Courtney Hughes, the Florida Down Under marketing intern, writes:
When you think of Australian wildlife, what are some of the first creatures that come to mind? Without a doubt, most people will name kangaroos and koalas, and understandably so since these unique marsupials are found nowhere else on Earth. On my Australia study abroad program, we encountered both of these species in up-close ways.
As we ventured into the Outback, I looked out the bus window and saw one, two, three kangaroos…wait, actually there were dozens and dozens of them! Kangaroos covered most of the field before us and countless numbers of them hopped all around. I have never seen such a significant sight. Maybe I’m bias because I love kangaroos, but it really was magnificent.
Of course everyone on the bus became excited, so we stopped and took pictures! In doing so, I noticed a few of the roos had a joey, or baby kangaroo, in their pouch. Watching the joeys poke their heads out of the pouch was such an adorable moment.
The kangaroo received its name from Aboriginal peoples, who reside near the present day Cooktown, Australia. It was recorded “kanguru” by Joseph Banks, an English explorer/naturalist, who was on Captain James Cook’s first expedition to the new world of Australia. This word is still used, yet in its current form, and recognized worldwide for this animal.
As we continued our travels, we stayed on the lookout for koalas, as we were all keen to see one in the wild. I quickly learned that koalas can blend in to their surroundings very well and are hard to spot. Thankfully though, we found three koalas on one hike. We got close enough to one to take detailed pictures, and I have to say he was an excellent model for all of us photographers! He sat on the branch, chill as a cucumber, just eating his eucalyptus leaves.
Later in the program, we visited a wildlife habitat for the chance to feed kangaroos and hold a koala. Nonetheless, the wild encounters certainly will be remembered forever. Seeing these marsupials in their native habitat was a dream come true!