Great Ocean Ecolodge, Apollo Bay, Victoria © Visit Victoria
Help preserve the planet with these eco experiences
Enjoy a memorable Australian holiday that will also help to make the world a better place.
By Lee Atkinson
We all know the golden rule about taking only memories and leaving only footprints when we travel, but these unique Australian eco-holidays help you go one step further. Whether your passion is supporting and saving wildlife, or caring for the environment by leaving a place cleaner and greener than it was when you arrived, Australia is bursting with experiences to help preserve the planet while enjoying the best of it.
Support wildlife conservation in Victoria
Where: Conservation Ecology Centre, Cape Otway. A three-hour drive from Melbourne.
A new ecotourism experience at Cape Otway on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Wildlife Wonders is a wildlife centre with a difference. Established and operated by the Conservation Ecology Centre, this social enterprise is dedicated to monitoring, conservation, and restoration projects, with a focus on the local wildlife and fauna of the Otways forest, and creating new careers in conservation. Designed and created by Brian Massey, the landscape designer behind New Zealand’s “Hobbiton”, the visitor experience is a walk on the wild side for a great cause.
The Great Ocean Ecolodge is part of the property, and as a guest you will not only learn about the current projects – studying local quoll populations, for example – but also help out the researchers. Even better, all proceeds go directly to conservation.
- How to experience it: While you’re there, spend time photographing threatened species with a conservation guide, as well as other unique Australian animals including the resident wild koalas, potoroos, kangaroos and bandicoots that roam the 20-hectare (50-acre) predator-free property.
Build a hiking trail in the Northern Territory
Trekking holidays, like the famous Larapinta Trail, are a great way to get back to nature while keeping fit and having fun at the same time. Helping to keep the trail in top shape while you walk ramps up the feel-good factor even higher. Join the Trek Larapinta Volunteer Project and you’ll work alongside park rangers and other land management organisations while maintaining the magnificent Red Centre trail over six days. You don’t need any special skills aside from a love of the great outdoors, with daily tasks ranging from weed control to replacing trail markers and signage, as well as sharing some amazing experiences as you learn about how these ancient places are protected.
It’s not all work though, as you’ll also get to see many of the trail’s most spectacular spots, like Ormiston Gorge, with a wilderness guide. Stay in a private eco-campsite and enjoy meals cooked for you by friendly camp hosts. This is a holiday where you really will be leaving nothing but positive change.
- How to experience it: The Larapinta Trail requires a moderate level of fitness. Be prepared by exercising three to four times a week for several months before your trip.
Save bilbies in your sleep in New South Wales
Where: Taronga Zoo Sydney, Sydney Harbour.
You’ll be helping to save more than the cute long-eared marsupials known as bilbies when you treat yourself – or your family – to a wild luxury escape at Taronga Zoo Sydney's Wildlife Retreat. Proceeds from every stay support Taronga’s ongoing work caring for animals within its two zoos (Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo), as well as through conservation programs around the world. Choose from lavish rooms overlooking the harbour or the Australian native wildlife sanctuary where you can watch koalas right outside your window. Or, opt for a treetop suite.
Packages include guided tours with zookeepers, three-course dinners at the onsite restaurant, and exclusive access to the sanctuary where you’ll see – and meet – koalas, echidnas, wallabies and platypus'. Plus, there’s two days’ complimentary access to Taronga Zoo Sydney. It’s the ultimate way to relax and recharge in style while contributing to conservation on a global scale.
- How to experience it: Rise early and join the Daybreak Walk to see the zoo's furry friends wake up to a spectacular harbour sunrise.
Eradicate invasive weeds on Norfolk Island
Where: Norfolk Island, an Australian External Territory.
With its small size and remote location, sustainability is essential to maintaining the health and beauty of Norfolk Island, and its importance is palpable when you visit. All waste that enters the island must leave the island, and most locals grow their own produce and share their bounty with neighbours. They are also extremely passionate about protecting and preserving this natural wonder – and you can help.
Join in a real community-led initiative by helping to eradicate invasive weeds from Hundred Acres Reserve. In rain, hail or shine, the group works methodically, selecting an area of the reserve each week in which to concentrate their efforts. You can choose to be a Cliff Hanger (comfortable on slopes) or a Flat Earther (prefer to stick to even terrain) as you spend a few hours helping to protect the biodiversity of the island.
- How to experience it: No experience is required. Just head to Hundred Acres Reserve on Wednesday morning (between 9am and 12:30pm) and you’ll find the friendly group set up at a picnic table. They'll show you which plants to pull and chat to you about life on the island, biodiversity and native wildlife. Your hard work is rewarded with morning tea and a lovely chat with this dedicated group of nature lovers.