Here on the east coast of Australia, we are blessed to be able to share our local environment with some pretty amazing animals. Whether it be on land or at sea, animal encounters make memorable family moments. Try these ideas on for size.
Tangalooma is world-renowned as a natural marine playground, but it’s the animals you can meet while standing safely in the shallows that draw the most attention. Every evening at sunset, pods of wild bottlenose dolphins swim up to Tangalooma’s shoreline, expecting treats from the resort’s visitors – and the visitors certainly get a treat in return. If there’s just one thing you try during your stay at Tangalooma, make sure it’s the daily dolphin feeding sessions. Not only will you get to come face-to-face with the playful sea creatures, but you’ll learn a lot about their behaviours, family connections and what the Tangalooma Island Resort Wild Dolphin Feeding Program is doing to ensure their protection.
Sea World is a Queensland landmark, and it’s certainly one of the Gold Coast’s biggest claims to fame. And why wouldn’t it be? On any given day at Sea World, you could be hanging with polar bears, patting stingrays or walking beneath schools of sharks and tropical fish. But perhaps the most unique residents at Sea World are the many varieties of penguins that you can spot diving, swimming and playing in the two exhibits. At the indoor Penguin Encounter, you can see the two of the largest penguin species – the King and the Gentoo penguins – as they frolic in and out of the water. And at Penguin Point, meet the many adorable Little penguins that call Sea World home.
Kayaking at Byron Bay
Kayaking on the open sea is an experience in itself but getting to meet some of the locals makes it even better. With Go Sea Kayaking at Byron Bay, you’ll get to kayak right beside turtles and dolphins in an unforgettable day out on the water. In fact, the Go Sea crew are so confident you’ll get to see at least one dolphin in your kayaking trip, they’ll give you another one for free if you don’t. Not only that, but between June and November you can whale watch from the best spot in Byron – out in the bay itself. Migrating humpback whales could pass right by your kayak, or even swim underneath it.
To get in on the action, head to www.goseakayakbyronbay.com.au
Seal the deal
No trip to the Sunshine Coast is complete without visiting SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast. Right at The Wharf in Mooloolaba, just moments from the main Esplanade, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast is home to thousands of marine and freshwater animals – including sharks, seals, turtles, stingrays, tropical fish and more. Explore 11 animal zones across three levels, including the tidal touch pool, seahorse sanctuary, jellyfish kingdom and the majestic Grey Nurse Sharks in our one-of-a-kind Ocean Tunnel.
SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast also offers intimate, hands-on seal experiences like no other. There are three encounters to choose from including a seal swim (make a splash and go swimming with the seals!), seal encounter (stay dry and meet the seals, including photo opportunities) and even an extended ‘Seal trainer for a day’ experience. Minimum age limits qpply.
June heralds the start of winter here in Australia but it also heralds the official start of the annual whale-watching season. Humpbacks and orcas migrate from the cold waters of the Antarctic up to our more temperate waters to give birth to their young. When their babies grow a bit, they turn around and go back to Antarctic, exiting our waters by about October/November each year.
The whales’ route passes around New Zealand and then up the east coast of Australia with the Gold Coast, Stradbroke Island, Sunshine Coast and Hervey Bay among the key locations to spot a whale. There are many whale watching tours available (too many to list!) or you can try your luck whale spotting from the land. Some of the best vantage points are Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island and Cape Byron Lighthouse in the Cape Byron State Conservation Area. Hot tip: The “Wild about Whales” app will be your whale-watching best friend!