Of course the best way to see Australian wildlife is to go on a road trip. But if you would like to see more animals in one day a zoo or a sanctuary are a good alternative.
We started with the three Melbourne zoo’s, the general Melbourne Zoo in the city, Healesville Sanctuary for the Australian animals and the African Weribbee Zoo, but recently we discovered that the sanctuaries can be a great place to visit as well. Moonlite Sanctuary is one of those places. It is about an hours drive South of Melbourne CBD, towards the Mornington Peninsula. A great way to encounter the unique Australian wildlife in just one day.
The sanctuary is relatively compact, there is more interaction with animals and keepers, a lower entrance fee ($56 for a family of four and with our entertainment book voucher we even received a 25% discount). At the end not necessarily cheaper than the zoo, as it is easy to spend more. You can book close encounters with kaola’s, phytons, Barn Owls and Dingo’s, or behind the scenes tours against an additional fee. And contrary to the zoo encounters that cost a small fortune, these are reasonably affordable.
In December I came here with my American friend Bonnie, who loved the place too. At that time I was hesitant to book a Kaola encounter as I assumed you could hold them and I do not think that is natural koala behavior.
I got reassured, as the koala’s sit on a branch and get distracted with their favorite eucalyptus. The keeper is staying close by and it is made very clear beforehand not to touch their heads. They have poor eye sight and might get scared by it. You also get told to never do this in the wild, koala’s have very sharp claws. Little groups of people come in for a little cuddle and a picture pose with the koala. The koala’s did not seem bothered by it at all.
What I like most about this sanctuary is the interaction with the keepers. Next to the regular scheduled informal talks that they do throughout the day, it is not uncommon to meet up with a keeper during their daily routine with the animals and they love to give you more information about the animals and their behavior.
Before visiting the sanctuary I never knew what a quoll was. No, that was not because of a lack in language skills, as neither did Bonnie. It is another one of the marsupials, pouched animals, with unusual big white polka dots. A nocturnal animal, so hard to encounter in the wild. Bonnie and I just happened to run into the keeper that was going for a walk with the quoll and she answered all the questions that people had.
Kai and Luka definitely liked the kangaroo’s and wallabies the best, as you could buy a bag of food and feed them. If you get here early in the day and it is not too hot then they are very eager to eat food out of your hand and some are even fine with a cuddle. They can walk freely around the whole sanctuary, during the day they like to hang around the trees. At midday they take their siesta, as they do in the wild as well, so it is best to visit them at the beginning or the end of the day.
Once a day there is a half hour show in the show arena. We got to see and learn a bit more about the dingo, owls and super gliders. I think that they have different animals every day.
Here a demonstration of the super glider:
And a close up:
Australia is an amazing continent, especially when it comes to the wildlife living on it. As many of the animals here are only native to Australia.
I can not wait to have my parents meet some of these animals in the wild, on our next road trip over the Great Ocean Road.
To be continued.