It was easier than I expected to see rock wallabies on Magnetic Island. I didn’t even have to look for them. One just jumped past me as I went out of the water after a snorkelling session at Geoffrey Bay. It’s pretty special as the allied rock wallabies can only be found in North Queensland, and they’re extremely cute. But I can’t say I fully enjoyed my time with rock wallabies on Magnetic Island.

Where are the rock wallabies on Magnetic Island?

An adult rock wallaby and its joey in the boulders at Geoffrey Bay on Magnetic Island
An adult rock wallaby and its joey

Magnetic Island is one of the best places in Australia to see wildlife. The best spot to see rock wallabies on Magnetic Island is Geoffrey Bay, at the end of the old Arcadia Jetty Road. If you come early in the morning or late in the afternoon, you are almost guaranteed to see them. Don’t give up if you can only visit Geoffrey Bay during the day; you should still try your luck as rock wallabies can be spotted at any time during the day. It can even be a good opportunity to be by yourself and have a special experience. If you don’t have a vehicle, the bus will take you to Geoffrey Bay.

Rock wallabies don’t only live at Geoffrey Bay. I’ve also read that rock wallabies can be found on boulders around Horseshoe Bay and a colony lives in Nelly Bay. It is much nicer to see them with fewer people than at Geoffrey Bay. But they’re harder to find.

We did not feed rock wallabies on Magnetic Island and still saw plenty of them

Because they’ve been fed for decades, rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay are not shy. The colony is big enough that you’re almost guaranteed to spot one. There’s no need to feed them, and it’s actually not recommended at all. If you’re planning to feed the rock wallabies on Magnetic Island, please read on if you care about their wellbeing.

Magnetic Island rock wallabies are wild animals and a sign tells visitors: “for their well being it is preferable that you do not feed them”.

There’s a sign at the end of the road stating that humans feeding rock wallabies caused problems like overpopulation (“these wallabies have been artificially fed leading to an unnaturally large number of animals causing many problems”). But, “if you must feed them” as they write, they also add a list of food that will not make them sick (you can see one here).

Tourism marketing images of people feeding rock wallabies on Magnetic Island have made it look normal to feed these wild animals. I guess that the list of food and the fact that shops sell food pellets make people justify that it’s not a bad thing to do. But now that you know it creates problems, you know it’s a selfish act that nature lovers should avoid.

Why I was disappointed with our encounter with rock wallabies on Magnetic Island

I feel that when you visit Australia, you are quickly made aware of why you should not feed wildlife. And I really wonder why people think things are different with the wild rock wallabies on Magnetic Island. It was even worse than what I had imagined. People were breaking carrots in their mouths to hand feed the wallabies and sometimes would even pat them.

It’s not just a few people who’d feed the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay. When we visited, every single person but those in our group were hand-feeding them.

I’m always excited when I spot an animal in the wild. But at Geoffrey Bay, I felt unease. The amount of food given to the little critters was for sure more than what its diet required. I know it feels special to see these cute animals next to you. But if you want to see the animals from close, why not go to a wildlife sanctuary rather than participate in an activity changing wildlife behaviour?

Why do I have such a strong position on not feeding wildlife?

The short answer is that I am a nature lover and I’ve learnt that feeding wildlife is not good for the animals and their ecosystem.

When humans feed wild animals, they lose their ability to forage for their own food and become dependent on humans for survival. Plus, when feeding wildlife is forbidden, there’s no risk of visitors harming the animals by feeding the wrong things or the wrong amount. I found it very interesting to read that during the pandemic when there were no visitors on Magnetic Island, the Wallaby Refuge observed the rock wallabies got healthier (see post here).

Also, as the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay come close to people to be hand-fed, some visitors go a step further and pet them (adults and joeys alike). No feeding would not give these visitors the opportunity to touch the wild animals.

Sure, the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay do not act like wild animals. Some come to you and expect to be fed. But the rock wallabies adapt to the visitors’ behaviours and human interactions made them this way. So if you decide to feed them, you’re part of the problem. As you’ll read below, feeding wallabies on Magnetic Island create many problems.

I wished visitors at Geoffrey Bay were more respectful.

We previously had wildlife encounters that did not feel that wild. At Cape Hillsborough, kangaroos come to the beach every day and are not scared of humans at all. But people would still keep their distance and follow the rules of not feeding them.

A tour guide contracted by the council would come every morning and feed them so that visitors don’t need to. I still didn’t like the idea of humans feeding wildlife, but at least it’s more controlled. It’s a compromise between animal wellbeing and tourism. Having someone looking “official” on the beach and giving a few rules really prevented bad behaviours that we saw at Geoffrey Bay.

Have you seen rock wallabies on Magnetic Island? Share your experience in the comments below!

Where is Magnetic Island?

It takes only 30 minutes by ferry to reach Magnetic Island from Townsville. You can book a ferry from Townsville Marina*. It’s one of the best day trips from the capital of North Queensland. If you’re planning to visit Magnetic Island, check out these one-day itinerary ideas.

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