Children these days have a much greater passion for animals, and up in Steve Irwin territory, there’s a host of animal activities to keep your Wildlife Warriors happy.
First stop for us is Australia Zoo, located an easy 45-minute drive north of Brisbane and one of the world’s leading zoological destinations.
The pace is fast and furious as we try to cover all of the enclosures and make time for daily shows. In the Crocoseum Bindi and the Crocmen steal the stage until it is handed back to the giant wingspans of birds of prey swooping above, deathrolls by saltwater crocs below and a snake show led by Cleo, a four-metre reticulated python swimming freely in the clear waters for all to ogle.
Australia Zoo has hit new heights with the addition of Tiger Temple, a replica of a dilapidated South-East Asian temple that houses three Sumatran tigers plus the zoo’s resident Bengal tigers, Manas and Khan. Elephantasia is right next door, and we take our turn at hand feeding Siam, one of three small-eared Asian elephants, the first inhabitants of a huge South-East Asia section planned for the zoo.
With my own enthusiastic clan of Wildlife Warriors in tow, we join some of the ‘Hands On Animal Encounters’ and get to play amongst the wombats and jump the enclosure to stroke the leathery neck of the world’s largest species of land tortoise (much to the envy of other kids looking on).
Before leaving the Sunshine Coast you could take the plunge at Mooloolaba’s UnderWater World. Here there are a number of animal interaction programs, including the Seal Kiss, Seal Encounter, Seal Swim (13 and over) and the Shark Dive (14 and over). The seal show, ‘Seals Behaving Badly’, is always a hit, and other highlights include the Shark Discovery Centre, the Otter Encounter and the crocodiles.
After our watery adventure, we head to Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort on Moreton Island, just a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane.
Beautiful beaches, blue water and deserts of sand greet us on arrival, although the star attractions don’t turn up until dusk. Each evening a pod of bottlenose dolphins cruise into the shallows for a free feed by resort guests and dolphin care staff. My four-year-old’s eyes light up like stars in the dark of night as she feeds Echo, thoroughly enthralled by the shimmering grey creature weaving around her legs.
For the diving and snorkelling fraternity, the Tangalooma Wrecks provide some stunning underwater scenery and abundant fish life. Alternatively take a marine eco-cruise out on the Bay in search of turtles, dugongs, dolphins and stingrays. Whale watching also starts up in May and runs until October.
Back on the mainland, if you are seeking a peaceful spot to spend a day, don’t go past the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Set on 20 hectares of undulating land along the Brisbane River, you can cuddle a koala or feed the kangaroos and lorikeets away from the fast pace of other zoos.
Lone Pine has educational programs for schools where children learn hands-on about native animals, such as the Tasmanian devil, wombats, koalas, reptile, kangaroos, and turtles. This is the largest Koala sanctuary in the world.