Yet most people never get beyond Taronga Park Zoo to see them. While it is a beautiful zoo, with one of the best views around, a zoo isn’t the same as seeing animals in their natural settings. After all, you can see them equally as well in London Zoo or Beijing Zoo as you can at Sydney zoo.
There are also a number of wildlife parks where you can get in amongst and feed kangaroos and cuddle koalas. Despite a previous Tourism Minister’s opinion, it really is an amazing feeling. When my kids were younger I used to take them to Waratah National Park, the home of Skippy of TV fame and they loved it. Waratah Park has been closed for a while now, but there are other places around the country where you can still cuddle a koala.
But the absolute best way to see Australia’s amazing animals is in their natural setting, while out camping. I can’t count the number of times I’ve got up early in the morning, coaxed the fire back into life to brew a cup of coffee, and sat there watching kangaroos feeding very near the tent.
And not just early morning. My favourite camping spot is probably in Kinchega National Park on the Darling River at Menindee. I camped there with a friend, beside the river with our very own private beach. We swam during the day, then at dusk kangaroos came down to the river to drink as we sat there with a glass of wine watching. In the morning I stepped out of the tent and there were three fox cubs playing on the beach. They are ferals, but still beautiful to watch. Of course, that’s also where we saw an eastern brown snake, but we won’t go into that!
During the heat of the day kangaroos tend to relax in the shade, but you’ll still see emus. I’ve seen large flocks of emus in both outback NSW and Queensland. Once you get out near Cobar way they are everywhere, and on the Isisford to Ilfracombe road (the backway from Blackall to Longreach) we saw a family of dad and chicks. Generally emus run away when you come near, but this time we stopped and watched them for a while as they ambled along right beside the road.
Then there are the birds. Parrots, cockatoos, galahs. My favourites have been a flock of red tailed black cockatoos on the Darling River at Wilcannia, NSW and Major Mitchell Cockatoos near the Barcoo River between Jundah and Quilpie in outback Queensland.
Surprisingly, on my last trip to Uluru we saw almost no animals in the Northern Territory – except for that one Black Footed Rock Wallaby at Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Apart from that, it was almost like there was a fence along the border with Queensland that stopped them, but as soon as we got back into Queensland there they were again. As if to prove a point there was a roo standing right on the Queensland side of the border.
But you don’t need to go right out into the outback to see Australian animals. At our farm on the weekend we saw wallabies, an echidna, and lots of wombats – including two fighting over territory. And on the drive through the Southern Highlands in NSW there are always kangaroos in paddocks by the road.
It’s not hard to see animals in their natural setting in Australia, but you do have to get out of the city and away from resorts. I have seen just about everything – except koalas – on my various camping trips and they can sometimes get quite close to you.