Since her first flight at two weeks old, she has visited 26 countries. So what has this conservationist learnt on her travels? It’s not just animals that need protecting – it’s postcards, too.
Where did you go on your last trip?
The stunning Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania. My family and I spent Christmas and New Year there. We are involved with the mainland breeding program for Tasmanian devils so we try to visit Tassie every year.
And where are you right now?
I’m visiting my mum’s family in Eugene, Oregon. My beautiful mum [Terri Irwin] lived here until she moved to Australia when she married my dad [the late Steve Irwin]. I love visiting all the vegan and hippie shops. I’m also glad that my boyfriend, Chandler [Powell], is with us on this trip; it’s been fun introducing him to Tofurky and soysages! The Oregon Coast of the United States is beautiful. We often travel here in search of sea lions and bald eagles.
What is your earliest travel memory?
Mum and Dad have been travelling with me since I was born: my first international flight was at two weeks old. My earliest memory of travelling is with my parents when I was about three. They were filming The Crocodile Hunter in Western Australia on a boat in the middle of the ocean. A pod of dolphins started swimming around our boat so we decided to get in the water to watch and film them. Because I couldn’t swim yet, I put on my Floaties and held on to my dad’s shoulders. The dolphins came right up to us and jumped over our heads. It was a breathtaking moment and something I will carry with me forever.
SEE ALSO: Travel Talk with Anna Plunkett
How many countries have you visited in your 18 years?
My mum has kept a journal of all the places I’ve been to, including all the flights. We figured out on my 18th birthday that I have visited 26 countries and been on more than 1000 flights! Our conservation work takes us to the most extraordinary places and we’re so lucky to be able to see so much of the world while spreading our conservation message.
What do you like to find in your minibar?
Call me a crazy 18-year-old but I actually get most excited about finding a hotel room with tea, milk, sugar and a kettle. Sometimes I’ll lash out and have two cups of tea in the morning before my day begins.
When you arrive at your destination, what’s the first thing you do?
I try to find a shop that sells little plants, as I like to keep one with me in my room. Then I give it to someone else before I leave. It’s one of my travel traditions.
Where is your home away from home?
Home will always be Australia Zoo [in Beerwah, Queensland] but my home away from home would have to be here in Oregon. Another place that I love is Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. The island is filled with birdlife and the reef is like a world of its own.
SEE ALSO: Travelling with Anthony Lapaglia
Which destination was a surprise to you?
Cape Town in South Africa, for its incredible wildlife conservation programs. In 2002, my parents started our non-profit organisation, Wildlife Warriors. We work with projects all over the world: elephants in Cambodia, tigers in Sumatra, rhinos in Kenya and the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital. Last year we visited Cheetah Outreach, one of the projects we support – it’s amazing! Because the felines become interested in livestock, the farmers kill the cheetahs to try to stop them from hunting the goats and sheep. In order to change the relationship between farmers and cheetahs, we’re working with Cheetah Outreach to implement a new system involving guard dogs. They’re breeding Anatolian shepherds to protect the farm animals and the program has saved the lives of cheetahs as well as livestock.
You’ve probably been off the grid many times – what is the most remote location you have visited?
The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve in Cape York, Far North Queensland. We travel here for our annual crocodile research trip; for a month, we break out our tents and swags to live on the reserve. This Strategic Environmental Area was recognised in honour of my dad and is about twice the size of Singapore. We spend our time catching crocodiles, using the same methods he developed. We work with The University of Queensland to study these modern- day dinosaurs so we can educate people about how to live safely around them. It’s wonderful being out in the bush in the middle of nowhere with the people I love.
What are your most memorable dining experiences?
Even though we love nothing more than dinner cooked over a camp re, my brother, Robert, has acquired a taste for ne dining. He loves finding Michelin-starred restaurants and experiencing really good food. I think my most memorable experience was eating under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Words can’t describe that meal and the spectacular view of the city – once in a lifetime! I had another one driving from Adelaide to Darwin with Dad. One day on the trip, we ended up eating sausage rolls, pies and chocolate. We may not have told Mum about that for a while...
What is the worst place you’ve been lost?
Amsterdam. For sure. I was about seven years old and my brother was about two. We were at the tulip festival, where there were flower floats on the street. The crowd was huge; there were thousands of people. Robert was so captivated by the flowers that he started running towards the pretty displays. Being so small, he ducked and weaved through all the people. Mum had to run after him to try to keep him from disappearing into the crowd and we got separated. It took an hour to find each other again. It was a gorgeous place, just a scary situation! I hope one day I can go back to Amsterdam to experience the tulips again – without getting lost.
What’s your No. 1 travel bugbear?
This may be random but it makes me so sad when I visit a place and can’t find postcards. I don’t normally buy much of anything when I travel, except postcards. I think the art of writing is so important so I’ll send one to everyone I love back at home, from everywhere I go. You’d be surprised how postcards are getting harder to find.
SEE ALSO: Travelling with Elle Macpherson