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One of Victoria's most loved tourist attractions would have to be the Healesville Sanctuary located in the heart of the Yarra Valley. It's not hard to see why with the beautiful natural bush surrounds and some of the most endangered Australian wildlife on display.
Unlike most zoos, Healesville Sanctuary offers animals an environment that is natural and all animals are Australian so they are not taken out of their own natural habitat or country to be on display in a small man made enclosure which is what I enjoy about Healesville Sanctuary.
Animals here are very well cared for and the main aim for the sanctuary is education, conservation, helping endangered Australian animals, rehabilitation and protecting wildlife. The sanctuary is a major tourist attraction and needs visitors through the gates to help pay for day to day running costs of the animal emergency centre and upkeep of the park, the main focus is on animal welfare and protecting species.
On display at the sanctuary are hundreds of animals in two main circuit walks. It does seem small to begin with and not many animals, however, once you start exploring you will discover so many interesting things that it will take half the day to complete.
From the most notable Australian icon animals such as the Koalas, Kangaroos, Echidnas, Tasmanian Devil, Emus, Platypus, Dingos through to the lesser known baby lizards, finches, frogs, snakes, pythons, and the list goes on and on.
The sanctuary offers many opportunities to get up close with animals and pat them if they wish to come to you. You can hold a parrot, feed a red tailed cockatoo, pat a galah and walk through many aviaries and the kangaroo enclosure.
If however you would like more time with a particular animal there are 'magic moment' sessions which gets you into the enclosure with the keeper and you get the opportunity to pat the animal of your choice. Animals that are apart of the 'magic moments' are kangaroos, echidna, tree kangaroos, pythons, dingos and koalas. Magic moments cost $12 on top of the entrance fee.
There are many great new wooden sculptures throughout the park, most children were more excited to jump on the back of a giant lizard to have their photo taken. Also popular with the kids is the "fight extinction superhero" named Zooperman, kids can pick up a mission card and learn facts about species before returning their card to claim their reward.
Spirits of the sky is definitely the main attraction, everyone in the stadium was in awe of the magnificent birds of prey and parrots that fly overhead, just missing spectators and leaving a rush of air.
Being that the Healsville Sanctuary is in the Yarra Valley, there is a wine and wildlife pass that gets you a 2 course meal at De Bortoli winery with wine tastings, entry to the sanctuary and free chocolate tastings at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie. Tickets are $85 for adults and $40 for children.
Entry into Healesville Sanctuary is $26.10 for adults and $12 for children (children are free in school holidays) or if you are a more frequent visitor you may want the annual membership for the 3 zoos (Melbourne, Werribee and Healsville.)
One of the operating suites in the animal emergency centre
History of the Healesville Sanctuary:
The site where the Healesville Sanctuary is today lies within the land of an Aboriginal tribe called the Wurundieri people that occupied the land between 1863-1924 named Correnderk. In 1920 Doctor Colin Mackenzie set up the Institute of Anatomical Research. The land was passed to the Healesville council in 1927 and became The Sir Colin Mackenzie Fauna Park in 1934. The first platypus bred in captivity was here in 1943.
In 2009 the park was threatened by the Black Saturday bushfire, luckily coming out unscathed and needing to treat hundreds of animals affected by the near by bush fires.
Currently the sanctuary is trying to raise funds to rehabilitate the Coranderrk land.