Meet Kangaroos and Curious Creatures Down Under

Meet Kangaroos and Curious Creatures Down Under

By Caitlin Overend

Meet Kangaroos and Curious Creatures Down Under

A trip Down Under has so much to offer, and during your tour of Australia, you are sure to be blown away by beautiful sun-soaked beaches as well as  enchanted by cities like Sydney and Melbourne. Australia has a culture all its own, and visitors can spend hours exploring famous landmarks like the Sydney Opera House or the Blue Mountains.

Above all else, Australia’s curious cast of native animals make it unlike anywhere else in the world. Although the country is just a few hundred miles from the island nations that make up Southeast Asia, a series of deep channels under the sea –  known as the Wallace Line –  has served as a geographic barrier for thousands of years that has inhibited the spread of many flora and fauna in either direction. As a result, animals such as tigers, rhinos, and orangutans roam the forests of places like Indonesia and Malaysia, while marsupials like kangaroos and koalas dominate Australia and nearby islands on the eastern side of the divide.

 

This bit of geographic luck gave marsupials an opportunity to dominate the Australian landscape without competition from other types of mammals found in the rest of the world. Diverse ecosystems only serve to further challenge the animals that call Australia home, and as a result, the country represents one of the most intriguing and special places to tour for wildlife enthusiasts. Even for casual visitors, the charismatic and bizarre animals found Down Under are impressive and wonderful.

The coast
During your trip to Australia, odds are one of the first places you can expect to visit is the beach. Some of the most famous stretches of beach sit on the eastern shore of the country and the region is home to dazzling cities like Brisbane or Gold Coast. Farther north, Cairns is a modern yet quaint location, but is also a prime place to hang your hat when visiting the Great Barrier Reef.

The biggest collection of coral reefs on the planet, snorkeling or scuba diving will yield a dizzying array of tropical fish, sharks and turtles, to name just a small sample of the incredible biodiversity found on the reef.

Other strips of Australian coastline are home to equally impressive natural wonders. Not only is the country one of the world’s premier surfing destinations, but, Phillip Island just south of Melbourne is renowned for its charming sea lion population. In other spots Down Under, little penguins pop out of jungle enclaves to the delight of beach goers and tourists.

The Outback
Although the Great Barrier Reef is one of the country’s most iconic natural features, kangaroos remain the ultimate ambassador for Australia. Visitors may head to locations where feeding these magnificent animals is allowed, but to really see Australia at its most wild, a trip to the Outback is in store.

Much of the country is very arid, with stretches of scrub forest and rain forest found closer to the coast. As a result, creatures like kangaroos have developed some impressive adaptations. Not only can kangaroos stop processes related to digestion or even pregnancy when the temperature becomes unbearable, but these animals are also better at retaining moisture than camels.

That isn’t to say that camels can’t hold their own in a desert environment, and in fact, the Outback is home to one of the only remaining populations of feral camels in the world. After being introduced for transportation during colonial times, the descendants now roam the Outback alongside kangaroos and dingoes, as well and Australia’s unique collection of reptiles like the frilled lizard or deadly taipan.

The forests
While many parts of the interior of Australia is semi-arid or desert, the coastal areas are in many places dominated by forests or mangroves. Coastal forests and mangroves add yet another interesting turn in exploring the country’s natural heritage. Perhaps the most iconic of all of the creatures found in these areas is the koala.

These lovable animals aren’t bears, but are marsupials like kangaroos and many of the other native critters in Australia. They spend long stretches of the day snoozing or resting in the heat, and feed almost exclusively on eucalyptus leaves.

Koalas share their habitats with other creatures found only in Australia or nearby New Zealand. This includes wallaby and pademelons, both close relatives of kangaroos, as well as the platypus. Birds and bats are also found in these regions, including the imposing cassowary, a massive species of flightless bird found only in Northern Australia and neighboring islands.

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