Peel Zoo, about one hour south of Perth, or fifteen minutes from Mandurah, is probably one of WA's best kept secrets.
With over 100 species of animals, this boutique zoo is privately funded and has a number of breeding and conservation programs. The most important of these is the Tasmanian Devil breeding program, with the Peel Zoo an important part of increasing numbers of this iconic Aussie animal whose numbers in the wild are dramatically dropping due to an incurable face tumour disease.
Most of the animals are Australian natives, with a few domestic animals included in the mix, making this an ideal destination for foreign visitors. Unlike bigger Zoos, the highlight of a visit to the Peel Zoo is the hands-on experiences, which can range from holding a large snake, to hand feeding kangaroos and native birds.
There are three dedicated pat and feed enclosures where visitors are welcome to get up close and personal with the animals. Bags of feed are available at the entrance for $3, an absolutely essential investment if you are visiting with young children.
You can buy bags of pellets to feed to the animals
The first enclosure has a range of Western Grey kangaroos who will all eat out of your hands while nearby is a second, larger area where you can step inside and pat and feed a range of animals including alpacas, sheep, emus and beautiful red deer.
There is also a walk-in aviary with a stunning array of birds which fly overhead and some will eat out of your hand. Buckets of fresh fruit and vegetables are provided to feed to the birds.
Visitors are provided with a map explaining what animals can be found in each exhibit: these include possums, potaroos, woylies and wallabies plus the more exotic white kangaroos, a charming wombat, emu babies and a whole team of Tassie Devils.
The Zoo also has a range of reptiles and birds of prey and during the day there are ongoing displays and presentations where visitors can see (and touch and hold) a number of animals up close.
One of the Tassie Devils, part of the successful breeding program
You can also join the Zoo Keeper for a Day program, which at $165 opens doors that the general public never get to see. The full day program is available for kids aged 8 to 16, and includes all the behind-the-scenes experiences plus extras like lunch, an exclusive uniform you get to keep and more.
The entire zoo is very compact, perfect for kids. There are no vast distances between exhibits, and there are plenty of seats spaced around the zoo to rest and watch the animals. The start and finish of the meandering route is a shaded seating area, with toilets, a free BBQ and a café (which sells sandwiches, baguettes, hot food and icecream) and shop. You can also take a picnic lunch out to the shaded picnic grounds on the banks of a billabong.