If you want to visit Oceania, go to Australia first and leave New Zealand for last, because no other country comes close to New Zealand’s stunning scenery. Now in Australia, I wish I had allotted more time for New Zealand. Luckily, Australia has one redeeming quality – its unique animals, notably the kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, quokkas, wombats, and Tasmanian devils. So our Australian itinerary involves us traveling all over the country in search for these animals in their natural habitats. First stop is Melbourne.

Kennett River is a 2-hour drive from Melbourne. Part of the drive is on the Great Ocean Road, which offers a view of Bass Strait.

First a few unexpected parrot sightings…

A crimson rosella looking for handouts at Kafe Koala.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos are everywhere.
Joe had spotted a mob of kangaroos at the beginning of the trail. Unfortunately, they hopped away before we could get a closer look at them.

Kennett River is purportedly home to a healthy population of koalas, but it wasn’t easy spotting them. Koalas spend 20 hours sleeping in trees, so you’re not going to see much action. I called this the Where-is-Waldo trail.

It’s easy to see them with a zoom lens
But this was our reality
Binoculars are a good idea.
Ironically, the most active koala we got to see was along our drive to the 12 Apostles. Luckily, the cars ahead of us managed to stop for this one as it was crossing the road.
12 Apostles

Gresswell Forest Wildlife Reserve is a half hour drive from Melbourne. In the early 1980s, a handful of kangaroos were re-introduced into this 70-hectare nature preserve nestled in suburbia. Given its small size, it’s not difficult to run into kangaroos. It took us a good 5-minutes of walking along the Swampgum track before Joe spotted the first of 10 kangaroos.

Fun fact about Eastern Grey kangaroos – females are perpetually pregnant; they can freeze an embryo until the older joey is ready to leave the pouch. Females can also produce two different types of milk simultaneously – one for the joey, and the other for the newborn.

Phillip Island is a 2-hour drive from Melbourne, and this place is known for the parade of penguins – little penguins returning to their burrows during sunset after spending days to weeks out at sea. New Zealand has something similar in the town of Oamaru, and it was on our list to do until our South Island trip was cut short.

Since penguins are sensitive to lights, photos and videos aren’t permitted. The following photos are courtesy of the nature park.

With their silvery white chest and blue backs, they are perfectly camouflaged in the water. However, they are much more vulnerable from aerial predators when on the beach. Therefore they call to each other when exiting the ocean in order to travel in large groups on land as a way to protect themselves.
The smallest of all penguins, coming in at 30-35 cm and 2-3lbs. Despite their small size, they sure know how to make an entrance. Picture waves of penguins totaling around a few thousand waddling up onto the beach. Phillip Island is home to 32k little penguins.

Little penguins weren’t the only animals we spotted on Phillip Island.

A swamp wallaby, named after the color of its coat. Never knew “swamp” could be a color descriptor.
A side by side comparison of a wallaby and a kangaroo. Wallabies are all macropods smaller than the kangaroo.

Another marsupial we got to see, but didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of, is the endangered eastern barred bandicoot, which looks similar to a shrew with its V-shaped snout. What does a shrew look like? Picture Mr. Big in the cartoon movie Zootopia.

We leave Melbourne satisfied, as we got more than we had bargained for. Next stop, Perth and Exmouth.

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