Wildlife in Tasmania
Don't let Tasmanian Devils steal the limelight
Wildlife wonders are a feature of remote islands, such as the Galapagos or Madagascar. And wildlife in Tasmania, Australia’s only island state, is extraordinary. From wombats, wallabies and whales, dolphins to duck billed platypuses, and of course the endemic Tasmanian devil, Tassie is quite simply bursting with life.
The other feature of wildlife in Tasmania is that the stunningly beautiful habitats, from the Tarkine Rainforest to the archipelagic wildernesses consisting of 300 islands, are fantastically accessible. Within a few minutes of a highway you can be out in the spectacular Leven Canyon Reserve, habitat to Tasmanian devil, spotted-tailed quoll, wedge-tailed eagle, eastern barred bandicoot and grey goshawk. Or Mount Wellington, which you can’t miss when you fly into Hobart as it lies in the foothills of this magnificent mountain range where its eponymous peak is often dusted with snow all year round. On a hike up to through Wellington Park – which is no walk in the park, by the way – with a perimeter of 140km and over 20 walking trails through myrtle forest, up to Silver Falls and among ancient ferns. On waymarked ways that vary from an hour to a day long, keep an eye out for birdlife, as there are over 60 species here alone, including the endangered swift parrots. Look up to spot peregrine falcons that breed among the sandstone cliffs, or down for long-nose potoroo, pademelon, possums and even platypus. And that’s all just on your first day in Tassie.
Traveling slightly further afield, the wildlife in Tasmania just get better and better. For intense, up close and personal experiences there are some really special spots. Bruny Island is one of those. And that is still under two hours from Hobart, including a 20-minute ferry crossing, which leads you into this two-island idyll that is conjoined by an equally idyllic isthmus. Made even more so by the fairy penguins that thrive on this natural link between the two, dipping in and out of the waters from the sand dunes, with convenient lookout posts for us to enjoy this sight. Dusk during the months of September to March is the best time to watch them.
Much of South Bruny is national park, with 200m high cliffs and also an Important Bird Area, particularly for the endangered forty-spotted pardalote, which thrives on the island’s manna gum tree. Although this is just one of eleven endemics here, with birders also flocking to Bruny en masse to catch a glimpse of swift parrots, the stunningly pink robin and the olive whistler.
Another famous beauty on Bruny is the “white wallaby”, an albino relation to the red-necked or Bennett’s wallaby. Unbelievably cute, as is the island’s eastern quoll, this time a handsome relative of the Tasmanian devil. You have everything on Bruny really, a microcosm of Tasmania’s fauna all confined in one place. Last but not least are the whales and dolphins, with this island now becoming one of Australia’s cetacean hotspots. Take a cruise along the island’s coastline to not only take in the dramatic cliffs and sea stacks, but also to look out for blue, humpback and killer whales during their migratory seasons along this east coast, first in June and July and then September, October and November.
Another island haven of habitats is Maria Island, further up the east coast. Protected by national park status, and completely car free, this is a place to frolic in all things feral. They have every bird going here, from sea birds such as little penguins to pelicans, land birds endemics such as the Tasmanian thornbill and Tasmanian scrubwren, with lagoons a veritable love in for just about every wader going. You can take on a four-day walk on Maria, with guides that will help you sift your way through its glossary of natural gorgeousness from forester kangaroos, possums, wombats, echidna to Tasmanian devils. Although make sure you do some night time walks too, because this is when so many of them come out to play.
The ultimate home for Tasmanian devils is, however, the Tarkine Rainforest, because is the last disease-free population of the Tasmanian devil in Tasmania. Sadly it is at risk of extinction due to a disease known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease, which has wiped out nearly 80 percent of the population in a decade. The Tarkine is their natural habitat and breeding ground, and conservationists are carefully monitoring them here, and everywhere. Once exploited for logging, and still vulnerable without full national park status, the Tarkine still takes off into its own stratosphere of species.
Apart from the devil, there are 60 species of plants or animals that are considered rare or endangered here. Such as the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the white goshawk and the spotted-tailed quoll. A three- or four-day hike into the rainforest, with expert naturalist guides and staying in wilderness campsites, is really the way to experience its wildlife from dawn until dusk, when the soundscape alone will transport you to a time when this island was part of one big supercontinent known as Gondwanaland. Now, just an island, it certainly still merits super status when it comes to wildlife.