As part of our trip along the Great Ocean Road, Riley, his sister Amelia, and I decided we’d pull in after passing signs for a wildlife park about 15 minutes from the Twelve Apostles (read about that here!). And man, was this unplanned stop worth it!
The number one thing topping my list of things to see and do on arriving in Australia was visiting a wildlife sanctuary, as I really wanted to experience the local wildlife up close and personal. Having had a look around, we had shortlisted a few places, namely ones that allowed specific animal encounters for an additional charge and these time capped experiences appeared anywhere from $12 (£7) to $30 (£17) on top of the average $36 (£21) general admission fee.
So imagine our delight when we stumbled across this little gem, the Great Ocean Road Wildlife Park, and it only cost us $17 (£10) general admission each to get in! Not only that, but we practically had the whole place to ourselves. As a small and family-run business, you get a real sense that the people here care a lot about the animals and their habitat, and they’re very driven towards being a self sustaining farm. You can read more about this on their website: http://www.greatoceanroadwildlifepark.com.
We entered the petting area after purchasing a couple of $1 bags of feed, and were immediately approached by some very forward emus who were nonetheless friendly, and polite enough when taking the feed from your hand. If feeding a bird almost the same height as myself (I’m a bit of a short-arse) wasn’t exciting enough, then sitting on the grass in the sun and having a bunch of Eastern Grey Kangaroos hop over and shower me with affection in exchange for a snack certainly was.
Bucket list out and kissed a Kangaroo? Check ✔
Now I feel like an honorary Aussie! After smooching some roos and taking a wander over to the observation platform to see a larger group with some joeys and emus in a more natural environment, Amelia and I decided we should complete the experience and go in to meet two of the parks resident dingoes.
This experience cost us just $5 (£3) each. We were accompanied by Joe, a very authentic looking gentleman whose knowledge and passion for the “Australian Wolf” was expressed greatly as he filled us in on the dingoes’ history, as well as common misconceptions about the animal that have led to a drastic decline in the wild population. It was heartbreaking to hear as we interacted with these incredibly intelligent creatures.
Quite different from a dog and portraying almost human-like expressions as they interacted with each other and with us, they quickly welcomed Amelia and I into their enclosure after a quick assessment of our trustworthiness. Joe was very informative and answered all our questions in earnest as the dingoes frolicked around. They climbed on and sat beside us on a fallen log, involving us in their excitement as they routinely checked in with each other. Joe explained that dingoes mate for life and form incredibly strong bonds which was made clear as we watched them interact with each other with the same sensitivity a person might express towards a partner. The experience wasn’t rushed, and we had ample time to enjoy the dingoes playful energy before we left.
On leaving the park, we passed a quiet cockatoo that clung to the bars of its enclosure, studying us as we went past. After spending some time interacting with the bird and trying to encourage it to talk, we left it in peace only for it to cry out a hello at the top of its lungs as we walked away. After all that time, thinking it couldn’t speak. Clever bloody bird, of course it got what it wanted and we walked straight back to give it more attention.
We didn’t stop in at the cafe on site before we left but from what we saw it looked clean and homely, all in all a lovely, quiet park that has more than satisfied my need to interact with the local wildlife on my travels and I wouldn’t hesitate to return.
So if you’re headed down that way be sure to pop in if you’re in need of some kangaroo TLC, or want to expand your awareness of Australia’s dingoes and experience their captivating intelligence first hand in a quiet and un-manufactured environment.