I am always looking out for new experiences, wherever I may find myself.
Published January 22nd 2015
If you ever want to see Australian animals, Featherdale Wildlife Park is a great option. There's just so many on what seems like only a few residential blocks of land; thousands of marsupials, reptiles, birds and more.
Last year, Featherdale received a Bronze Medal at the NSW Tourism Awards and I think part of the appeal is how close you feel to the animals. You could reach out and touch almost all of them if you didn't know better and for much of the first half of the park, there are kangaroos (or their relatives) roaming around among visitors, ready to be fed.
It's not struggle to pat a kangaroo here – the struggle is not stepping on them!
As well as the kangaroos, birds also made up a significant portion of the park's wildlife. Most of them are in cages, but others are free and just can't fly (the birds often have injuries, which is what brought them here in the first place).
This particular bird was very interested in the apple I was eating
I was not surprised to find out that Featherdale has the largest private collection of koalas in Australia, with over 40 in total. There are enclosures of them everywhere, which is the case for a lot of the animals; you end up seeing them again and again.
Although I know most of the wildlife at Featherdale will I never tired of watching them. Featherdale isn't like zoos, where I've almost felt like I'm ticking each animal off a long or trying to get a glimpse of it at the back of a cage. The small spaces (these particular animals don't really need much more) and fact there are paths around most sides of the enclosures means you really feel close to the animals, which in turn means you a close-up of each one's individual behaviours.
There were so many different types of kangaroos and wallabies (I'm not actually sure if this pair fall into either group)
For example, my first experience of a koala here was at the Koala Sanctuary, where you can pat one and get a photo at any time during the day. You would think seeing them in their enclosures later would be less interesting, but it wasn't. I saw lts of babies, on their mother's back or attempting to climb the branches themselves (August to January is mating season and 4-6 are born at Featherdale each year so it was a good time),. I saw other koalas jump and climb around branches and heard the guttural noise they can make. Rarely was I just trying to find one in distant branches like often happens elsewhere.
Some other moments I took away from the day include hearing birds making unexpected noises (then seeing a sign revealing they were whistling kites), watching echidnas be more active than any I've ever seen and not being able to turn away from a cassowary swallowing large chunks of banana so close to me I could see the pieces slowly go down its throat. Even a duck trying to get at my shoelaces through a fence created a funny moment.
The echidnas were running (or waddling) around so much it was hard to get them in a photo
Almost all the wombats I saw were eating
My visit to Featherdale Wildlife Park took place on what had originally looked like a very rainy day. The weather ended up clearing away and the animals' activity was much more than I had expected. If the animals aren't so energetic on your visit, you can still enjoy them at their best at one of the presentations .
The Tasmanian devils were constantly running around
There are feedings and/or talks for the reptiles, echidnas, crocodile, penguins, pelican, flying foxes, dingoes and Tasmanian devils. You can also feed the barnyard animals twice a day (there weren't too many though).
Most of the presentations I saw were better than I had expected. I thought I was pretty used to pelicans but I was impressed by the birds' size and their synchronised swimming tricks (like spinning in circles). All of them came to the park with injuries that prevent them flying, which explains why they stay here.
A keeper directs the pelicans in one of their turns
I had already seen the echidnas active but learnt a lot about them during that talk (and Googled Papua New Guinea's long-beaked echidnas when I got home). At the flying foxes presentation I learnt the location of a mother's teat (on her wing) and watched them hilariously clamber along the roof and sides of their cage to get food off the trays. The only disappointment was Rapt in Reptiles; pictures make it look like you can hold a snake but really you just pat it and there's no talk, it's all about getting a photo.
There are two picnic areas where yo can have a packed lunch, as well as a café near the entrance. The areas weren't crowded when I visited, but I did visit on a day that started with terrible weather. If you can, make sure you eat in the lunch break of the presentation schedule too. Then there will be nothing stopping you making the most of your day at Featherdale Wildlife Park.