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How to Find Australian Animals (and how to avoid the nasty ones)

If you want unique animal travel experiences, head to Australia: More than 80% of all mammals, reptiles and amphibians in Australia are unique to this epic country!

Some, like the kangaroo, wombat and koala are famous for their cuddliness:

lone pine koala sanctuary
Others, like snakes, jellyfish and spiders are famous for their dangerousness: 

huntsman spider

So the purpose of this post is two-fold. It's going to start off by answering this question:

How can I find the cute Australian animals? 

And will finish off by answering this question:

How can I avoid the dangerous Australian animals?

So, without further ado, let's start with the cute animals:


albino kangaroo

When we first landed in Australia we had 'kangaroo goggles' - every piece of old bark/abandoned tyre/lump of mud looked like a kangaroo. We were quickly disappointed and figured we'd never see an actual kangaroo. 

ginormous kangaroo

Then, two weeks later, we were walking in the woods, when two GINORMOUS bucks (male kangaroos) randomly crossed our paths. Despite the fact that they were (a lot) bigger than us, they had terrified 'deer caught in the headlight' eyes and quickly bounced off. 

kangaroos australia

We learnt two things, firstly you're more likely to see wild kangaroos on a rainy day, (I probably should have mentioned it was raining that day). And secondly, wild kangaroos rarely let you close:

wild kangaroos

After that day, we saw lots of kangaroos in fields, by the sides of roads and railway lines, but our next super-exciting-wild-kangaroo-encounter was on Kangaroo Island, that's a whole other story which can be found here: Is Kangaroo Island Worth It?

Again though, these wild kangaroos didn't let us close, but don't worry if 'pet a kangaroo' is on your bucket list, head to a wildlife park to find a friendly photogenic one, we went to:

kangaroo lone pine koala sanctuary

ballarat wildlife park

and Caversham Wildlife Park (Western Australia): 

caversham wildlife park

As you can see, we were pretty close to the kangaroos. 

albino kangaroos

Admission isn't really cheap (around AU$30 per adult) but the animals are obviously well cared for and respected and so it's 100% worth it. And kangaroos aren't the only animals they have there, they also have...

koala Australia

We first saw wild koalas on our second Australian House Sit in Adelaide. Our lovely home owner told us that koalas are often in the nature reserve next door, so every time we walked the dog we spent a lot of time searching for koalas:

dog walking adelaide

When I say searching, I mean that every eucalyptus tree we passed we stared at intently, hoping to catch the smallest glimmer of grey fur between the tightly knit leaves. 

adelaide australia
Hey, where are the koalas at?

When we finally saw koalas a week later, we realised how pointless that staring had been. When a koala is in a tree, there's no need to search for it, it's very obvious:

wildlife koala adelaide

So our tips for seeing wild koalas: 

1) Don't waste time staring at eucalyptus trees, if a koala is there you will know
2) Ask the locals where they usually spot koalas. 

koala adelaide

But, like kangaroos, you're not guaranteed to see a koala in the wild. So if 'see a koala' is on your bucket list, head to a wildlife park again. 

We were extremely happy to hold one at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (which is the oldest and biggest koala park):

lone pine koala sanctuary australia

This was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. I'm so happy in this photo, you can't even tell that the koala's claws are really, really digging into me - those bad boys hurt! But still, best day ever.

koala australia

Incidentally, (despite how stoned the above koala looks), they don't sedate the koalas or anything horrible, they just limit the amount of time that you can hold them (enough time to take a photo). They are very good with the koalas and won't let you hold them if the koala isn't interested. 

emu australia

Emus are (undoubtably) proud to share the top spot with the kangaroo on the coat of arms of Australia, (they're also on a few of the coins). 

Emus are pretty common all across Australia so you'll probably spot one (we never did though)! 

However, we did learn a lot about emus and met one called Julia at Emu Ridge on Kangaroo Island. Julia actually toed her husband to death, we weren't told why. Emu males are actually the ones who incubate and nurture the babies, but perhaps Julia's husband did a bad job. Who knows. 

Wombats are ugly. I'm sorry but I think they are the ugliest things ever: 

wombat australia

Like the koalas, you can pay to have your photo taken with them, but you're not allowed to hold the wombat, the staff do instead:

lone pine koala sanctuary wombat

Despite their ugliness, wombats are still pretty cool. Firstly, unlike kangaroos and koalas, their pouch is backwards! So if you're looking at the back-end of a wombat, you might just see a baby:

wombat pouch baby
Photo Credit: Matt Jones

Another cool thing about ugly wombats is their poop - it comes in cubes!

So how do you find these back-to-front-babies that have cube shaped poop? They are actually best found at night because they are nocturnal. They have a great sense of smell and hearing though, so if they smell or hear you, you won't see them.

There are still well known wombat hangout zones though so, again, ask the locals. 

And let us know if you see any cube shaped poop!

