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Animals up close

Everyone loves a furry friend, or a slithery one, or a scaly one, so here is a round-up of the best places to get up-close and personal with a variety of snuggly and not so snuggly critters, writes Grave Wye.

Going to the zoo is always a favourite with the kids, but now many zoos are giving families the chance to go beyond the glass, fences and cages as they give guests the opportunity to actually meet the animals. Whether you’re feeling the smoothness of a snake’s skin or burying your hands in soft koala fur, the whole family will cherish making friends with some of their best-loved animals.

Giraffe Feeding at Dubbo Zoo

Take your little ones to meet the tallest inhabitants of the zoo. At Taronga Western Plains Zoo you and your family can meet and feed giraffes. Hold out carrots and watch in amazement as their 50 centimetre-long black tongues pluck them from your hand. Although their size can be intimidating, as you stand high up on the Giraffe Boardwalk, you can admire the grace of these beautiful spotted creatures, and get the chance to photograph the giraffes from up-close. If this animal encounter isn’t enough, Western Plains also offers a Wild Africa Encounter as well as exciting Big Cat feeding.

Currumbin Koala Holding

Arguably the most well-known and loved icon of Australian wildlife, the chance to cuddle a koala cannot be passed up. With strict regulations in place for the wellbeing of these adored creatures, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary on the Gold Coast is one of only a handful of places where you are able to hold koalas yourself. Parents get to cuddle the koalas as their children stroke their soft fur and pose for the camera. For more daring families, Currumbin also offers photos with baby saltwater crocodiles, as well as snakes and possums. Animal feed is available for purchase so littlies can feed the lorikeets and kangaroos.

Giant Tortoises at Australia Zoo

For families visiting Australia Zoo on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, it’s hard to know where to begin. The zoo offers one of the broadest ranges of animal encounters for families including possums, dingos and wombats for everyone six and over, camels for those eight and over and komodo dragons for daredevils aged 15 and above, but the standout attraction for families is the chance to meet a giant tortoise. With no age restrictions for the encounter, this is an experience that the whole family won’t be able to get enough of. Available every day, a maximum of six people are able to get up close and marvel at these ancient creatures. Your whole family will leave the zoo excited and with stories to tell about the time they got to cuddle and pat a tortoise.

Mansfield Zoo’s Mischievous Deer

During a trip to Mansfield Zoo in Victoria, the whole day is one big animal encounter. The zoo has animal feed available for you and your family to hand or spade feed to all the fury friends you will meet throughout the day. There are 30 acres to explore and a large collection of both exotic and native animals. The highlights for families wanting to meet and greet some of the animals are the inquisitive deer that wander up to visitors. These friendly animals love being hand-fed, although families enjoying picnics on the zoo grounds beware – the deer are mischievous and won’t hesitate to help themselves to your unattended sandwiches. Other animals you’ll meet on a day out at Mansfield include Angel the Dingo, camels, kangaroos and more. An overnight stay under the stars is also an option

Wombats at Ballarat

Have you ever wanted to meet a wombat? At Ballarat Wildlife Park, what better way to remember your stay than posing with a wombat for the camera? Ballarat Wildlife Park allows up to four people at a time to get their photo taken with this cuddly marsupial. Additionally, kids can learn all about these amazing creatures at the interactive wombat show, held every weekend and on public and Victorian school holidays. While at the Wildlife Park, families will also love the other interactive shows and photo opportunities with animals such as snakes and giant tortoises. See our Ballarat story in this issue for more details!

Dolphin Marine Magic Coffs Harbour

Seeing graceful dolphins gliding through the waves is always a breathtaking sight, but Dolphin Marine Magic goes even further, giving visitors aged six and over the chance to swim with them. The Shallow Dolphin Experience lets you play games, feed the dolphins, and watch them underwater while wearing a mask as well as the professional photo opportunity of your 04 special dolphin hug. For everyone over 12, the Ultimate Dolphin Swim also includes a foot push, belly ride and hand push. For the littlest members of the family, you can still meet the stars of the shows and get your photos taken with them. Free fishy kisses offered by seals and dolphins let you capture your magic moment on film without getting too wet.


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