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ExOz Logo Best inTravel ExperiencesAwards Badge Recognising Australia's top travel experience operators.


Best Wildlife Experiences


The Wildlife Experiences category highlights a number of excellent encounters with Australia's animal life that occur outside of a static, attraction-style zoo environment. While sightseeing may come into play as part of these experiences, the major focus should be on wildlife itself, whether from a distance or close-up. These experiences can occur both on land and water, yet witnessing Australia's faunal beauty forms a key part of their itinerary.

Those travellers looking to witness Australia's wildlife in its most natural habitats and environments - without venturing to the ends of the Earth - will be able to do so in the best possible fashion with these operators.

Award Winner Profiles


Meet the award-winning operators and their signature experiences in the Wildlife Experiences category.

Hartley's Crocodile Adventures - Port Douglas, QLD

Tracing its origins back to the 1960's and beyond, Hartley's Crocodile Adventures was the first place in Australia to breed crocodiles in captivity, with its work on crocodile conservation and management attracting worldwide interest. Reopened at a brand new site in 2002 with a design based on visitor expectations and preferences and now ranks as the only wildlife park in Australia to be bordered by World Heritage listed forest. The park takes conservation values very seriously, including for the crocodiles themselves. Today, the attraction stands as an award-winning example of ecotourism that features over 2,100 metres of boardwalks and pathways that allow visitors to discover five distinct habitat zones throughout. Designed to blend seamlessly into the landscape, the attraction sits 40 minutes north of Cairns and 25 minutes south of Port Douglas, and ranks as the best place to see crocodiles and local wildlife in the region.

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Pennicott Wilderness Journeys - Hobart, TAS

Operated by the Pennicott family since October of 1999, over its 18-year history their range of cruises and itineraries has won many state, national and international awards. The team at Pennicott Wilderness Journeys are genuinely dedicated to operating sustainably in harmoy with the environment and local community, trains and employs local staff, and uses produce and goods from local suppliers wherever possible. Their company operates six distinct experiences that highlight some of the spectacular scenery and wildlife off the coasts of Tasmania, with their Bruny Island Wildlife Cruise a longtime favourite. On the cruise, participants board a purpose-built high-speed inflatable vessel and join the team for a 3-hour trip from Bruny Island to witness its marine life such as dolphins and fur seals, an array of bird life, and the towering dolerite cliff faces of the island itself.

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Phillip Island Nature Parks - Phillip Island, VIC

As a self-funded, not-for-profit conservation organisation, the team at Phillip Island Nature Parks puts wildlife first and protects animal species and their habitats by operating its five eco-tourism attractions including the iconic Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island Heritage Farm, Antarctic Journey at the Nobbies and Wild Oceans EcoBoat tours. The Nature Parks’ staff are a wonderful mixture of dedicated, passionate and involved people who believe that they can make a real difference, whether it’s enhancing the experience of our 1.3 million visitors each year, conducting world-leading research into penguins, or revegetating wildlife habitat across the 1,800 hectares of reserves we manage. Visitors can purchase the popular multi-park pass and visit all its key wildlife highlights in a single trip.

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Queensland Scuba Diving Underwater Encounters - Gold Coast, QLD

Having hosted over 50,000 dives in the past 20 years, Gold Coast-based Queensland Scuba Diving love their diving and want guests to enjoy it just as much as they do. Their staff are highly qualified and have plenty of experience to ensure participants receive the best instruction available during their 7 days-per-week scuba diving schedule. With a booking desk located in the heart of Surfers Paradise, they operate a fleet of vessels and cater to divers of all ages and skill levels. The company offers scuba diving and snorkelling for the complete novice all the way through to PADI certification at instructor level, with staff able to help participants choose exactly the right equipment to suit. Their mixture of snorkelling and diving tours take guest to Wave Break Island on the Gold Coast, where they'll have the chance to encounter a range of marine life and coral types while helping to hone their scuba skills.

