When one only has about 24 hours in a new city, it begs the question "where do you go?" and "what do you see?". After having read the excellent reviews at this website
in preparation for my quick visit to Brisbane, Australia, I decided that I just HAD to see the koalas and have my picture taken with one.
Australia is a huge country and there is much to see, but if time is a factor, then Brisbane’s Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the place to go. I booked my visit through American Express Travel Services and my voucher was conveniently waiting for me at my Brisbane hotel when I checked in. My husband and I were picked up and dropped off at our hotel, which made the process so much easier, though there is a city bus that regularly goes to and from the sanctuary. Lone Pine is located a short distance from the Central Business District (CBD) and is a manageable outing, not taking up a huge amount of the day.
This natural habitat is truly a sanctuary for these beautiful animals. Some are injured and being nursed back to health and some are just protected from the modern elements endangering them. The sanctuary is home to not only koalas, but also beautiful birds (read below about the lorikeets feeding show), dingos, kangaroos, wallabies (small kangaroos) bats, a few crocodiles, snakes, Tasmanian devils, scrub turkeys, sheep dogs and gorgeous cockatoos to name a few.
It is important to know the park’s schedule of events as they present demonstrations throughout the day and some you simply don’t want to miss. Our driver recommended the "Birds of Prey" show, that we found to be enthralling. The trainers are experts at handling these large hunting birds with their dangerous talons and strong beaks. They demonstrate some of their many skills and flying capability. One only has to see the enormous wingspan of the majestic eagle to appreciate its strength and its place in the animal hierarchy.
But it was off to the koala area for me. The sanctuary provides an wonderful opportunity to get up close with this adorable creature. I felt a little bad knowing that daytime hours are not their preference – these marsupials are definitely nocturnal and many were "relaxing" and dozing during our afternoon stroll. The trainers though will ably assist in placing one in your arms for the coveted cuddle picture to take home as a memento of your visit. My koala, named Shassi, was cooperative and definitely photogenic. When you pick up your photo at their gift shop, take note of the famous faces that have visited this sanctuary. Hey, if it’s good enough for Mikhail Gorbachev, it’s good enough for me. I learned that koalas have two "thumbs" which helps them grip better when they hang in the eucalyptus trees. Their preference for eucalyptus leaves comes from an evolutionary development as those leaves serve little use due to their toxins and low protein level. Over time though, koalas have uniquely adapted to this one food source since they maintain a low energy output.
As my husband and I were returning to the entrance we walked through the lorikeet area. Three o’clock is their afternoon feeding time and it’s an event not to be missed. These beautiful little birds are calmly perched up in the trees minding their own business with only a few of them fluttering around. But, when the food is brought out by their keepers and offered to visitors to hold out for them, the fun begins. The lorikeets fly and dash furiously from one dish of food to another creating a colorful frenzy. The dashes of red, blue and yellow on their otherwise green feathers are striking and when seen in flight, to provide a rainbow display. The park’s visitors are in for a real treat when ensconced in this mesmerizing activity. I think the best part of this fun show is watching the faces of young children holding the feeding trays as the birds swoop and dive for the food. And yes, it made me feel like a kid again, too!