Here’s why it’s safe to travel to Australia – and how you can help while you’re here
Like the rest of the world, we’re heartbroken to see the bushfire crisis that has unfolded across Australia, and the loss of land and life in fire affected areas. Our thoughts are constantly with the communities throughout the country who have lost everything, and the people working endlessly to minimise the damage as much as humanly possible. These wildfires are so expansive and destructive, they have many asking if it is even safe to travel to Australia right now.
Australia is a huge, diverse country with a variety of landscapes, many of which are unaffected by the fires. Here in Queensland we’re fortunate to have been largely unaffected, particularly in recent weeks.
While there have been pockets of the Sunshine State that have experienced loss throughout this bushfire season, if you know anything about Queenslanders, you’ll know we’re nothing if not resilient. Almost every single one of our tourism operators are welcoming visitors as usual, and any who aren’t are working hard to be as soon as they can.
It’s easy to feel helpless. But one of the best ways to help these communities get back on their feet is to visit them directly. All travellers coming to Australia should seek the most up-to-date information prior to departure, and to stay informed about changing conditions while they’re here. It’s also a good idea to check this link for information about access, closures and conditions if you’re planning on visiting any of our spectacular National Parks. However, vast regions of the country remain unaffected and continue to offer the life-changing tourism experiences Australia’s known for.
Showing up and experiencing our beautiful country is what keeps us going. From eco-lodges to local makers, tour operators to wildlife parks, it’s the support of our visitors that means our whole country will bounce back, stronger than ever.
Help us help our wildlife
Although Queensland has remained relatively unscathed and is safe to visit, our wildlife hospitals have been tirelessly helping to care for the incomprehensibly high number of injured and displaced wildlife from Queensland and beyond. Looking to help even more directly while you’re here? You can, by visiting these facilities to see how they care for koalas, kangaroos, bats, flying foxes and other animals who need their – and our – help.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary‘s busy Wildlife Hospital saw 600 koalas in 2019 and cares for over 12,000 injured or orphaned animals a year. A visit to the Sanctuary isn’t complete without a visit to the hospital, where you can witness the legendary team operate on sick and injured animals. While you’re there, they have lots of ways you can help, from making a direct donation to buying a walkway paver with your name engraved, becoming a Friend of the Hospital, or sponsoring the planting of eucalyptus trees.
Also on the Gold Coast, the conservation-centric David Fleay Wildlife Park, nestled in Burleigh Heads, is another haven for native wildlife. Its volunteer group Friends of Fleay’s takes donations for the care of animals including cassowaries, crocodiles, kangaroos, koalas, tree kangaroos, snakes, lizards, gliders, and even butterflies.
Thousands of animals are brought to Australia Zoo‘s Wildlife Hospital each year, and this facility has been under the pump caring for fire-affected wildlife across Queensland and beyond over the past few months. Equipped with a surgical theatre, x-ray room, intensive care units and pathology lab, the dedicated group of wildlife veterinarians and nurses are able to provide highly specialised care to wildlife. Behind-the-scenes tours run three times a day, with proceeds going directly back to the hospital.
If you’re visiting Central Queensland, Cooberrie Park Wildlife Sanctuary‘s Wildlife Rehabilitation HQ Inc. near Yeppoon receives many injured and orphaned animals, and relies on donations and admission fees to keep its facility running. Visiting them helps to pay for the likes of marsupial milk, veterinary treatment, specialist food, heat equipment and enclosures. They’re also always looking for volunteers of you’re keen to get super up close and personal with our friendly local critters.
Nearby in Gladstone, Safe Haven is a property dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of all injured, ill or orphaned native Australian wildlife. It’s also home to 20-plus Southern Hairy Nosed Wombats that are part of a captive breeding program aimed at increasing the population. Visits to Safe Haven are by appointment only.
A 10min drive from Bundaberg’s main street, Splitters Farm is a safe haven for farm animals that have been victims of drought and fire. This wildlife retreat’s passion for animals, nature and agriculture has seen various rescued animals flock through its doors. Splitters Farm has now expanded to provide visitors an opportunity to visit while supporting this local rescue retreat. Spend a day (or night) meeting the friendly residence of Splitters on a ‘Meet the Animals Tour’, or spot platypuses down Splitters Creek. Bundaberg’s Snakes Downunder Reptile Park (which features meerkats, koalas, kangaroos and lots more to see as well as our scaly friends) is also taking in injured wildlife.
If you find yourself in Outback Queensland, you can holiday with a heart in Charleville, paying a visit to the Charleville Bilby Experience. This outback town wears its title ‘the bilby capital of Australia’ on its sleeve, proudly standing at the forefront of research for these endangered marsupials. All proceeds from your visit (which must be timed April to October), will go back to more bilby research and conservation.
Over in Townsville, Billabong Sanctuary holds an advanced eco-tourism accreditation and is passionate about educating its visitors on conservation and our precious native Australian wildlife. A short ferry ride away on Magnetic Island, stay at Bungalow Bay Koala Village for a unique immersion into Queensland’s natural environment. Your stay helps them set up and sponsor the wildlife rescue on Magnetic Island of sick, injured and orphaned native animals, and provide training for wildlife carers, co-ordinate wildlife rescue, and supply equipment and supplies for the carers.
Up in Tropical North Queensland, The North Queensland Wildlife Trust (NQWT) was established in 2004 by the Freeman family which owns and operate Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, Kuranda Koala Gardens and Birdworld Kuranda. Visitors are encouraged to donate their spare change at the various collection boxes located in each wildlife park, and for each dollar collected, the business holding the donation box matches it, dollar for dollar. They’re helping fire-affected animals in many ways – you can even find sewing patterns for bat wraps and joey pouches on their website.
While in the area, visit Tolga Bat Hospital in Atherton, which rescues, rehabilitates, cares for and releases up to a thousand adorable bats each year. Guided tours are run once a day and must be booked in advance.