- Field Locations
The late Steve Irwin, of "Crocodile Hunter" fame, inherited Australia Zoo from his father, and with the success of his television show was able to transform what had previously been a fairly modest wildlife park into one of the foremost zoos in Australia. Australian species on display here include kangaroos, koalas, cassowaries, Tasmanian devils and of course crocodiles. The Australian fauna can be contrasted with other animals on display from elsewhere in the world, including alligators, tigers, rhinoceroses and lemurs. This is a valuable educational experience in that the Australian fauna can be considered in its global context.
Known as "the bush on Brisbane's doorstep", Brisbane Forest Park is the largest protected area within 10km of a capital city anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere. This 25,000 hectare reserve protects eucalyptus bushland, and rainforest at the higher elevations. A notable feature of Brisbane Forest Park is "Walkabout Creek", a high-quality wildlife display curated by the Queensland National Parks and Wildlife service. Iconic Australian animals on display here include wallabies, wombats and venomous snakes. There is a nocturnal display including possums and sugar gliders, and a walk-through aviary housing colourful parrots and other Australian birds. The aquarium section showcases Australia's unique aquatic life, such as freshwater turtles and the "living fossil" Queensland lungfish. The highlight of the display is the excellent platypus exhibit, representing one of the best opportunities in the world to have a close encounter with this fascinating and elusive mammal.
What is the outback, and where does it begin? The 16,000 hectare wilderness of Carnarvon Gorge National Park is located 700km by road north-west of Brisbane. This is a long bus drive but such is the scale of the continent that this only takes us to the outlying edges of the vast Australian outback. Carnarvon Gorge is a spectacular sandstone ravine carved by a permanent creek whose waters nourish an oasis of life. Kangaroos, echidnas and even platypus can be found in this haven from the surrounding dry country. The national park also protects exceptional rock art sites, the heritage of the Karingbal and Bidjara peoples. By virtue of its position in the southern hemisphere, and being hundreds of kilometres from the nearest city lights, Carnarvon Gorge is also one of the best places in the world to go stargazing.
Far North Queensland is home to a diverse range of terrestrial ecosystems including the World Heritage listed rainforest, outback Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area has the highest diversity of endemic, rare and threatened animal species in Australia. Nestled on the coast of far North Queensland is the regional city of Cairns which is the gateway to the Wet Tropics Area and the Great Barrier Reef, and an extremely popular tourist destination. Just an hour north of Cairns lies the seaside town of Port Douglas known for its’ beautiful long beach, dense rainforest, protected estuary and quaint township.
Fraser Island is justly famous as one of Australia's most remarkable world heritage wilderness areas. This 120km long island off the South East Queensland coast is composed almost entirely of sand, originally deposited by waves and ocean currents. Over the tens of thousands of years since, vegetation colonised the island as organic matter accumulated, creating an ecology that supports Eucalyptus bushland and even rainforest - the only place in the world were rainforest occurs growing on sand. Other remarkable features include towering sand dunes and pristine freshwater lakes. Getting around on Fraser is an adventure in itself, as it is only accessible to four-wheel-drive vehicles. Since the beach also serves as the main road, drivers need to be very conscious of the high tide. Wildlife abounds on this island sanctuary, perhaps none more famous or charismatic than the dingos which are a common sight on Fraser Island’s beaches.
The Girraween wilderness is quintessential Australian bush, a place where kangaroos abound and the open, sunlit forest is dominated by more than 25 different species of Eucalyptus trees. The Girraween bush is set in a landscape dominated by a vast expanse of granite that was formed deep underground around 250 million years ago. By 200 million years ago, the overlying rock had been worn away to expose this granite at the surface, and ever since then it has been gradually eroded to form a spectacular and beautiful landscape of colossal boulders, towering granite domes, and creek waters cascading over bare rock. Climbers who make the thrilling ascent of the steep-sided granite domes are rewarded with spectacular views. Despite the low nutrient soils, low rainfall and frequent fires typical of the Australian bush, Girraween is famous for its wildflowers, and the name "Girraween" is an Aboriginal phrase meaning "place of flowers".
Heron Island is a coral cay (island or key) in the southern Great Barrier Reef. Surrounded by a large platform, reef sharks, rays and reef fish abound in the shallow waters surrounding the island. Green turtles nest here along with thousands of seabirds. The University of Queensland Heron Island Research Station is one of the world's principal coral reef research stations. Accommodation is on the research station and the reef and its wonders are but a short stroll from these lodgings. Sophisticated equipment, a massive research aquarium system and full time technical staff supported by a fleet of fast boats means that we can conduct cutting edge research right on the Great Barrier Reef.
In a very real sense, rainforest is where Australia came from - long before Australia existed as a separate entity, it was part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, a time when Australia, Antarctica, South America and New Zealand were joined as a single landmass. The vegetation of this primeval "lost world" was rainforest, and hence Australian rainforest provides a tangible link with ancient Gondwana, the evolutionary cradle of Australia's unique plants and animals. Because of this evolutionary significance, Australian rainforests have been declared as world heritage areas. The 20,500 hectares of Lamington National Park were first protected in 1915, making Lamington one of Australia's oldest and most famous national parks. There are more than 100km of walking tracks, winding their way beneath towering Strangler Fig trees and spectacular water falls. Birdwatchers are drawn to Lamington from all over the world to see unique species such as lyrebirds and bowerbirds.
North Stradbroke Island is remarkable for its diversity of environments and wildlife. Sweeping ocean sand beaches, rugged rocky headlands, mangrove forests, sand flats and seagrass beds mean that we can access the full range of marine seascapes. The Moreton Bay Research Station is similar in capacity to Heron Island Research Station but with ready access to the mainland and Brisbane. Among the significant wildlife close to the station are dugong (seacows), dolphins, sharks, turtles, humpback whales, koalas and kangaroos. Accommodation is onsite and are but a few minutes stroll from the labs and the shore.
Sydney is the largest and most populous city in Australia and the state capital of New South Wales. Home to iconic landmarks the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, hundreds of thousands of international tourists visit this diverse, vibrant and dynamic city each year. Sydney has a flourishing arts and culture scene that can be experienced in galleries, museums and open spaces around the city. Beach culture is a big part of the Australian lifestyle and Sydney boasts one of Australia’s most famous and among the world’s most well-known beaches, Bondi.