-free wild Tasmanian devils on the planet.


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14. Feed The Dolphins, Tangalooma

The Tangalooma Island Resort practices a strict Dolphin Care Program where you can attend at feeding the dolphins, learn about their behaviour and learn how to distinguish them. The resort provides only 20% of their daily food needs, so there’s no danger disturbing their natural routine. The members of two bottlenose dolphin families visit the shore each day at sunset. It’s an excellent experience for the kids to meet the flippered buddies!


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15. Swim With Manta Rays, Coral Bay

Did you know that Manta is a Spanish word for a blanket? Get closer to these blanket-resembling water animals at the Ningaloo Reef. You can meet the coastal and oceanic kind, and they can grow up to 7 metres in length! Ningaloo Marine Interactions offer you the opportunity to snorkel with Manta Rays without disturbing their habitat. They use a spotter plane to find the best Manta Rays. The animals are entirely harmless, although they have a mesmerising 4-metre wingspan. An experience of a lifetime!


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16. Jumping Crocodile Cruise, Adelaide River

Get your heart pumping from the sight of at least one 5-metre long crocodile jumping at your boat for food! The Adelaide River Cruise takes you through the residence of crocodiles. You’ll spot many crocs and birds escaping their vile jaws! The staff is very knowledgeable, so you’ll learn valuable information about the majestic predators. An hour from your Big Lap worth spending here!


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17. Wallabies Are Waiting, Wilpena Pound

Spot the yellow-footed rock wallaby in the wild at the Wilpena Pound Resort in Flinders Ranges National Park. You can see this member of the kangaroo clan resting in the Wilpena Pound, a vast natural amphitheatre. These animals are near threatened, so now is an excellent time to try and spot them in the wild!


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18. Celebrity Echidnas, Brighton

Meet Randall and Luigi, the echidnas living their best life at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. You can spend 10 minutes up close and personal with them, feed them and learn about their behaviour. Once you’re past the echidnas, take a look at the sugar gliders or join the staff in serving their snacks! A real behind the scenes experience.


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19. Don’t Forget The Kangaroos, Pebbly Beach

Pebbly Beach is part of the Murramarang National Park and a real kangaroo hotspot. Wherever you can spot a grassy patch, a kangaroo is lying in it! The best time to spot them at the scene is early morning or in the evening. They love jumping through the sand. Keep in mind this is their home, and you’re just a visitor, so don’t disturb them.

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