Our family holiday to the Central Coast included a visit to the award-winning Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary
where, I'm sure, the worst sinners are destined to be reincarnated as animals on show.
Only at a hands-on zoo, do you see a kangaroo get chased by a gang of pint-sized 'bad boys'; an assortment of reptiles held by keepers pawed by visitors for hours; and sleeping wombats suffer the indignation of remarks like, "you can see more if you Google 'em."
But for the hundreds of people - especially little ones - who visit each day during holidays, it's great fun.
What was that about a gecko? Take a look at the playground.
The Australian Reptile Park, just off the Pacific Highway, stretches into bush land and is an exciting display of Australian mammals, birdlife, crocodiles, reptiles and spiders. And there's enough to keep a family entertained for hours.
A trip to the park is best structured around a reptile show. It's a chance to see all matter of cold blooded things slither around a micro-phoned keeper. Volunteers from the audience participate in the thirty minutes that is as entertaining as it is informative: who doesn't need to know exactly what to do when bitten by a venomous snake?
Australian mammals and birds in enclosures break-up a gentle stroll around the park. Taking in the lake, where three metre long crocodiles lie close to the shoreline, it fills in forty-five minutes. The reptile display includes many exotic types: chameleons, Fijian iguanas, African bullfrogs, and a python big enough to eat an animal, and requires a stronger nerve. The spider exhibit, filled with creepy crawlies, is not for those susceptible to developing a childhood phobia.
Mind you, kids seem more interested in the giant replicas of creatures spotted around the park. You enter a crocodile's mouth to the 'Lost World of Reptiles'. Inside, a gigantic plastic croc, dressed-up as an Egyptian pharaoh, exhales smoke and talks like a school principal. At the entrance to Spider World, the plastic red-back dancing like an awkward puppet is another drawcard for preschoolers.
It's not a movie set, you're inside the World of Reptiles
And according to one little person in our group, the playground rates highly. There was certainly a crowd at the slide, which is reportedly long and scary.
The three hours I spent at the park will go down as a family highlight of a trip to the Central Coast, NSW. The reptile exhibits are world class. Visitors of all ages will enjoy spending a few hours there; the zoo knows how to inform and entertain.
There is another serious side to Australian Reptile Park. Back office, the company conducts valuable scientific programs such as venom production and wildlife research.
Plenty of close encounters at a hands-on zoo
However, this visit has been for the pure joy of it: the park is full to the brim; noise levels are at school yard volumes; and the animals, strangely enough, seem to be enjoying the attention.