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Rockingham Wild Encounters - Perth, WA

Offering an array of incredible wildlife experiences just off the south coast near Perth, Rockingham Wild Encounters has existed in some form since the late 1980's and has given hundreds of thousands of guests the chance to experience one of life's most treasured wildlife experiences - swimming alongside wild dolphins. The company has won numerous Western Australian Tourism Awards and was inducted into the WA Tourism Hall of Fame - a reflection on both the uniqueness of the experience and the quality of its customer service. On their "swim with the dolphins" cruise, guests can enter the water alongside a colony of over 200 local bottlenose dolphins which live amongst the sheltered waters of Rockingham's bays and islands - they don't perform tricks, and they aren't fed, however there are few things more epic than simply sharing the company of these intelligent and playful creatures.

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Rottnest Fast Ferries Whale Encounters - Perth, WA

Providing a gateway from Perth to the highly popular and visually stunning playground of Rottnest Island, Rottnest Fast Ferries run a ferry transfer service between the island and Hillarys Boat Harbour in Western Australia's capital. The company is T-Qual accredited by the Australian Tourism industry and also provides a range of other tours in addition to raw transfers to and from the island including whale watching, twilight cruises and various packages for transport on-island (including buses) and accommodation. Their packages make for an efficient way to get to this island wonder, as well as itineraries that can help flesh out island stays to showcase more of its natural scenery and interesting military and other history.

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Tasman Venture Whale Watching - Hervey Bay, QLD

Based in Hervey Bay, the gateway of World Heritage listed Fraser Island, the award winning Tasman Venture provides one of Queensland’s most intimate, unique and educational whale encounter experiences, as well as the only experience that allows guests to explore the north western coastline of the World Heritage listed Fraser Island. Both tours are accredited through Ecotourism Australia's Advanced Eco Certification Program, and Tasman Venture is also recognised as one of the best tour operators in Queensland through its inclusion in the 'Best of Queensland' program. Their 4-hour afternoon whale watching tours provide an excellent way to explore one of Australia's true whale watching capitals, and come with a whale sighting guarantee or a free return ticket issued.

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Werribee Open Range Zoo - Werribee, VIC

Far more than just a standard zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo provides a simulated taste of the African savannah right within easy access of one of Australia's largest cities. Spread out over an expansive 225 hectare area, it does an excellent job of emulating a real, uninhibited environment, transporting guests to another continent filled with rhinoceros, giraffes, antelopes and more all unbound by cages. The zoo opened to the public in 1983 and is currently operated by Zoos Victoria, who have continued to develop and enhance the cageless-zoo experience all while keeping a dedicated eye towards conservation. Visitors can ride a safari bus that takes visitors on a trip with informative commentary on the animals' habits and habitats, too.

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Whale One Whale Watching - Sunshine Coast, QLD

The Sunshine Coast's Whale One offer a number of cruise itineraries departing from the popular holiday suburb of Mooloolaba, with whale watching being their signature offering. Their key vessel is the 65-foot-long Whale One itself and features full walk-around decks, large and spacious cabin areas, plush and comfortable seating as well as a licensed bar and toilet facilities, and is able to carry 115 passengers comfortably. Their friendly crew with their big smiles and happy attitudes will ensure guests' days are memorable – ensuring they will want to come back again and again. Their crew are there for their passengers through all phases of the journey to help make one of nature's most wonderful encounters even more memorable.

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Whales in Paradise - Gold Coast, QLD

Registered in 2004 as the Gold Coast's first whale watching company, Whales in Paradise began operation in 2005 to run the first whale watching tours from popular tourist hub of Surfers Paradise. Growing in popularity into the multi-vessel operation that it is today, their boats offer state-of-the-art whale watching facilities as well as full walk-around decks and water-level viewing as well as maximum stability on the open water. To this day, the company aims to provide guests with the most intimate and memorable encounters with Humpback Whales available on the Gold Coast. As a family-run business, they take pride in offering whale watching cruises with a difference and with a friendly, caring and still entertaining crew.

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