Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours was founded by Roger Smith and Janine Duffy in 1993, with the vision to bring people and wildlife together for mutual benefit.
The team believes that observing and connecting with wildlife is a key element in enriching the lives for people of all backgrounds; whether this interaction is for pleasure, new experiences and learning, for connection to the land or the basic needs for humans to breathe clean air and drink clean water via healthy ecosystems.
Increasingly, wildlife needs people too, as climate change and environmental pressures place our precious environments at risk for future generations. This has been central to the development of the company’s touring philosophy. When guests travel with Echidna Walkabout Nature Tours, part of the trip involves travellers contributing to a project that actively helps wildlife; from removing ghost net from a remote beach, to pulling out an invasive weed to save the local Koala population.
Roger and Janine are still very active as Wildlife Guides, running their conservation programs, organising itineraries and marketing the company. The team has grown to 18 and includes an Aboriginal Koala Researcher, a South African-born Safari Guide, a Tasmanian Conservationist and a nomadic Queenslander that could never stay in one job until he joined the company.
The diverse group of individuals are united by one thing; an enduring passion for wildlife and dedication to protecting nature.
East Gippsland is located in the eastern corner of the state of Victoria where the warm South Pacific Ocean meets the cold Southern Ocean. Arguably, no other Australian region boasts such a diversity of ecosystems in a concentrated area, from magnificent lush rainforests, coastal heathlands, giant eucalypt groves, pristine rivers and estuaries, through to white sandy beaches.
East Gippsland is one of the few regions in the world that has a large unbroken chain of forest stretching from the alps to the sea. These mighty forests are critical sanctuaries for many bird species such as Superb Lyrebirds, Yellow-bellied and Greater Gliders, King Parrots, Eastern Whipbird, Powerful Owls, Satin Bowerbirds, robins and many honeyeater species.
This region is amazingly rich in fauna with 50 native mammals; two Monotremes (Platypus, Echidna), 6 Dasyurids (Dunnarts, Quolls), 2 Peramelids (Bandicoots), 17 Diprotodonts (Kangaroos, Wallabies, Possums, Gliders, Koala, Wombat) and 23 native placentals (Dingo, Seals, Bats, Flying-foxes); 19 amphibians and 36 species of reptile including the 2.5m Lace Monitor and the 3m Diamond Python.
You Yangs & Great Ocean Road
The You Yangs and Great Ocean Road region is only a short distance southwest of Melbourne and is characterised by dramatic coastal scenery, wet hinterland rainforests, spectacular heathlands and vast grassy plains.
The You Yangs are the best known granite ridges in the area, rising 350m above the Werribee Plains. The grasslands and low woodlands around the You Yangs are home to more than 200 bird species such as White-naped, White-plumed, New Holland and Brown-headed honeyeaters, Laughing Kookaburras, White-winged Choughs, Eastern Yellow Robins, as well as a key habitat for Eastern Grey Kangaroos, possums and Koalas.
The Great Ocean Road region stretches from Geelong to Portland in south-western Victoria with the limestone rock formations and cliffs being one of Australia’s most famous landscapes. The Twelve Apostles are 20 million year old limestone towers that rise dramatically out of the sea; a result of being pounded for centuries by the raging Southern Ocean, with other striking natural features in the area including the Loch Ard Gorge and the Blowhole.
Inland from the coastal landscape lies the cool, wet hinterland rainforests. Home to Eastern Kangaroos, Swamp and Red-necked Wallabies, possums, Southern Brown Bandicoots, Short-beaked Echidnas, King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas, the Great Otway National Park is a landscape of tall eucalypts and Myrtle Beech dominated forests, rushing waterfalls, cascading streams and tranquil pockets of fern gullies. These forests are alive with vividly red and green coloured Australian King-parrots, Crimson Rosellas, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos as well as 38 species of butterfly.
