Would you just love to hand feed a wild dolphin, scrub a tortoise's shell or swim with fur seals? Here in Brisbane, we are extremely fortunate to have so many zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and nature reserves within close proximity. Ranging from the Sunshine Coast to the Gold Coast, this is the short list of the top ten animal encounters within an hour (or so) of the city.
The major drawcard here is the 80 metre long ocean walk through, where they have "Sleep Under the Sea" programs in the school holidays. There are 14 talks, feeds and presentations daily, with the option to swim with the fur seals, dive with sharks or even be a seal trainer for the day.
Home of the Crocodile Hunter and The Crocoseum, this is clearly the place to see crocodiles up close. Made famous by the Irwin Family, the focus of Australia Zoo is wildlife conservation and a visit here is truly educational. Be sure to stop in at the Wildlife Hospital.
Moreton Bay is a favourite playground for wild Bottlenose Dolphins and the feeding program at Tangalooma is as close to these gentle creatures as you will ever get. Every night at sunset, the dolphins come into the shallows to spy on the visiting humans and eat a few fish from your hand if you're lucky. They also have an excellent whale watching program from June to October.
Not far west of the CBD, this small wildlife centre is a great place to hand feed kangaroos, meet a quoll, a platypus and a wombat all in one visit. They have an interesting nocturnal animal exhibit and a walk through aviary. Every Saturday and Sunday at 1.30pm, the ranger conducts a guided tour especially for families. This place offers the best value for money in town.
With over 130 koalas, Lone Pine is the world's largest and first koala sanctuary, located only 11 kms from the city, right on the Brisbane River. You can hold these koalas (and have your picture taken), feed wild lorikeets, watch the sheep dog and sheep shearing show or the birds of prey flight show. They also run a range of "Keeper for the Day" programs during the school holidays.
Located just south of Brisbane, within the spacious Daisy Hill Conservation Park, this is the place to spot koalas in their natural habitat. You can meet (but not pat) Celeste, Mangiri, Faith and Elsa and learn all about their quirky koala behaviours.
This is a classic theme park, so you can expect animal encounters on a grand scale. During school holidays, older children (over 14 years) can join the "Trainer for a Day Program" or you can participate in the Penguin Antarctic Adventure, Seal Safari, or Tropical Reef Snorkel Program to name just a few encounters, all of which are super expensive, but tons of fun.
During school holidays, they run fantastic "Eco Ranger and Creature Keeper" Programs at Currumbin, which also has a unique Wildlife Hospital. As you experience the sanctuary, you can have your photo taken with salt water crocodiles, lorikeets, emus, kangaroos and possums. The Twilight Tour is an especially interesting way to experience our native wildlife.
There are many opportunities here to engage with native animals - from dingoes to cassowaries to rare wallabies and platypuses. Join the "Ranger for a Day" programs each school holidays or perhaps the nocturnal spot lighting tours.
Every one of these amazing locations is worth a visit and each one offers unique and different animal experiences. Maybe you could work your way through the list? Or maybe try one of their fun school holiday programs, or offer your services as a volunteer at the wildlife park closest to you?
It must be a wonderful experience to be able to get and close to the animals; I'm actually surprised that so many zoos allow it. I would have thought that they would want to keep wild animal's interaction with humans to a minimum.
Fantastic list Lucy. I recently visited Australia Zoo and although I'm not a fan of zoo's it was really fantastic and the animals are given such a great amount of space they don't appear caged in.
In Townsville, the Billabong Sanctuary is really good too. I think someone wrote an article on this already?