Your Guide to All the Awesome Animal Encounters You Can Have Along the South West Edge

Consider yourself a regular David Attenborough? Perhaps you just really, really love the thrill of meeting weird, wonderful, and downright cute animals? Well, then visiting The South West Edge should be high on your bucket list. From taking a dip at an island full of the world’s smallest penguins to getting down on all fours to greet the smiling quokkas, the region has an abundance of incredible animal encounters for the animal lover.

 

Snap a Quokka Selfie

With their chubby cheeks and friendly smiles, quokkas are arguably WA’s cutest little critters. Rottnest Island (Wadjemup) – a scrubby island just 25-minutes by ferry from Fremantle – is home to the largest known population of quokkas. There’s somewhere between 10,000-12,000 of them bounding around the 19km2 island at any one time, so you don’t need to do much to encounter one. Simply sit down for lunch at Hotel Rottnest and watch them hop about beneath the tables (please, don’t share your pizza with them), or head into the town centre where they’re almost always happily lazing about under the trees. If your quokka seems content enough, you can even join the likes of Chris Hemsworth, Rafael Nadal, and Margot Robbie, and snap yourself a famous ‘quokka selfie’.

 

Watch the Whales

It’s possible to whale watch almost anywhere along The South West Edge, right the way from Perth to Esperance. If you’re more comfortable watching them from land, take a seat in front of the Bathurst Lighthouse on Rottnest Island. You can watch the humpbacks frolicking in the water between the island and the mainland from the slightly elevated vantage point. Further south, you can head to the purpose-built whale watching platform at Point Ann in the Fitzgerald River National Park.

For those with an affinity for the sea, you can jump aboard a whale-watching boat in Esperance, Busselton, or Albany and cruise along to find the humpbacks and southern right whales. If it’s an orca you want to see, you’ll have to head to Bremer Bay. The Bremer Canyon along the continental shelf is the only place you can glimpse the feeding black and white beauties in WA.

Quokka, Rottnest Island

Consider yourself a regular David Attenborough? Perhaps you just really, really love the thrill of meeting weird, wonderful, and downright cute animals? Well, then visiting The South West Edge should be high on your bucket list. From taking a dip at an island full of the world’s smallest penguins to getting down on all fours to greet the smiling quokkas, the region has an abundance of incredible animal encounters for the animal lover.

Relax With the Roos

Kangaroos are aplenty in rural Western Australia. But, if you want to lock in a sure sighting of the iconic animal, head to the timber towns of Manjimup and Pemberton. On any given day, you’ll spot them grazing in the paddocks along the Blackwood River. Head even further south, and the relaxed roos in Esperance might be out sunbaking on the sand at Lucky Bay.

Remember, kangaroos are wild animals, so even if they seem friendly enough to approach, you still need to exercise caution, remain distant, and refrain from petting and feeding them.

That is, of course, unless you’re meeting the kangaroos at Caversham Wildlife Park, Bunbury Wildlife Park, or Wellington Forest Cottages. The ‘roos at these parks and rescue centres are comfortable with human interaction and will happily accept pats and a handful of special feed.

 

Swim With the Dolphins

If it’s bottlenose dolphins you fancy meeting, Rockingham, Mandurah and Bunbury are your best ports of call. Book a cruise with Perth Wild Encounters, and the team will take you out towards Garden Island on their large vessel to locate a pod before getting you to slip in the water behind your water scooter-wielding guide. Once in, your guide will steer you around while curious dolphins swim past, under, and in front of you.

A short drive away in Mandurah, you can board the Mandurah Cruises vessel for a day of dolphin spotting. There’s no getting in the water with the gentle creatures here, but head an hour further south, and you can swim with them at Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery Centre. Once you’ve finished up on your dolphin-meeting swim, take a wander through the aquariums inside before sitting down to a hot cup of coffee at the on-site cafe.

Witness the Feeding Rays

Hamelin Bay isn’t just renowned for its brilliantly white sand and turquoise waters. The smooth stingrays, black stingrays, and eagle rays that inhabit its shallows have garnered quite the reputation for themselves too. Unfortunately, there’s no swimming or getting in the water with the graceful creatures, but visitors to the secluded beach can watch the rays from the shore as they glide by on their hunt for tasty molluscs and crustaceans.

Visit the Penguins

When you think of penguins, and their natural habitat, images of arctic tundra and belly sliding across ice come to mind, not the crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches of Shoalwater Islands Marine Park off Rockingham. But, the latter is where you’ll find WA’s largest colony of the world’s smallest penguins, aptly named ‘little penguins’.

Between September and early June, you can jump aboard one of the hourly ferries leaving from Rockingham or join a boat tour out to the island. Once there, you can learn all you want to know about the locals at one of the designated feeding times, where a park ranger will be present to answer your questions. Don’t forget to pack your bathers because you’ll want to go for a dip in the enticing waters afterwards.

Get a Glimpse of Sea Lions

A 5-10 minute boat ride north of Penguin Island, you’ll find Seal Island. It’s forbidden to make landfall on this tiny islet but, pull up outside the guide buoys in a boat or by kayak, and you’ll come face to face with its playful inhabitants; a large raft of Australian sea lions. The Australian sea lion is one of the most endangered flippered mammals in the world, so to see dozens of them dancing and flitting through the water around you is quite the experience. While the sea lions live within the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park year-round, the best time to visit is in the warm summer months, when the water is calm and visibility for snorkelling around the marine park is high.

Two wild kangaroos say hello to human on a white sandy beach
Lucky Bay Beach, Cape Le Grand National Park

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