What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Australia? The long white sandy beaches? Chucking a shrimp on the barbie? Perhaps the Sydney Opera House? Most certainly the wildlife, with species that make this country unique in its own way.
There’s the widely known Koalas and Kangaroos and then comes the more feared and intriguing types we’d prefer not to discover in the wild, like the Huntsman spider or the Red-bellied black snake.
The first time I took a trip down under I was convinced these creatures were everywhere, but soon learnt the only place I’d encounter any of them would be in a Zoo unless I went into the bush, which sounded too daring for someone fresh off the boat like myself.
Not wanting to leave the country without seeing all Australia had to offer I searched animal sanctuaries and came across Australia Zoo, home to the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Generally wary of Zoo’s and what they sometimes portray I was reluctant to visit, but after further research, it was clear that Steve’s legacy to treat animals with the best care had lived on.
On entering it’s safe to say you aren’t eased into the Australian animal catalogue. One (or try several) of the first things you’ll stumble across are Alligators. My favourite? Lucy, who was enjoying a bask in the sun with not a care in the world.
Moving on and you’ll be faced with this beast of a tortoise whose features draw similarities to a dinosaur. The comparison ending where speed is concerned, roaming the grounds at a snail’s pace.
I was impressed with this Lizards composure, perched on a log in the midst of tourist chaos. Seizing the opportunity I took his portrait, capturing his pose in all its glory.
The Kookaburra bird, native to Australia and New Guinea earned its name from the human-like laugh it uses to communicate. Unlike most other birds they’re extremely cute and fluffy.
I didn’t have to wait long to see my favourite Aussie animals, who despite their tendency to nap for 18 hours a day are still as pleasing to watch. We were lucky enough to visit when the cubs were out, wide awake and sprightly, heightening my love for these adorable creatures.
I didn’t get much conversation out of this exotic Parrot, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. To compensate I was able to take this picture, brimming with colour before he flew off into the wilderness.
Knock yourself out when you get to the Kangaroo garden; take a snap with a Jack or a Jill or give them a feed. Just be careful not to back them into a corner, they might swing for you.
A rare occurrence we got to witness was tigers play time, where one very privileged (and brave) keeper used a giant teaser to stimulate them. Jumping in and out of the pool he swung it around until each tiger caught it like a domestic pet would a toy mouse on the end of some string.
The Crocoseum invites you to get up close and personal with snakes and tropical birds. And if you can bear the suspense watch from afar as some Crocs snap up their lunch.
Last but not least you enter Africa, the latest edition to the Zoo. From here you can take the free safari tour where your guide will tell you all about the history and future projects of the Zoo. Most importantly, the conditions these animals live in and that they have far more land to play with than what meets the eye.
Having just skimmed the surface on the amount that goes on here, at the home of the Crocodile Hunter, it’s definitely worth the detour from wherever you’re heading. Slightly inland and only a 45-minute drive from Brisbane it’s an excuse to explore more of the Sunshine Coast and see the true beauty of Australia’s wildlife.
… and just because, here’s one of the baby’s I caught on camera that will have you wishing you had a Koala of your own.