When it comes to unique wildlife there aren’t many places in the world that can compete with Tropical North Queensland in Australia.
With an ocean that houses the Great Barrier Reef right at the doorstep and the World’s oldest rainforest covering most of the region, it’s really no wonder that when you’re in this part of the world, you have a very large chance of encountering wildlife that you have never seen before!
When you visit TNQ, there are countless ways that you can see many of these animals up close, both in their natural habitats and in wildlife parks. With a vast array of animals that you can see and ways in which you can see them, it’s well worth venturing out to meet some of the wildlife when you’re in the area.
We’ve put together some information about some of the wildlife you should keep an eye out for when you visit tropical Queensland and the ways in which you can see them. Keep reading to discover some of the incredible wildlife you can see in Tropical North Queensland.
Corals, Fish and Sea Turtles
If you’re visiting TNQ, you might already have your sights set on the Great Barrier Reef. Located in the waters of the Coral Sea along the coast of Queensland, the GBR is made up of more than 900 islands, 3000 individual reefs and stretches for more than 2,300 kilometres.
It also happens to be home to around 600 different kinds of coral, six of the seven sea turtle species, and around 10% of the entire world’s population of fish. In addition to these, it’s also home to starfish, dolphins, rays, jellyfish, sea snakes and even sea birds. So, as you can imagine, there are not only many different kinds of marine life that you can see, but some that can only be found in this part of the world too.
How you can see the marine life in TNQ
As the Great Barrier Reef is a very popular attraction for visitors to the area, there are many different ways you can discover the local inhabitants for yourself.
Snorkelling and scuba diving are two of the most popular ways you can experience this majestic underwater world for yourself. There are many different kinds of snorkelling and diving adventures available to visitors, including options where you get to explore the Reef from exclusive sand cays in the outer reefs.
You can even hire sea kayaks and stand-up paddle boards to take to the waters where you will likely see many of the local fish varieties swimming around you as you paddle through the waters.
If you have your heart set on seeing a sea turtle, then one guaranteed way you can is by visiting the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre on Fitzroy Island. Fitzroy Island is a tropical island that is located only a 45-minute boat ride from Cairns Marina. Perfect for a day trip when you’re staying in the area, the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre is a volunteer run organisation that nurses sick and injured turtles back to health. Their aim is to release the sea turtles back to their natural habitat once at full health, and the centre is well worth visiting, to not only see the sea turtles up close, but also so you can learn more about this special part of the world.
The Southern Cassowary
The Southern Cassowary is often compared to a dinosaur, and sometimes even referred to as a dinosaur bird. Their dinosaur-like skin, large claws and giant stature has them towering over many other birds and even mammals and marsupials in the forest.
Cassowaries are actually Ratites, which is a type of (mostly) flightless bird which is believed to have originally come from Gondwana – the supercontinent that broke up hundreds of millions of years ago. Other ratite species include ostriches and emus, which are somewhat similar to cassowaries, in that they have long legs, with wings that are far too small for their body.
Cassowaries are a very territorial bird that prefers to “fly” solo. They spend a lot of time on their own, and while they can’t fly, they can swim and run very fast. So, if you find your way in their path, be careful!
How you can see the Southern Cassowary in TNQ
While there are opportunities to see a cassowary at one of the wildlife sanctuaries in the region, you can also try your luck at seeing them in their natural habitat.
The South-Central Precinct of the Wet Tropics rainforest is actually known for the large population of cassowaries in the area. Part of the area is even known as Cassowary Coast. Cassowary Coast runs from Cardwell up to Innisfail, and this is where Cassowaries spend their days walking around, looking for fallen fruit, which is their preferred delicacy. The mission beach area also has many walking trails where you can not only discover the natural beauty of the area, but you may actually see one of these prehistoric birds for yourself.
Like we said before, if you do see a cassowary in the wild, do be careful, do not feed it or approach it. They will usually leave you alone, but if it feels threatened you may need to do some running.
Australia – especially Queensland – is synonymous with Crocodiles. Tropical North Queensland is actually home to both Saltwater and Freshwater crocodiles.
Crocodiles are at home in the water more so than the land, are very territorial and can live in basically any body of water, that’s why, if you see a warning sign for a crocodile, take it seriously, because they could be anywhere!
While it can be hard to spot the difference between Freshwater and Saltwater crocodiles, unless you’re seeing them side by side, there are actually quite a lot of differences between the two.
Freshwater crocs are significantly smaller than in size, but they have a longer and narrower snout. Saltwater crocodiles are larger, are very fast and can be quite aggressive on both the land and in the water. While a freshwater croc may be a bit more docile than a saltwater one, avoiding either kind of these crocs in the wild is for the best.
