If you’re sick of holidays that are all about shopping or laying around the pool (yawn!) and more interested in geeking out in nature – then this list is sure to rock your research vessel.
We’ve found 6 eco holiday destinations around Australia, each with a distinctive science or conservation bent that will have you making the most of your school holidays, and learning something new while you’re at it.
1. Witness the oldest and largest living fossils on earth
Hamelin Pool stromatolites, WA
Photo: Donald Hobern from Copenhagen, Denmark via Wikimedia Commons
Ever wondered what earth looked like 3.7 billion years ago? Home to the world’s oldest Stromatolites – incredible ancient life forms that were once widespread across the water – Hamlin Pool is located in Western Australia’s remote Shark Bay World Heritage Area, a day’s drive or a two hour flight from Perth.
This is one of only four places on Earth where you can witness living maring stromatolites – and is not only the oldest but by far the biggest colony on earth, the best example of their kind found anywhere in the world.
2. Help save a natural icon
Great Barrier Reef, QLD
The Great Barrier Reef is an Australian icon and an excellent travel destination in itself – but, from invasive pests to run-off and global warming, its fate hangs in the balance.
Arguably, tourist dollars are doing good for the reef. About $6.4 billion is contributed to the Australian economy every year from tourists visiting the reef in Queensland, which helps to protect the World Heritage-listed icon from being drilled for oil or other means of economic gain.
But your contribution doesn’t have to stop there. Join any number of eco-friendly tourist groups like Eco Barge Clean Seas or Eye to Eye Marine Encounters and you could be cleaning plastic debris or helping researchers to keep an eye on marine animals in the wild.
Download the Eye on the Reef app and be the director of your own adventure. Users can submit pictures of pests, animals or plants in the Great Barrier Reef and surrounds to add to the Marine Park Authority’s database for overall reef health.
3. Explore the world’s oldest open cave system
The Jenolan Caves, NSW
Back in 2006, these spectacular limestone caves – located in the Blue Mountains, near Sydney – were found to be the world’s oldest open cave system, pre-dating the dinosaurs at an estimated to be 340 million years old. They’d make a great travel destination for any budding archaeologist or geologist.
Informative tours for small groups are on offer, or you could opt for a more adrenaline-fuelled option like adventure caving. For science.
4. Learn Aboriginal astronomy
Kakadu National Park, NT
Aboriginal Australians are the world’s oldest astronomers, using the stars for navigation, dating and story telling for millenia, with astronomy continuing to play an important role in Indigenous culture and story telling today.
For a unique insight into this ancient science, you can take a night time cruise through Kakadu’s Yellow Water Billabong between May and September every year.
Led by an Indigenous guide, you’re taken through the Aboriginal dreamtime stories behind the night sky, with an uninterrupted view of the stars – thanks to Kakadu’s remote Northern Territory location.
5. Discover the flora of an ancient supercontinent
Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk, WA
Photo: Phil Whitehouse from London, United Kingdom via Wikimedia Commons
This tree top walk in south-western WA offers guided tours or bushwalking trails surrounded by the plant life that traces back to when Australia was part of eons-old Gondwana – the supercontinent that existed 550 million years ago – much of which is found no where else on earth.
Located about 5 hours’ drive south of Perth, there is a discovery centre and daily guided tours.
6. Swim with the dolphins (that’s what marine biologists do, right?)
Mornington Peninsula, VIC
This is one for all future marine biologists! Get up close and personal with all kinds of marine life – dolphins, seals, whales and seahorses are frequent visitors to the waters of the Mornington Peninsula, south of Melbourne, Victoria.
Moonraker Dolphin Swims offers tours that are eco-certified which means this eco holiday won’t be harming marine life, and the company is committed to running their business sustainably. Win-win!
What’s your favourite eco holiday destination? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Eliza Brockwell
Eliza is passionate about creating content that encourages diversity of representation in STEM.