Get up close to the Animals
When you travel to the wonderful country of Australia, you have to see the local wildlife. Yes, you can go to pubs and clubs, but I’m talking about the ‘native’ animals, silly. Where’s one of the best places to see them in their natural habitat? Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria, Australia’s premier sanctuary.
Just a short drive from the central business district of Melbourne, it’s the perfect day trip to get up close with all sorts of interesting wildlife.
The Sanctuary is exactly what the title implies. A huge 74 acre natural bushland haven, that is home to over 200 species of Australian animals.
It was first established in 1934 to care for and nurture Australian wildlife for people to appreciate and enjoy.
The different enclosures are very well spread out with plenty of space for the inhabitants. Sometimes only a rope separates you from the animals. You can really get up close and personal with some of the wildlife here at Healesville Sanctuary.
But be warned, there is plenty of bushwalking to do here, with meandering walk paths and trails. Patience and a keen eye are required to be able to spot the animals. It can be a bit like a game of hide’n’seek, with some animals making it hard for you to find them through the extensive vegetation.
Some of the iconic Australian wildlife you will see at Healesville Sanctuary
I have been here more times than I can count and every time I head straight for my favourite locals, the koalas. Their adorable cute faces and fluffy fur make them probably the most popular attraction here, I’m guessing. Tourists just love them.
If you are really lucky, you can catch them when they’re NOT sleeping. Koala’s spend most of their time asleep, about 18 hours a day, and don’t do much exercise, other than eat a hell of a lot of Eucalyptus leaves, about 500 grams per day in fact. What a life! Apparently, the leaves are difficult for them to digest and therefore slow down their metabolism, making them sleepy. So why not eat something else, right? Who knows.
Echidnas are another very interesting Australian animal here at the Sanctuary. They are egg-laying mammals. Very unusual!
Do you want to know another very unusual fact? You may not believe this but I assure you I’ve done my research. The males have, wait for it … a 4-headed penis! What the f…? I hear you ask. I’ll just leave you to ponder that one.
This weird looking bird that can’t fly is the second tallest bird in the world. Some of them are almost 2 metres tall when upright. I’m not a fan of these animals, as I was bitten on the finger by one when I was little.
The male of the species has a nasty habit of becoming aggressive and scaring off his mate after she has laid her eggs. There are usually about a dozen eggs laid, green in colour. He then takes over all the incubating and raising of the chicks without her. Meanwhile, she goes off and finds someone else!
Kangaroos are fascinating creatures. They are bi-pedal like us, but can’t walk, as their hind legs are designed to move together. How extraordinary. They are the only large animals to have this method as their main form of locomotion. It’s not understood why they evolved this way.
Did you know the Red Kangaroo has been known to travel up to 70km per hour? Yep.
Furthermore, joeys are born the size of a jelly bean, after a nice short pregnancy of only 35 days, thank you very much. Then they continue to grow in the pouch until the mother kicks them out.
The platypus is one of the most unusual Australian animals. They are a monotreme, an egg-laying mammal, one of only 2 such animals.
The male of the species has a poisonous spur on its back feet.
Healesville Sanctuary was the first place in the world to breed the platypus in captivity.
Their numbers are currently ‘near threatened’.
A close-up encounter is available where you can wade in the water and play with the animals, assisted by a keeper.
Make sure to catch the bird show called Spirits Of The Sky, at the Flight Arena. It features the Australian Raptor, called the Wedge-tailed Eagle, in action and other majestic birds, such as the Barking Owl. Yes, it actually barks, and it eats other smaller birds, can you believe it?
The show is very entertaining and the well-rehearsed routines demonstrate how smart the birds really are. They do, however, come frighteningly close to your head. So watch out.
Other things to see …
In the reptile house you can visit some slippery slimy creatures, for those that like all things reptile, such as snakes, lizards and turtles. I’ll just wait outside, thanks.
Nocturnal animals have their own exhibition too, in total darkness of course. See gliders, bandicoots, possums and bilbies here.
There’s also the dingo, wombat, Tasmanian devil, wallaby and loads more animals to spot in their bushy home environments.
There are also over 200 varieties of birds here, including lyrebirds, brolgas, owls, parrots, cockatoos, budgerigars, kookaburras, pelicans and more.
Visit the Wurundjeri Culture Walk where you can learn about the local aboriginal people.
Enjoy wandering around exploring the native bushlands and wetlands of this beautiful sanctuary. The walking paths are magnificent and plenty of shade is provided amongst the trees and shelters.
You can even play in the stream, have a picnic here, buy food, drinks, ice creams, and browse in the gift shop.
Watch out for the ibis, a bit of a nuisance bird here, sticking their long beaks into everything including your lunch, thus the nickname bin chicken or tip turkey. But they are a native animal too and demand some attention, so they will stalk you at every turn!
Animal Hospital at Healesville Sanctuary
Another amazing function of the Sanctuary is caring for ill and injured animals that have been rescued from the wild, in the Wildlife Health Centre here. More than 1,500 animals are treated every year.
You can actually visit and see what they do and meet the patients here.
It also contributes to the breeding program of many species that are endangered and provides training for veterinarians.
Snazzy Tips for visiting Healesville Sanctuary
- Purchase entry tickets and pre-book your visit online, as visitor numbers are capped.
- You are not able to buy tickets at the gate!
- Cost is A$40 per adult.
- Entry is free for children 15 and under on weekends and Victorian school holidays.
- Otherwise, cost is A$20 per child.
- Open everyday of the year, from 9am to 5pm.
- Best way to get here is by car. Free parking is provided.
- Make sure to allow a few hours to enjoy everything Healesville Sanctuary has to offer.
- There are several cafes here and a gift shop.
- Picnic areas are found throughout the sanctuary.
- You can book a close-up encounter with a particular animal, such as a koala or a platypus.
- Walk on the designated paths only.
- Don’t feed the animals.
- Check website before going, for more information.
- Have a look at the virtual tour.