“I’m like a child who’s waited all year for Christmas. The day has finally arrived and I’m sat in the car park, 45 minutes before the place opens staring up at a giant poster of Steve Irwin. I’m not going to lie, I cried.
Yep, like an actual child I sit in the carpark whimpering, but at least these are tears of joy. Too eager to buy our tickets we find ourselves at the front of the queue and I catch myself agreeing with the children who are complaining about how long it’s taking to open. After what seemed like forever I see a small group of staff heading to their desks. Soon enough, I’m walking through those magical gates.. Crikey, I’m really here…”
As a 90’s kid, Steve Irwin was a TV icon of mine. His high energy way of showcasing wildlife kept me hooked on his shows and the way he let his toddler, Bindi, interact with snakes and crocodiles had me in awe of the way he was living his life.
As a result, I often dreamt of visiting Australia Zoo. I knew that one day I had to go and experience the world that he’d built, a world with conservation and education at its heart. To me, Australia Zoo was so much more than a Zoo, it was one man’s dream coming into reality. A place that put the animals first, rescuing crocodiles from death row and teaching its visitors that living alongside crocs is possible. Or at least that was how my young mind saw it.
So is Australia Zoo worth it? Worth the money, worth the drive from Brisbane? For the whole hour it took us to drive there I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the 20 years of dreams. If Australia Zoo turned out to be a disappointment, I just knew it would ruin the rest of our East Coast trip. So here’s what we got up to during our two day trip to Australia Zoo, in a mini photo diary, so hopefully, you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth it or not.
Day one of our two day trip to Australia Zoo
As with any zoo this size, it was a tough choice as to what ticket we should buy, there are just so many choices and ‘deals’. We knew one day wouldn’t be enough; even if this place wasn’t mahoosive, it was going to be hard to get around it all in one day.
We did the only thing that made sense to my inner child… we went all in and bought the year pass. This meant we’d have full access for an entire year including any events or days where Bindi and the Irwin family are on site. We also got a membership card so that’s a nice piece of memorabilia to add to my hoarder’s collection.
So on to the zoo.
We hung around the entrance for a while, admiring their Rhino Iguana and to see which way the crowd would slowly disperse – there’s a method to my madness, honest. It soon became clear that most people headed to the Otters and Lizards first so, dodging the crowds, we headed straight for the fun stuff, the reason why we’re here; the crocodiles.
Don’t miss out on the show crocs. They’re not listed very clear on the park map but if you head to the famous Crocosuem and on to the top level, you can look down into the enclosures of the crocs used in the afternoon show – this was something we actually missed on day one but thankfully we had two days to see Australia Zoo and made it a priority on the second day.
Next to the Crocs is the mums and bubs koala hut. Our visit happened at the start of spring which means babies are starting to appear all across the animal world and it might just happen that Koala babies are the cutest. They’re not the only Koalas at Australia zoo but they keep the mothers away from the rest of the group, which is inside a walk-round/petting area, to stop them from getting stressed.
Have you seen our post about where to see Australia’s animals in the wild?
While our visit wasn’t during peak summer months, we still expected it to be busy. There was the odd school trip that we kept running in to but for the most part, we felt like we had the place to ourselves.
The Croc show starts at 12:30 every day, so while most others were rushing over to the ‘Africa’ section first thing in the morning, we hung back to relax in the pink section with the Dingo’s, Cassowary, Alligators and other creatures that lurked closest to the show stage; This meant we got pretty decent seats too. The only time it felt busy was at the Crocoseum.
Time for the main event. The one thing that isn’t to be missed when you visit, and the main reason we gave ourselves a two day trip to Australia Zoo. The Crocoseum show. We chose our seats and watched the rest of the stadium fill up.
It’s a lot smaller than I imagined it would be but that didn’t kill the feeling of pure excitement for being there. I got a bit emotional when they played some clip of Steve Irwin on the big screen; Proud that I finally reached the place I’d always dreamed of going, sad that my childhood idol was no longer around but also curious to how different it would have been if he was. The show was just how you expect it to be but being predictable didn’t stop it being amazing.
The biggest Saltwater Croc caught in Australia’s Katherine River in the Northern Territoty, he was a whopping 6.4m and weighed 600kg!!
After all that excitement, it was lunch’o’clock. Whenever we visit places like this (i.e. over touristy and mega expensive) we always pack our own lunch. It cuts down the cost but also saves you waiting in ridiculously long queues too. We saw one family wait 45 minutes for a coffee and some sandwiches!
