on October 5, 2010
The native wildlife is one of the biggest attractions in Australia, and although anybody travelling in the country for any length of time will have a decent chance of seeing many strange and wonderful creatures in their natural environment in the wild, there are some animals that are harder to spot - and if you don't have much time in Australia or won't travel outside cities, you chance of seeing them will be lower yet. Among the iconic Aussie animals that are not particularly easy to see in the wild are koalas, although you might be lucky in some locations. Another is a platypus, which, being an aquatic creature, is almost impossible to see unless you spend a long time seeking or are very fortunate. Still, many visitors will want to visit a zoo or an animal park that allows them to see a selection of native animals in one place. Those staying in Brisbane have an excellent choice of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a medium-sized zoo devoted to native animals of Australia, and particularly to its title koalas. It's apparently the largest koala sanctuary in the world, with over 120 of the bear-like marsupials living here. Additionally, they have several species of a kangaroo, wombats, tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, and various species of reptiles, as well as a platypus and numerous birds. The Sanctuary is located on the outskirts of Brisbane, within easy drive from the city and can be also reached by public transport (hourly bus no 430 from the city) and river cruise (that is NOT the regular TransLink ferries but a tourist cruise). The zoo is open 8am to 5pm daily and the entrance costs (at the time of writing in 2010) 30 AUD for adults, 20 AUD for children over 3 years old and backpackers and 80 AUD for a family of two adults and up to three children. **The main attraction of Lone Pine are undoubtedly the koalas. You can see large numbers of them (grouped by life stage: eg young males, older females, mothers with joeys) in open-sided enclosures, sleeping or eating the eucalyptus leaves. Koalas spend about 4 hours a day eating and the rest of the day sleeping, as the diet they are adapted to is high-fibre and not particularly nutritious and they have a very slow metabolic rate and need to conserve energy. The koalas in the Sanctuary move more energetically when fresh branches of eucalyptus are brought into their enclosures. They also grunt and bark: a strange, guttural noise, unexpected from such a round and furry creature. Watching mothers with joeys on their backs is particularly fun!You can pat or hold koalas in the Lone Pine (this is inclued in the ticket price), and on an extra payment of 13 AUD you can have a picture taken while doing so (the payment for the picture allows you to take as many as you want with your own camera too). This is a highly managed and supremely artificial process, with a queue of visitors waiting in a row to hold an animal. Each koala that participates is only allowed to "work" for 30 minutes a day and you can see the staff maintain the record and returning the koalas to their enclosures after their shift finishes. There is no hard sell involved in the cuddle-plus-picture activity, and the staff members there genuinely don't seem to mind people queuing just to hold the animal. Koalas smell very strongly but rather nicely of eucalyptus and have very thick, soft, lovely fur that is lovely to the touch. After koalas, the other showpiece of Lone Pine is their large paddock in which a big number of different species of kangaroo. You can buy a bag of food pellets and attempt to feed the 'roos, which also gives you the chance to pet them. On busy days, many of the animals are full and sated by the afternoon and show very little interest in food, mostly just lying down in the grass, dozing, with only some of standing sentinel quietly and watchfully.In addition to koalas and kangaroos, Lone Pine has also wombats (they are huge!), tasmanian devils, echidnas and dingos. Plus, a recent arrival - a platypus, an amazing creature which, although in fact a primitive mammal, looks like a cross between an otter and a duck. There is also a reptile house with many a snake (Australians revel in the number and lethal venomousness of their snakes) as well as some outdoor crocodile enclosures. Near the entrance, several cages hold miserable looking cockatoos and other birds - this display seems unnecessary and not in keeping with relative freedom afforded other animals in the Sanctuary.There is a cafe selling fastfood and snacks inside the zoo, and outside, another one, and open air facility which has comfy sofas with a view of the river!**Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is an excellent choice if you want to visit a zoo or an animal park in or near Brisbane that showcases native Australian animals (particularly if you are interested in the mammals rather than reptiles or birds). It's relatively inexpensive (especially if taking a full advantage of the family or concession tickets) and manageable in a 2 to 3 hours visit (though you could easily spend more time here, especially if attanding all the shows and talks). The grounds are pleasantly forested, the setting nice near the river, the selection of animals is just right for those interested in native wildlife and the staff members are knowledgeable and helpful. The shows and talks that the Sanctuary offers are fairly interesting, and the kangaroo paddock is really fun. And finally, the koalas themselves very much steal the show: although having them amassed in such huge numbers certainly isn't very natural, they seem happy enough (and they prove it by breeding successfully) and are among the cutest animals there are. The choice to hold one (and to pay or not extra for the photo) is yours alone to make, but (barring the risk of being weed on) it's more fun that it seems and even those disliking such commercial gimmicks might be surprised by their reaction.Highly recommended. **Alternatives:If you want a fully-fledged zoo with all the classic zoo animals like lions and tigers, or a theme-park freak show, Lone Pine will not satisfy and you'd be better forking out on the nearby Australia Zoo (or, if you can, visiting the Taronga Zoo in Sydney). Even better, wait until you get home as Europe and North America alike has excellent zoos with plenty of Old World animals for significantly lower prices than the big Australia zoos. If you are only interested in koalas, they can be seen (but not held or touched) for free in Daisy Hill Koala Centre (25km from the city, acessible by public transport). If you are travelling further on in Queensland and will be near Rockhampton, you can see (and touch) them for free in Rockhampton's zoo. They can also be spotted in the wild (but never in large numbers) in certain locations inlcuding Magnetic Island.
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