Why Western Australia is 2023’s hottest wildlife destination
By David Whitley
No-one ever forgets their first encounter with a whale shark on Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef. The gentle giant glides through the clear waters, over the waving coral, past awed snorkellers.
Cruise operators on the Ningaloo report that the whale shark season is extending, with the biggest fish on earth hanging around for longer. But at other times of the year, there are humpback whales and manta rays to swim with instead.
Sharing the water with megafauna is just one of the reasons why Western Australia is such a sensational wildlife tourism destination.
70% of Australian mammals can be found in WA’s biodiverse habitats, with 25 species – including the notoriously cute Rottnest Island quokkas – which are unique to the state.
Western Australia, the quickest part of Australia to reach from the UK, has 12,500km of pristine coastline. All along it come extraordinary experiences. Kangaroos hang out on the white sand beaches near Esperance. Dolphin pods are spotted from the 76 mile Cape To Cape Walk along the edge of the Margaret River premium wine region. And Perth Wildlife Encounters’ new three island snorkelling cruise takes in the marine birds and playful Australian sea lions of the Shoalwater Islands Marine Park.
Whales hang out in calm Indian Ocean bays, marsupials are routinely encountered on forest walking trails and bird life provides a soundtrack to the tropics. Western Australia is also blessed with several new tourism infrastructure projects that should suit nature-inclined explorers down to the ground.
Amid the red and white-layered gorges of Kalbarri, the 100-metre high Kalbarri Skywalk extends 25 metres over the gorge rim. The Darling Ranges in the South-West is getting 110km of new mountain bike trails. And the Indigenous-owned Karijini Eco Retreat brings glamping accommodation near the scarlet rock canyons and waterfalls of the Pilbara region.
But the biggest changes are amid the ancient, tropical wildernesses of the Kimberley region.
The newly-sealed Cape Leveque Road leads to the Djarindjin Community, where the Camping with Custodians programme allows visitors to stay in an Indigenous community, with Aboriginal tours and experiences available for those who want them.
Nearby, the Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm has introduced 15 luxury eco tents to go along with its pearling discovery tours and waterfall reef adventures.
Kimberley Wild Expeditions, meanwhile, has introduced an epic 12 day 4WD and walking tour that involves trekking into cave tunnels, remote gorges and an ancient meteorite crater.
Even without the new additions, however, Western Australia sells really well as a nature and adventure-focused destination. Pre-pandemic, WA was outperforming the rest of the country for leisure arrivals, with visitors up 5.1% year on year. Demand, particularly from the UK, is now seeing flights into Western Australia getting close to pre-Covid levels.
It’s also getting easier to package up regional WA’s wildlife wonders with the rest of Australia – Busselton and Exmouth now welcome interstate flights to Melbourne, while Broome has links to Sydney too.
The look may change, from the big granite outcrops and caves of the south, to the high cliffs and national park wildflower carpets of the centre and desert escarpments of the north. But Western Australia’s consistent theme of adventure amongst nature does not.
For more information how to include Western Australia in your product offering contact Elen Thomas
About the Author
David Whitley is an Australian travel expert who
has written thousands of articles about Australia for publications Down Under and across the rest of the world.
He runs a travel advice site Australia Travel Questions and is
@MrDavidWhitley on Twitter