Down Under: My unhealthy obsession with koalas
Kangaroos, koalas and Steve Irwin. That’s what Australia is known for. And there’s no better place to experience these than at the Australia Zoo.
Conveniently nestled in the heart of the Sunshine Coast, the Australia Zoo is a 100-acre Australian wildlife haven.
Here you can lie in the grass with kangaroos, cuddle a koala, embrace a python, feed an elephant, and watch a crocodile lunge at its prey.
You can even arrange to walk a tiger in the morning for a couple extra hundred bucks.
I’m not a huge cat lover myself, but my friend Katie is, and she’s currently working out the funds to go back. You only live once, I guess.
Bob and Lyn Irwin, Steve Irwin’s parents, opened the zoo in 1970. Steve grew up feeding the crocodiles and developed a keen appreciation for wildlife and thrills early on.
Steve and his wife, Terri, inherited the zoo in the 1990s and dedicated their work to conservation and building new exhibits. Their philosophy was to put the animals first.
Although Steve tragically died of a stingray injury to the heart in 2006, the “Home of the Crocodile Hunter” remains a major tourist attraction.
I must admit, I was rather impressed by the zoo.
I have an unhealthy obsession with koala bears, and being able to pick one up has been on my bucket list since I arrived.
The most adorable animals in the world, koalas live a lifestyle similar to one I can only dream about. Their slow metabolic rate makes them motionless for about 16 to 18 hours a day. They spend about three of their five active hours eating – mostly eucalypt leaves.
For $20, you get to pick up a koala and have your picture taken with it. For me, this was well worth the money, and a dream come true. They cling to you so tightly like sleepy little babies and their faces scrunch against your arm.
They’re really soft and cuddly. It took everything within me not to run away with it in my arms.
In 2004, an animal hospital was built on the zoo grounds, and you can go in and look around. When we were there, a koala with a broken arm was in surgery and another one with a cast was resting.
I’m not sure what these furry little guys are doing to hurt themselves other than falling out of trees, perhaps.
Either way, seeing a koala with a boo-boo is enough to tear at my heartstrings.
Later in the day, we all got in line to feed the elephants.
That was a weird experience, to say the least.
The zoo workers held out a bucket of carrots and apples, handed us a piece one at a time and, the elephant sucked it out of your hand and scarfed it down in an instant.
Needless to say, we all wanted to wash our hands after that.
We also got a look at the emus, wallabies, dingoes, red pandas, Tasmanian devils and wombats. Where else would we see such unique creatures?
In the brand new Africa Safari exhibit that opened last September, you can watch zebras, rhinos and giraffes interacting as they would in the wild.
All in all, it was another good day in Australia.