Australia Wildlife Experiences via Home Exchange

Australia is famous for its unique, varied, and sometimes dangerous wildlife. During our five-month trip down under, we have been fortunate to witness an incredible display. We were thrilled to spend time with kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, wombats and all their cuddly marsupial relatives, but we were also blown away by all the animals that we had never heard of before… and you don’t have to go to a zoo or a wildlife sanctuary to see them! Be careful on the road, especially at dawn and dusk – the wildlife warning signs are not just for show. We had several near hits and many mornings there was sad evidence on the road that someone else did hit.

From our Australia home exchanges, we didn’t have to go very far to find something decidedly different. Sometimes, it was right there in our own backyard. We soon learned to expect the unexpected. For example: kangaroos on the golf course, eight-legged multi-colored starfish on a coastal hike, a frisky koala next to a diner parking lot (wide awake in the daytime, which is rare), a big water dragon who likes to lick painted toenails at the zoo, friendly butterflies, an emu kneeling respectfully to Tom, a large monitor lizard below our deck in Queensland, and wallabies on top of mountains.

Sometimes you have to plan a little bit for a sighting with a short road trip or ferry ride. We made special effort if there was a good possibility for wildlife – a wary cassowary at Etty Bay, quirky quokkas at Rottnest Island, and Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. In Freycinet National Park, we took a wonderful day excursion with Wineglass Bay Cruises (we highly recommend them). We saw dolphins, seals, and loads of active sea birds. Most impressive were the huge albatrosses!

Of course, the Great Barrier Reef will amaze you. Whether you see it by glass bottom boat, snorkel trip, or scuba diving, this is a must do. We had a fantastic time on the liveaboard dive boat “Reef Encounter”, which also happens to have a home exchange listing. Kudos to Scubabo for capturing photos of our experience, especially our flirty turtle encounter!

The birds are SO colorful here – and very LOUD – and their birdcalls are completely different from what we are used to at home. Huge flocks of brilliant cockatoos, lorikeets, corellas, galahs, and Kookaburras are heard more often than seen and never failed to make us laugh with their whacky calls!

In keeping with Australia’s reputation for dangerous animals, there are also plenty of creepy crittersbats, snakes, very big lace monitor lizards, large insects, and some scary spiders (but they all stay out of your way…mostly). We were amazed at how big and abundant the bats are. And they climb trees like monkeys – see the video!

There are some Aussie animals that we were never lucky enough to see (platypus) and some that we avoided in the wild (crocodiles – but we saw plenty at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo near Brisbane).

Australia has numerous zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and refuges. We visited a few and all were well done. We especially enjoyed the Caversham wildlife sanctuary near Perth. There, you get lots of animal interaction for one fair admission fee. They have heaps of tame kangaroos and wallabies that you can hand feed. A word of advice here – wait until the end of the day when the sun is low and the temperature comes down – they become much more active and hungry – and the crowds are mostly gone. If you try to interact with a kangaroo in the middle of a hot day, you will likely find them fully reclined and uninterested or completely asleep.

Australia has over 2,000 listings on home exchange. If you love animals, that makes yet another good reason to put Australia high on your bucket list. Bonus: Aussie home exchangers are super friendly!


About the author

Tom & Sheila are Romancing the Globe! Their adventures began when they met on Christmas Eve of 2007, fell crazy in love, and discovered their mutual travel addiction! They’re empty nesters and enjoy home exchanges to interesting corners of the globe (21 so far). Whether it’s weeks abroad or a weekend road trip in the Colorado mountains, they can create a romantic adventure just about anywhere! Preferred activities include water, nature, wildlife, bare boat sailing, relaxing at a beach, snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, golf, outdoor concerts, exploring local culture and festivals, volunteering for nonprofits and finding at least one Christmas ornament for their travel tree. See their stories at and share yours!

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