On that happy note, let's move onto the dangerous Australian animals: 

Australian spiders: don't worry, definitely not as bad as you think. I mean sure, the Sydney Funnel Web Spider is one of the most deadly spiders in the world, but, there have been no (recorded) deaths since the anti-venom became available in 1981. 

Most Australians have their homes sprayed to deter spiders (and cockroaches). So in the whole nine months we were in Australia we only saw three spiders: a Black House Spider (which was outside), a female Black Widow (which was also outside, and also dead) and a Huntsman Spider. 

Now, this was the Huntsman Spider: 

huntsman spider australia

It was DINNER PLATE SIZED. But before you become too upset, I should probably tell you that he's not venomous. He was quite happy being put in a (large) pot and being chucked outside. 

Essentially, Australian spiders aren't that scary, but for more information do check out this website, it's really informative and has great pictures. 

black tiger snake australia

My dad has a theory that every human is either afraid of snakes or spiders, depending on which part of the world their ancient ancestors come from. The theory fails with me though, I'm not scared of either (moths on the other hand...)

My point is, if you've made it past spiders, chances are you're now going to freak out about snakes. But, as with the spiders, snakes aren't as bad as you think in Australia.

In the whole nine months we were in Australia we only saw snakes three times. We saw them twice on Kangaroo Island in late September and once in November in Western Australia. 

This is one of the ones we saw on Kangaroo Island - a Black Tiger Snake and she is very venomous: 

black tiger snake

And yes, those are my feet on the right, because I am silly and will do anything for a great shot.

So, what do we advise you to do when it comes to avoiding snakes in Australia?

1) Avoid long grass, or anything really where you can't quite see the floor. When it comes to snakes, if they hear you they will slither off and hide, but if they're asleep and you step on them, they will (understandably) defend themselves. Now you're not likely to step on them if you see them. So always go to places where you can see the floor.

2) If you see one back away as far as possible (don't be silly like me and take a photo). Snakes can actually strike a person from a distance of three times their body length. Just keep backing away. 

3) If you are bitten:
  •  Stay calm (easier said than done, but panicking speeds up the poison's progress).
  • Calmly go to hospital - you actually have plenty of time to go there, so don't worry if it's far away.
  • Don't worry about which type of snake bit you, the anti-venom works for everything. 
Chances are you probably won't see a snake in Australia, and unless you're poking it/standing on it /winding it up, you're even less likely to be bitten - so be sensible, but don't loose sleep over it! 

Don't worry about snakes or spiders in Australia, spend your worries thinking about the jellies!! They can be deadly. 

jellyfish beach

But really, like the snakes, if you do a couple of things you'll be fine. Firstly, Australians have signs on some of the beaches like this:

jellyfish sign australia
Photo Credit: Romain Bochet

Needless to say, if you see a sign like this on the beach, don't go in the water - jellies like the Box Jellyfish can and will kill you. 

Another good safety tip is to have a quick walk up the beach before you go in the water. If there are a lot of dead jellies on the beach, chances are there will be a lot more in the sea. Alive or dead, it doesn't matter - jellies still sting. 

We saw this Portuguese Man O War on the beach in New South Wales: 
portuguese man o war
Interestingly, (well I think so), Portuguese Man O Wars are not actually jellyfish read more here. But the same principles apply, if you see them dead on the beach, don't go in the water - they are responsible for around 10,000 human stings in Australia every summer. 

We'll finish the dangerous Australian animals with, what I think, is the coolest animal you can find in Australia: Goannas. 


Goannas aren't exactly dangerous to humans, though there is some debate over whether their venom is poisonous, or just teaming with bacteria. 

Similarly to snakes, goannas do attack if you attack them first. Like I said, their bite is nasty, and there is always the added risk that they will scratch you with their long claws.

So really, don't attack a goanna, and then they are not dangerous. We only encountered one wild goanna, but she was lovely.

We were House Sitting on the Gold Coast and she tried to come through the cat flap. But then she saw me and stood completely still (and thus became invisible), but I went a bit closer to have a better look at her, and she ran off up a tree:

goannas tree

When we were on Kangaroo Island we met a man who had a goanna in his garden. He said that whilst she was always annoyingly trying to sneak into the chook (chicken) house, she was definitely still an asset to the garden as she kept away the snakes. 

So there you have it, our guide on how to find Australian animals, and how to avoid the dangerous ones. 

Yes, there are indeed some dangerous animals in Australia, but with a bit of knowledge and caution there's no need to be scared. Australia is a massive country and you're not likely to bump into any of these guys (nasty or nice) unless you actively go out looking for them like we did. 

Do you like to pin things? I made this cute Australian animal pin just for your bucket-list board!

Disclaimer: if any of these 'facts' aren't completely true, we're sorry. It's based on our own experiences in this wonderful country and each person will have a different experience. Have YOU had a different experience? 

What is your favourite Australian animal?

Let us know in the comments below, or catch us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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