How you can see a crocodile in TNQ
While you can find crocodiles almost anywhere in the Tropical North Queensland it can actually be very difficult to spot one. Their camouflage ability is second to none, and they can actually hold their breath for more than an hour because of the small hole near their heart. Their ability to stay still also means that it is highly likely that you won’t see them, but they will see you.
As they can be an aggressive animal, we certainly don’t recommend that you try your hand at croc spotting in the wild. And with a huge amount of crocodile spotting tours and wildlife parks available you don’t need to do it alone.
We recommend visiting Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. Located only a 15-minute drive north from Palm Cove, Hartley’s is a wildlife a sanctuary that is a huge 15 hectares in size. One of the main drawcards of Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, is of course the crocodiles. And one of the ways you can experience them is on the lagoon boat cruise adventure. The experienced guides at Hartley’s are able to draw out the crocodiles and have them show off them incredible strength and skills in the water. The crocodile feedings are an unmissable spectacle to see!
However, crocodiles are not all you have the opportunity to see at Hartley’s. You can see cassowaries, kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, reptiles – including snakes – and many other local animals. If you are one for serious animal encounters, you can also book premium wildlife experiences and personalised guided tours to learn more about the incredible animals that call the area home.
Bennett’s and Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroos
You’re probably very familiar with traditional land kangaroos, they are one of the most well-known Australian animals. But did you know that there are also tree kangaroos? There are 14 different kinds of tree kangaroos in the world, with 2 of these species found in Australia.
Tropical North Queensland, and more specifically, the Wet Tropics, is home to both of these species – the Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo and the Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo.
Interestingly, these tree kangaroos actually live high in the canopy of the rainforest, able to use their tail to navigate their way through the treetops. The tree kangaroo also uses their tail in a similar way to the land kangaroos and hop along the ground as well. Appearance wise, the tree kangaroo is basically a combination of a possum and a kangaroo, with the best of both allowing them to easily adventure on both land and in the trees. They are also the only kind of kangaroo that can move backwards.
Where you might see a tree kangaroo in TNQ
Now, it’s not going to be easy to spot either a Lumholtz’s or Bennett’s Tree Kangaroo in the wild as they are most active at night, but it’s not to say it isn’t possible.
The Lumholtz’s Tree Kangaroo are residents of the Atherton Tablelands region, while the Daintree Rainforest is home to the Bennett’s. While you may not spot one of these tree kangaroo species when you visit the region, at least not in the wild, don’t let that put you off visiting the Wet Tropics. There is an incredible display of flora and fauna diversity there and you will be amazed at every turn. You can also discover these tree kangaroos at the many wildlife sanctuaries and parks in the region.
Did you know, that besides seeing the Great Barrier Reef and its many inhabitants, there is another incredible water wildlife experience you can have in Tropical North Queensland? You may not realise it, but TNQ is one of the best places to see the majesty of the whale migration that occurs during the Australian winter months.
As the Antarctic waters cool, the humpback whales make their way to the warmer tropical waters like those in Queensland. And they do this for the food! As the waters in the Antarctic get too cold for the krill that whales feed on, they make their way to new waters to feast upon the abundance of food in these waters. Whales also migrate to Australia’s east coast to give birth as baby humpback whales generally don’t have enough body fat to survive the very cold waters of the Antarctic.
How you can whale watch in TNQ
The whale watching window is not very long, usually between June to August each year. So, if seeing a whale is on your bucket list, booking a tour to do so is essential. Tours are available all over the Tropical North Queensland coast, including from Cairns and Port Douglas.
In addition to being able to spot Humpback whales in Tropical North Queensland, there is also the opportunity to see the elusive Dwarf Minke Whales here as well. Not a lot is known about the Dwarf Minke Whale. They are usually around 8m in length and weigh about 6 tonnes, and though not a lot is known about them, what is known is that the Great Barrier Reef is the only place in the world where Dwarf Minke whales will aggregate at each year.
A small number of tour boats operate in the region with a special licence that allows people to swim and interact with these whales, and if that sounds like something you would like to experience, then make sure you book a tour in fast. Poseidon is one of the tour groups offering this experience – you can learn more here.
There’s no better place to meet Australian wildlife than TNQ
Tropical North Queensland offers its visitors unique opportunities and experiences to learn about and discover the diverse array of wildlife in Australia. Whether you’re keen to get out in the wild and discover these animals in their natural habitats, or you would prefer to see them from a safe distance at one of the wildlife sanctuaries of the region, there is no place better in Australia that you can experience the wildlife for yourself.