Australia is known for its cute and cuddly wildlife, but did you know you can also get up close and personal to these underwater superstars?
Nearly every traveller to Australia is looking forward to having an incredible wildlife experience and, truth be told, it’s pretty easy to accomplish. Of course you can hand-feed a kangaroo and snuggle a koala - but did you know Australia is also famous for some interesting underwater wildlife encounters? From jumping into the water with a whale shark to watching saltwater crocodiles devour their dinner; whatever you pick, it’s guaranteed to earn you true bragging rights.
Dive into the water with great white sharks
This one is for the thrill seekers. Great white sharks are perhaps the total opposite of cute and cuddly. They can grow up to seven metres (23 feet) and weigh more than 3000 kilograms (6614 pounds) – and Port Lincoln in South Australia is the only place you can cage dive with them in Australia. Calypso Star Charters, Adventure Bay Charters and Rodney Fox Expeditions will put you right in the face of these giant marine animals – but don’t worry, you’ll be protected in a cage purpose-built for diver safety. If you don’t feel like jumping into the water, you can also watch from the safety of the boat or in a glass aqua-sub. For extra scare factor, go at twilight.– the clear waters in this area afford incredible views of these enormous creatures.
Swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef
Every year, large numbers of enormous whale sharks congregate in the coastal waters of Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. It’s the only place on the planet where they are known to reliably visit so close to land. The world’s largest species of fish, growing up to 18 metres (59 feet) long, these gentle giants are breathtaking to behold – swimming alongside them really is an incredible experience. Join a marine tour from Exmouth or Coral Bay from April to July and snorkel alongside these harmless vegetarians. Western Australia's whale sharks share the warm waters with tropical fish, manta rays, turtles, dolphins and whales, and from July to October, you can also swim with migrating humpback whales off Ningaloo Reef.
Swim with sea lions
While cuddling a fuzzy koala will make your heart swell, heading underwater for an afternoon of antics with playful sea lions will have you laughing until your cheeks are sore. Sea lions are naturally friendly and will quite possibly swim right up to you before putting on an aquarobics show – they’re so well known for their antics they’ve earned the nickname, “puppies of the sea”. One of the best places to go swimming with these playful critters is in the clear waters of South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula. Here, they’ll duck, dive and frolic about, even posing for photos before slipping off on their next playdate. Book your tour and be sure to pack an underwater camera.
Head out for a day of whale watching
If getting into the water isn’t necessarily your thing, there are other ways to have an incredible wildlife experience in Australia. Between May and November, you can spot whales from many scenic spots along Australia’s east and west coastlines. Southern right whales journey to the temperate breeding waters off Southern Australia and Victoria, while energetic humpback whales continue north to the Great Barrier Reef and Kimberley, to mate and calve. Coming in summer? You won’t miss out. From February to April you can head down to Bremer Bay in Western Australia to see the gathering of the largest pod of orcas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Smile at a crocodile
Few animals fascinate visitors as much as these prehistoric creatures. Both freshwater and saltwater crocodiles can be found in Australia, but it is the larger species, the saltwater crocodile, that captures the imagination. With their sheer size – they grow up to seven metres (23 feet) long – "salties" resemble dinosaurs more than any other modern-day animal. There are several places to see crocs in Darwin, including a crocodile swimming experience in which you are lowered into the crocodiles' water in a perspex enclosure. If you’re near Cairns, head to Port Douglas for a day at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. You'll see crocodiles leap out of the water to feed, take a wetlands lagoon cruise and visit the crocodile farm where they live in their hundreds.
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