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Janine DuffyJanine considers herself one of the luckiest people alive. Her passion and enthusiasm for wild animals, conservation, community education and social causes is infectious to all who spend time with her. So what does a typical three months for this Wildlife Guide, Koala Researcher and Marketer look like? She was guiding in the You Yangs in September when “Wurdi”, the first baby of famous Koala Clancy, was found during a Koala Conservation Day for Locals; a bi-weekly event she started in 2014. Later that month she was watching Little Egrets on saltpans in the Loire Valley, France, followed by dinner with friends at a tiny restaurant that serves only seasonal food. Two days later, in London, she talked with leaders of the responsible travel movement about developing wildlife tourism in Australia. In October she met with Melbourne tour operators to design a volunteering program to plant trees for wild koalas, and gave koala talks to the local farming community. In Mungo National Park in The Outback, she found Bearded Dragons basking, Shingleback skinks snuggling together under a bluebush (unusually for lizards, they mate for life) and a 1.2metre Sand Goanna. She guided a birding group in November across a saltbush plain beside the flooded Darling River, as hundreds of Red-rumped and Blue Bonnet parrots flew up from under her feet. The next day she was wildlife scout in Hattah-Kulkyne National Park, walking quietly through spinifex, listening for the tiny, insect-like song of the endangered Mallee Emu-wren, and locating Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, Regent Parrots and pink Major Mitchell Cockatoos.
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Roger SmithA bushman from childhood, Roger grew up navigating the sweeping deserts of north-west Victoria, searching for wildlife. Today, Roger spends much of his time imparting his wealth of knowledge to guides and travellers, and taking a lead role in protecting and preserving local habitats that have given him so much joy to share with others. In June, during southern Australia's winter, Roger was training future Wildlife Guides to read the body language of wild mobs of Eastern Grey Kangaroos. Kangaroos in their truly wild state are flighty, and gauging their tolerance is a skill that Roger loves passing on. Throughout the winter Roger also volunteered his time to defending the You Yangs from a mining threat that would have endangered the lives of many wild koalas, and to proposing that the region develop its nature tourism potential instead. During July, Roger organised two groups to travel to Botswana & South Africa with Echidna Walkabout's South African-born Wildlife Guide, Martin. He spent two nights in a treehouse overlooking Kruger with elephants smashing trees nearby and he helped repair a flat tyre while a White Rhino and her calf watched on. His highlight was filming a female leopard as she climbed out of tall acacia and disappeared into the African bush. In August he guided a small group to Australia's Top End and watched as 70 Brolgas danced on the floodplain of the Mary River. Nearby a 2 metre Water Python curled around his boots before moving on to find a tree to climb. He pointed out a tawny-coloured Dingo running along beside the vehicle. Nature has always been Roger's solace; helping others to find a connection to nature is his goal.
Meet our guides
Meet our guides
Martin MaderthanerAn expert in the great wildlife destinations of the world, Martin was trained as a Safari Guide in southern and eastern Africa and worked for some of the world’s top safari lodges. In 2007, he brought his skills to Australia and is now a leader in providing interpretation across a diverse array of Australian habitats. In September, on a private concession near Kruger, he walked with a breeding herd of elephants. The herd was so quiet that only a breaking branch alerted him to their presence – Martin and the local guide organised the group and approached slowly, without sound, stopping just 100 metres from the herd for a thrilling ten minutes. Back in Australia in October, Martin led Wildlife Journey trips to East Gippsland, and watched a White-bellied Sea-eagle pluck a fish from between a pod of Burunnan Dolphins. The day before he photographed four wild Short-beaked Echidnas, seven Wedge-tailed Eagles, Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas, Eastern Grey Kangaroos and Koalas. A month later, as Echidna Walkabout’s chief bird guide, he set up his spotting scope to show guests close-ups of 1,000 Red-necked Stints & 500 Curlew Sandpipers foraging at Australia’s best birdwatching site – the Western Treatment Plant. He also reported rare sightings of a Grey-tailed Tattler, Square-tailed Kite, a large flock of Topknot Pigeons and three glorious Turquoise Parrots.
Our experiences guides tell it like it is