I am a mum of two and Primary School teacher whose aim is to never be home during the midday movie. I believe that I am only ever a car trip away from an adventure.
Published August 6th 2013
A safe haven for some of our most unique and endangered
Have you ever seen a Julie Creek Dunnart? Or a Squirrel Glider? Have you ever watched an Eastern Quoll scurry around the forest floor or walked with a Red-Necked wallaby?
At the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation park located in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula you can get up and personal with a variety of amazing Australian animals, many which are rare and unique. Only 50 minutes drive south-east of Melbourne's CBD, this conservation park offers the opportunity to meet, interact with and learn about some of our lesser known furry, feathered and scaly friends. There are potaroos, wallabies, wombats, owls, cockatoos, Tasmanian devils, lizards and that's just a start.
Moonlit Sanctuary is a haven for native Australian birds and creatures
In fact there are over 200 animals that call the Moonlit Sanctuary home and about 30 species. Unfortunately, many of which are struggling to survive in their natural habitat with numbers plummeting and some facing extinction. The Southern Bettang and the Red-bellied Pademelon are just a few. However, the Bettang and a number of other breeds have successfully been bred here which is a real testament to the passion, commitment and dedication held by those at Moonlit.
Sleepy koala weighs about 14 kilos
With 10 hectares of land, two wetlands inhabited by land and water birds and over 10,000 native plants and trees, this is a real haven and provides the perfect place for city slickers, overseas visitors and animal enthusiasts to enjoy some of our rarest and most interesting Aussie friends. For many of us we've probably never seen or heard of many of these stunning creatures, let alone watched them in their natural environment. You'll love the owls sleeping side by side and Jagga, the one eyed Dingo.
Jagga can be fearful of visitors but loves his family and handlers
As you walk about the luscious grounds, it's not hard to see why the Moonlit Sanctuary has been the recipient of many awards and accolades. Most recently they were awarded the 2012 Zoo Aquarium Association New Exhibit under $1000,000, for their Wallaby Walk. This is a peaceful trail to wander through with wallabies sleeping, shading themselves or eating beside you. They seemed completely at ease with our peering eyes and our giggles of excitement. In fact we even tried to entice a few with our $2 bag of food purchased from the kiosk, but they hopped on.
Snack time for the wallabies
Along the way there's plenty of information and fun facts about each animal which is a fascinating read. Each card also highlights how prominent these animals are in the environment and how secure their future is. Poor Rita the Hairy-Nosed wombat is considered in danger of extinction and the Major Mitchell Cockatoo is at a vulnerable level in Victoria.
Major Mitchell Cockatoo is decreasing in numbers
Try to come when you are not time poor as this place is best enjoyed when you can stop and search for the animals and watch them eat, sleep and play. We were fortunate on the day we visited that all the animals were out soaking up some sun. We even found sleepy Rita, the wombat tucked up in her hollow log. But do dress appropriately. If you are going on or after a rainy day, opt for old clothes and gumboots. With so much wetland you can be assured there is loads of mud and mud slips are very possible, in our case they were eminent.
Rita was not feeling overly social the day we visited
There are also daily animal keeper talks and the opportunity to cuddle with a koala or let a snake slither up your arm in a very close encounter. A small cost does apply. You can also relax at the kiosk whilst being watched by snakes and lizards or you can bring your own picnic and set up at one of the undercover tables provided. A tiny playground is onsite as well but it has a five kid at a time rule so it may take a while to get on if it's a busy day. It didn't look like much to me but the kids were swarming around it.
Snakes and lizards watch over patrons at the kiosk
If you are more of a night owl, they run evening tours but you must book in advance. Tickets range in price from $40 an adult to $25 for a child over 4. We were unfortunately unable to participate in a tour but wouldn't it be amazing to watch the nocturnal animals awaken and go about their day. It's a definite must for next time.
There is heaps of on-site free parking and along with the simple kiosk is a small and humble gift shop that stocks soft toys, books, souvenirs and koala farts! You can throw a party here and have your cake while being eyed off by a hungry emu peering in through the window.
Beware of the hungry emu
If you would like to get involved, volunteers are appreciated. You can give as much or as little of your time as you can once completing the compulsory induction. Jobs include building and maintaining enclosures, food preparation, assisting guests or holiday and school groups, feeding the animals or even walking the dingoes. Possible the only chance one would ever get to walk a dingo! Or jump on line and consider the Sponsor a Species program.
Moonlit Sanctuary isn't a zoo nor a farm, not even an aquarium. It's a beautiful Australian environment that provides for, cares for and encourages the survival and growth of many unique and beautiful native animals, big and small. Come down with overseas or interstate guests, bring your family and friends but definitely bring your children and don't forget to look out for sleepy Rita in her log.