Australia as a whole is renowned for its wildlife. In fact, ticking off some native animal sightings is usually top of the list for visitors travelling from the UK. And if you head to Far North Queensland, at the top tip of the land Down Under, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
The tropical climate here attracts everyone and everything, so when I recently spent a week exploring this wild region – flanked by rainbow corals on one side and emerald rainforest on the other – I saw more animals than I could even begin to count. Here are nine of the most memorable:
A fairly obvious one, but Kangaroos are undoubtedly the icons of Aussie wildlife. Picture a green Queensland landscape, beach setting or the dusty plains of the outback and most people will visualise a kangaroo or two in there as well. We saw plenty while up at Kuranda, as well as in the wild when we were hot-air ballooning over the misty Atherton Tablelands and Mareeba.
You won’t find koalas in the wild in Queensland’s Wet Tropics, but you can see them at various wildlife parks and sanctuaries. Better yet, Queensland is the only state in Australia where you can still hug a koala – which, as you can see, is exactly what I did at Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas.
Hear that humming sound? That’s the symphony of cicadas as they come together in one big chorus. They aren’t the prettiest of insects, but the sound of their wing flicks and clicks signals summer and nature.
No, we’re not talking about Rod Hull’s giant puppet – the emus you see in the Far North Queensland outback are very real and very big. They are the second largest living bird in the world in fact and, as such can reach a whopping 1.9 metres in height. They’re pretty fast too, with sprint speeds of up to 30mph. I spotted this rather sedentary fella after taking a cruise around the Mareeba Wetlands Nature Reserve at Jabiru Safari Lodge.
Frequenting rainforests near the coast, it’s no surprise we saw plenty of brush turkeys on our travels around Far North Queensland. But despite regular sightings (we saw this one on the grounds of the Silky Oaks Lodge, near Mossman Gorge) this bird is actually struggling against habitat destruction and is now a protected species in Queensland.
Australia boasts four species of flying fox (fruit bats or megabats), all of which can be found in Far North Queensland. Not only do they play a crucial role in spreading the pollen of plants, but they’re also incredibly cute – at least this writer thinks so anyway.
Freshwater and saltwater crocs are a real threat in Australia, but it’s the latter, ‘salties’, that you want to watch out for in Far North Queensland. Saltwater creeks, rivers and tidal beds are risky places to be, especially as these Jurassic reptiles are almost camouflaged in the murky waters and can launch themselves onto land at speed. That being said, it’s still amazing to see such a fearsome creature in the wild. At a safe distance anyway. I saw two crocs while on a cruise along the Daintree River, one over two metres long and the other (the male) more than double that size.
The kangaroo’s smaller (and I would argue, cuter) cousin was everywhere in Far North Queensland, both in the wild and in nature reserves. We were lucky enough to see several species of the macropod, including the iconic agile wallaby and miniature swamp wallabies. Overall they’re completely unimposing and quite tame: at Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, where they’re allowed to free-roam, you can even safely hand-feed them.
The flightless cassowary is mostly renowned for its dagger-like middle claw, but in reality this blue-plumed bird is actually incredibly shy. They may be dangerous, but the chances of getting up-close to one in the wild are extremely rare – most probably because fewer than 1,000 are left in north Queensland. We didn’t see any prehistoric avifauna (although we heard stories of recent sightings), but did catch a glimpse of two being fed at Birdworld Kuranda.
Want to discover the wildlife of northern Queensland for yourself? Speak to one of our Travel Experts about our Tropical North Queensland holiday itinerary.