FROM quokkas to crocs, there’s no shortage of amazing native animals to spot as you travel around Western Australia.
In fact, Aussie animals of all shapes and sizes thrive in the wide-open desert landscapes and deep rugged gorges, with about 70 per cent of all native mammals making a home for themselves here.
Some are even unique to WA, such as the quokka.
You could also encounter some of the 400-plus reptiles and 500-plus native and migratory birds that call the state home.
So where’s the best place to spot native animals on your caravanning or camping adventure?
Rottnest Island. One of the few places you’ll find a colony of WA’s cutest marsupial, the quokka. There are 10,000-12,000 of these mainly nocturnal animals living on Rottnest. No cars are allowed on the island but you can cycle or explore by bus. There is a campground in the main settlement.
Busselton. Spot possums at night on a self-guided spotlighting trail in Tuart Forest. Starting at the Layman picnic site, this easy 1.5-km walk takes about an hour; don’t forget a spotlight or large torch. You might see the rare western ringtail possum or more common brushtail possum. Reflectors and information plaques guide the way. Also check out the Vasse-Wonnerup Wetlands, with more than 75 species of birds and the marine life at the Underwater Observatory at Bussleton Jetty.
Porongurup National Park. One of the best places in the south for wildflowers. The park, a 40-minute drive from Albany, is known for its karri forests and ancient granite domes. Birdwatchers flock here to see scarlet and yellow robins, plus rufous treecreepers. You might also spot western grey kangaroos and brush wallabies.
Perth Hills. The Perth Hills Discovery Centre is an interpretive centre nestled in the heart of the Beelu National Parkland and operated by Department of Parks and Wildlife. It has camping (tents only) and makes a great starting point to explore the Perth Hills, abundant with wildlife.
Yanchep National Park. One of WA’s oldest national parks and just an hour’s drive north from Perth, the park is home to the western grey kangaroo, which can be seen in abundance early and late in the day. Take a stroll along a 240-metre koala boardwalk to see one of Australia’s favourite native animals in a natural environment. With woodland and wetland, the park also offers marvellous birdwatching opportunities.
Roebuck Bay. Facing the town of Broome, Roebuck Bay is a great spot to grab your binoculars and watch the millions of migratory birds that visit its shores each year. Also see the Broome Bird Observatory.
Mornington Wilderness Camp. Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary in the Kimberley covers more than 3000 sq km of gorges and savannah. Stay in a luxury safari tent or pitch your own and head off on an early-morning birdwatching tour. At least three threatened bird species find refuge in Mornington – the Gouldian finch, purple-crowned fairy-wren and red goshawk. In Dimond Gorge you may spot the short-eared rock wallaby.
Windjana Gorge National Park. Go crocodile spotting in one of the Kimberley’s most spectacular gorges. Here freshwater crocodiles bask in the pools, while fruit bats and corellas roost in the waterside trees. The park has good camping facilities and Windjana Gorge Campground is suitable for caravans but there are no powered sites.
Penguin Island. Just 45 minutes south of Perth and a quick ferry ride across Shoalwater Bay, come face-to-beak with a colony of little penguins, the smallest species in the world. The Discovery Centre has three daily penguin feedings. Shoalwater Islands Marine Park is also home to dolphins, sea lions, stingrays, pelicans and other seabirds. Note: The island closes from June to mid-September for the nesting season.
Ningaloo. From April to July the world’s biggest fish, whale sharks, congregate along Ningaloo Reef off Exmouth. As well as these gentle giants, Ningaloo is home to manta rays and is one of the world’s most important nesting places for green and loggerhead turtles. At Cape Range National Park you can spot euros, wallabies, emus and perenties. The threatened black-footed rock wallaby can be spotted at Yardie Creek Gorge. See shorebirds, mangrove fantails, mangrove whistlers and yellow white eyes at Mangrove Bay Bird Hide. Many campgrounds are located along the Cape Range coast or you can stay in a luxury campsite metres from the reef.