Of all the things Australia is recognised for, its unusual array of wildlife is high on the list. We are home to species found nowhere else on the globe and unique critters that have evolved and adapted to survive the Australian terrain and elements. While a selection of Australian animals falls into a “deadly, will kill you” category, most are perfectly harmless and safe to see in the wild.
Land-dwelling species tend to steal the show for Australian animal experiences, but you might be surprised to learn Australia has some of the best opportunities to get close to marine creatures in the world. Here are five underwater animal encounters you shouldn't miss on your next Aus trip.
Swim with sea lions in Port Lincoln
Image thanks to Adventure Bay Charters
On the Southern Eyre Peninsula in South Australia is the seafood capital of the nation - Port Lincoln. This destination is a snapshot of South Australia’s underrated coastline, a diverse landscape of bleached white beaches, aquamarine sea, rugged cliffs and rocky outcrops. There are two incredible underwater experiences you can have here, and they differ significantly in fear rating. Let’s start with the one that most people might like to participate in - swimming with sea lions. If you love the playful, curious nature of puppies, you will love getting in the water with these guys. Being encircled by swimming sea lions in the crystal clear sea is one of the best experiences you can have in South Australia, and if you're game, you can get below the surface with another Port Lincoln resident while you're here.
Cage diving with Great White sharks in Port Lincoln
Image thanks to southaustralia.com
Not the kind of marine creature you’d want to meet without a barrier in between, Port Lincoln is the only place in Australia you can get in the water (safely) with Great White sharks. Being underwater with the number two apex predator of the sea won’t be on every traveller's wishlist, but for some, the opportunity to cage dive with a Great White shark is the stuff of bucket-list dreams. Although sighting a Great White is not 100% guaranteed, many operators post regular updates about daily shark sightings so travellers can make informed decisions before booking, and April to June are generally thought to be the best months to head south and try your shark swimming luck.
Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef
Much larger than Great Whites but with an entirely different temperament, jumping in the water for a swim with whale sharks is not nearly as terrifying as a cage diving experience. The biggest fish in the world, whale sharks are often referred to as the gentle giants of the ocean and you can swim with these docile creatures off Western Australia at Ningaloo Reef. While whale sharks typically arrive between March and August, operators are already starting to spot them around the reef this year. Travellers can choose from a range of day tours available during the season from both Exmouth and Coral Bay to swim with whale sharks, a snorkelling experience suitable for swimmers of all ages and abilities.
Snorkel with manta rays at Ningaloo Reef
Keeping things off the coast of Western Australia, there’s another awesome wildlife encounter awaiting you at Ningaloo Reef. Just like their cohabitants the whale shark, the filter-feeding manta rays come here to feast on the generous supply of zooplankton and coral spawn found along the Ningaloo Reef. With the capacity to grow up to 5.5 metres wide, the idea of sharing your swimming space with a manta ray can be a little intimidating, but you needn’t worry, they are just as gentle and harmless as whale sharks. These playful guys love to hang around Coral Bay year-round and also flock to Exmouth between May and November.
Cage dive with crocodiles in Darwin
Image thanks to @crocosauruscove
The idea of being in the water with a saltwater crocodile is the stuff of nightmares for most, but there is one place in Australia you can do this with a guarantee of surviving. Despite the name, the Cage of Death at Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin is a safe way to get close to Australia’s iconic saltwater crocodiles. Pop on your swimwear, slide into the clear tank and there you are, swimming in the same space as some of the largest crocs in the country. Trust us when we say, this is the only place you’ll want to make eye contact with a crocodile under the surface, so make the most of the opportunity if you find yourself in the Northern Territory.
These aren’t the only underwater experiences we recommend. We’re huge fans of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland and Julian Marine Reserve near Byron Bay too. Fancy adding an underwater element to your next trip? Get in touch for all the aquatic info and sweet sea deals.