Destroyed furniture and slippers aside, the benefits of owning a pet are many. Studies have linked human-animal interaction (HAI) with elevated mood and feelings of wellbeing, as well as reduced stress and decreased blood pressure. One US study even found that caring for pet fish helped diabetic teens manage their disease. While studies for interacting with wildlife are a little harder to come by, there's no denying the joy that comes with seeing creatures in their natural environment. Best of all, there won't be a single mangled shoe in sight.
Head to the Queensland coast between January and March and watch in amazement as thousands of tiny hatchlings emerge from their sandy nests and scramble to the sea. Mon Repos Conservation Park (parks.des.qld.gov.au) in Bundaberg is considered a must-visit for turtle lovers, but other significant nesting sites include Lady Elliot Island, Heron Island and Lady Musgrave Island. Prefer the west coast? Conservation volunteers are invited to monitor flatback turtles at Broome's Eco Beach.
When it comes to exploring the beauty of the outback, look no further than a fully catered camel trek. Camel Treks Australia (cameltreksaustralia.com.au), a camel sanctuary located in the far north of South Australia's Flinders Ranges, not only provides camels with a safe desert refuge, their cameleers teach travellers to interact with the creatures in their natural environment. The four-, five- or nine-day treks include campfire meals and deluxe swags. For those who prefer llamas, check out Hanging Rock Llama Treks in Woodend, Victoria.
Say no to watching dolphins tap dance for your cash in captivity and instead take a dip with your bottlenose mates in the wild. Book with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures (kimarineadventures.com.au) in South Australia or Polperro Dolphin Swim (polperro.com.au) in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, and you can hop into the water and wait for the dolphins to come near. With Dolphin Swim Australia (dolphinswimaustralia.com.au) in Port Stephens on the NSW Hunter Coast participants are clipped to a tow rope and pulled slowly alongside the mammals. Whale sharks are often just as happy to play, and the best place to plan an aquatic relay is in Western Australia's Ningaloo Marine Park.
The Koala Hospital Port Macquarie Photo: Supplied
Bypass those "cuddle a koala" experiences and put your love of animals to good use by signing up to be a koala volunteer. In NSW, Koala Hospital Port Macquarie (koalahospital.org.au) uses a team of volunteers to care for its koala patients (among other roles), while Lismore-based Friends of the Koala (friendsofthekoala.org) welcomes volunteers across a range of roles.
Take a hike
Strap up your laces and head to Maria Island (parks.tas.gov.au), a pristine national park located off the east coast of Tasmania. Expect to see wombats, Tasmanian devils, wallabies and more than 125 species of birdlife. Do a four-day walk with Maria Island Walk (mariaislandwalk.com.au) or catch the ferry and camp – you might even have some furry company to stargaze with.