She has been on our television screens for 12 years so it’s hard to believe she is still only 15 years old. Indeed, since her crocodile-loving father, Steve Irwin, made her famous at the age of 3, Bindi Irwin has been travelling the globe educating kids about conservation and wildlife all over the world. She tells suitcases&strollers about her favourites of the 26 countries she’s visited and why travel has been her defining life experience.
What's your earliest memory of travelling?
My earliest memory of travelling is with my mum and dad when I was about 3 years old. We were doing some filming on boat in the middle of the ocean. All of a sudden, during the middle of the trip, a pod of dolphins started swimming around our boat. We decided to get in the water to watch 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 breath-taking moment and something I will carry with me forever.
How often do you travel now and how do you incorporate life on the road with schoolwork?
We live at Australia Zoo, however we are away about half the year for work. My mum always makes sure that when we are travelling for work we still get a little time off just to have fun.
I am enrolled in Distance Education for school, which really works for us, because it’s a program that fits around our busy schedule. When we are travelling, school just fits around it. We can travel with our schoolwork because it is a school of correspondence. I have completed my school tasks in the strangest places: on trains, boats, planes, in the middle of the Australian bush or in a high-rise apartment in Hong Kong.
Where is your favourite place to travel?
That is a challenging question because there are so many beautiful places in the world. To be honest, I love Australia. I live in the most spectacular country on planet earth. From the Great Barrier Reef to Uluru to Australia Zoo, we have everything here and I enjoy travelling around my own backyard!
Where is the most exotic place you've travelled to?
Singapore is a gorgeous place to visit. Especially the botanic gardens there. The botanic gardens are filled with stunning plants and it is a truly peaceful place. I had the honour of an orchid being named after me. Dendrobium Bindi Irwin was officially named on the 12 April 2013 in the National Orchid Garden in Singapore. I felt so blessed. [For more on activities to do in Singapore with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where is the most surprising place you've travelled to?
One place that felt like stepping back in time was Scotland. Arriving in Scotland, you feel like you are stuck in the pages of a fairy tale mixed with a medieval movie. It’s brilliant! There are castles, wonderful little places to walk and the thrill of searching for the Loch Ness Monster.
Do you have a regular holiday destination you visit frequently?
When we take time off we usually travel to Tasmania, Australia. There is great wildlife in Tassie as well as fantastic places to go hiking. Cradle Mountain has been said to have the world’s cleanest air and I believe it. The three of us [mum Terri and brother Robert] love to go hiking around the mountains in Cradle National Park and the air is literally sweet – it’s so clean and fresh! We absolutely love hiking and seeing wild wombats and Tasmanian devils and echidnas walking around.
Do you think it is important for kids to travel?
I have been privileged to have the opportunity to travel. Because my mum and dad were able to bring us along when they travelled, my little brother Robert and I have been able to experience some amazing things. If parents are in a position to be able to take their kids with them on travel experiences…they should!
I feel as though I have learnt more through my life experience travelling than anything else. Experiencing new cultures, understanding ways of life overseas and becoming more aware of the problems facing our earth today.
As a child, what has travel added to your life that you would not have had if you had just stayed in Queensland?
Living in Queensland is amazing and I could travel around Queensland for years and not experience everything! I think that I’m very lucky to live in such a gorgeous part of the world. Here in Queensland we have everything from the Great Barrier Reef, to dinosaur trails, to tropical rainforests, to mountain ranges, to beaches and (most importantly, my home) Australia Zoo. However travelling overseas has given me perspective on life and I have been able to experience new cultures which is an incredible experience.
What do kids get out of travelling that they don't get from staying at home?
Travel opens your mind. You fall in love with different cultures and understand how large the world really is. For me, travelling has inspired passion for what I do and has helped me become the person I am today. By talking to other people, experiencing new ways of life, it has guided me find my passions and understand that every person has a purpose. I suppose you could say that travelling is the ultimate enlightenment for your soul.
[For more reasons why you should travel with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story by the founder of Lonely Planet, Tony Wheeler.]
Where is the one place in the world that you haven't been that you would love to visit?
I have always wanted to go trekking in Peru. The Inca Trail looks fantastic and it is something I would like to experience.
I would also love to experience more of France. Paris is beautiful but I am also completely captured by the beauty of the south of France. The patisseries and 400-year-old streets, the people who seem as old as time itself (and who don’t speak a word of English), the bookstores and poetry…perfect.
Where are some of the best places to travel to if you are a parent wanting to show your kids about animals in the wild?
Teaching kids about wildlife and wild places can be as simple as taking a trip to the nearest national park. Pack a picnic and go hiking as a family. The most important thing is to be together.
I believe that the only way to connect to wildlife and wild places is to experience it. With our animals here at Australia Zoo we strive to inspire families and give them a life-changing experience. When you come to Australia Zoo, you’re not just looking at our animals, you’re meeting them. When you kiss a blue tongue lizard or hold a koala you are connecting to that animal because when you get to touch an animal, it ultimately touches you. It’s in your heart and you want to learn more about that animal and protect it for future generations to come. So, if you want to inspire your kids, take them somewhere they can experience nature first hand.
What makes a good family holiday to you?
As a family on holiday we look for an outdoor experience. Somewhere we can go hiking together or experience wildlife. Anywhere that is outdoors and that will allow us to be together.
What are your top 3 must-visit destinations you would recommend for parents wanting to take their kids on a great family holiday?
1. Australia Zoo because I’d love for you to bring your family and visit my home and family of animals. Plus while you’re here you can experience the rest of the state [of Queensland, Australia].
2. South of France. There is nothing better than to watch my little brother dress up as a knight while mum and I spend time together drinking hot chocolate and talking about life and poetry. Such a special place, so I’m sure you’d love it too.
3. Thailand. Visit a few of the elephant orphanages and spend some time with the locals. Trust me. It’s worth it. [For ideas on where you can get an intimate experience taking care of the elephants of Thailand, see the suitcases&strollers stories Ayutthaya and Elephant Polo in Hua Hin.]
Bindi Irwin is a regular contributor to suitcases&strollers. To read more of her thoughts on travel, type her name into the Search bar on the suitcases&strollers website.