Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Healesville Sanctuary

My trip to Healsville Sanctuary led to my first up close and personal kangaroo encounter. This is a rite of passage for a foreigner and my experience did not disappoint. We arrived at the zoo at 11am and they were doing a kangaroo feeding at 11:30, so we made it just in time. NOTE- they only do the feedings once a day, so don't miss it. There were a lot of people around for the feeding, but most got their fill after a few minutes and we were essentially the last ones left with the kangaroos and the keeper. The big males couldn't be bothered to come over and have a snack, but the small females were more than happy to let us pet and snuggle them.
The were all fun to watch, even the big boys over in the corner that pretty much kept to themselves.
The zoo is much less commercialized than Melbourne zoo. The grounds are all kept very natural with dirt paths leading you between the animals. In between the enclosures you can even find lots of large birds and a wallaby if you're lucky. There is a shop with souvenirs near the main entrance and there are a number of places to grab a bite to eat. A few kiosks with snacks and ready-made sandwiches are tucked away among the trees and there is also a yummy bistro if you'd rather have some freshly made hot food (chips, pizza, foccacias, pies, as well as a rotating menu of restaurant style items.)
Back to the animals. The sanctuary mainly houses Australian bush animals: emus, platypus (is there a plural form of platypus?), koalas, Tasmanian devils, various reptiles, dingoes.

Many of the animals have been brought in because they were sick or injured. These animals are treated at the Australian Wildlife Health Center (located on the Sanctuary grounds and available to tour) then some are released into the wild, others who are not fit to be released will stay at the zoo.
There are lots of chances to "Meet the Keeper," in which the keeper will talk to you about the animals and answer any questions. During the kangaroo presentation the allow you to feed the animals and during the reptile presentation you will be allowed to pet a snake or two, but get there a few minutes early, otherwise you can't see anything. The Birds of Prey presentation is pretty amazing, don't miss that one. The keepers bring out lots of different birds and demonstrate their hunting habits as they swoop over the audience. Get there early for this one too, the close the gates and won't let you in late.

Getting there was my only problem with the zoo. If you have a car, skip ahead because you won't have any problem. If you want to take public transport, plan on 2 1/2 hours each way from the city. You'll take the Lilydale line all the way to the last stop. From there you take the 685 or 686 bus to the Sanctuary (the bus leaves right from the train station, though you might have to wait a bit for the next bus). NOTE- be sure you find out when the buses come by the Sanctuary for your return trip home. We were finished at the zoo at 4pm and had to wait for the next bus till 5:30!

Name: Healesville Sanctuary
Location: Badger Creek Road, Healesville
Telephone: 1300 ZOOSVIC
Admission: Adults $24.40, Children $12.10, Family (2 adults, 2 children) $55.50
Friends of the Zoos Passes also available, see website.

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