After lunch, we circled back around to walk through the purple part of the map. We’d only seen one wombat in the wild (alive) so I was really excited to see them, all of the animals up until now had been awake so my hopes were high for the Wombats. They didn’t disappoint. Or at least, one didn’t. Sure he’s sleeping but he chose the best spot for a nap!
Did you know wombats poop cubes? Which has to be my most favourite fact ever!
Along with the Wombats, the purple section is also home to the snake den. This was the part Dec had been looking forward to the most after the crocs. Everyone wants to see Australia’s most deadly animals but nobody wants to see them in the wild. The snake den allows visitors to get stupidly close to snakes like King Brown and the King Cobra but thankfully they’re safe behind, what I hope was, really thick glass.
Australia has around 140 species of land snake, and 32 recorded species of sea snakes. “Only” 12 of these are venimous enough to kill a human.
The most disappointing part of the whole two days at Australia Zoo was the bird aviary, we expected to see all the birds that were listed on the gate and on signs throughout the walk but on both occasions, all we saw were pigeons and doves. I’m a patient person, we waited and searched for ages so let me assure you… the colourful parrots and tropical birds weren’t there.
From here we headed up to the Orange section which includes Bindi’s Island and ‘Africa’. Africa was a bit disappointing too, its the furthest section and it has the least to see. A couple of Rhino, Giraffe and Meerkats; unfortunately Australia Zoo no longer have Elephants, so their enclosure is now used a big Segway field. You’ll still see Elephants on the signpost throughout the park though, but they’re not there.
They also advertise Leopard encounters at the entrance but there isn’t actually a leopard enclosure so my guess is to see this spotted big cat you have to book and pay extra which I think is a bit sneaky of them! However, We did sneak a peak of him while he was on his training and I have to say, for a wildcat he’s a lot better behaved than most dogs!
So that just about sums up day one of our two day trip to Australia Zoo!! I’ll end day one with my favourite photo of the day! This little Tazzie. We saw him while waiting for the Croc show. So full of energy and not fazed by the crowd that had gathered around him!!
Tasmanian Devils are the world largest living carniverous marcupial. They’re also pretty fast, being able to run up to 13km/h!!
Day one highlights:
Things to note;
If you want to see the top end of the zoo, there are free shuttle buses running from several stops along the paths. They get busy after the croc show so plan it for towards the end/very beginning of the day to avoid crowds. Although the walk isn’t too bad.
Day two of our two day trip to Australia Zoo.
If you’d have seen me in the car park, you wouldn’t have thought I’d been here the day before. The excitement hadn’t worn off at all and I was bouncing ready to see the rest of the animals. We’d spent the evening after day one sorting out what we’d missed (there was a lot) and what was a priority for today.
We had a year pass so we weren’t stressing too much and had already talked about maybe adding a third day but decided to wait and see. It turned out that two days at Australia Zoo was enough, just.
We did a compulsory loop of the Crocodiles and baby Koala again. By now we had way too many photos of these but it made for an interesting afternoon trying to choose what made the cut for this post!
I was really surprised to see how quiet it was again on day two. There seemed to be a few more school trips but fewer families. It was bizarre, I’m so used to Zoos being so full you struggle to get near anything. The only time it felt remotely busy was for the shows. It was also nice to see the animals up and about, acting normal and seemingly very happy. So many animals kept in captivity are often seen just sleeping, which makes you question a lot of things. Not in Australia zoo though.
After we spent the morning exploring the Otters and Lizards section. A lot of the lizards are really common in Australia so it was odd seeing them in a zoo, but then, the same could be said for the kangaroos; we saw several wild ones on the drive in! Komodo dragons were the highlight for the morning of day two, even if he was a little smaller than I expected.
One thing we really wanted to see on our second day at Australia Zoo was the tiger show. We’d skipped it the previous day in favour of dodging the crowds but I’d heard mixed reviews about the show and wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Let me start by saying Australia Zoo is 100% all for conservation, that much is clear by the effort that’s been put into the Tiger enclosures and educational boards around them. One thing that confuses me, and that wasn’t covered during their talks, was why their tigers were hand raised. It isn’t touched upon so it saddens me to think that maybe it was just so they’re a little more tame for shows.
Anyway, the shows themselves aren’t in any way cruel. They use toys and games to display their natural hunting abilities, a far cry from the performances seen in circus acts. You can see the keepers care an awful lot about the conservation of Tigers as a whole and that, for me, was enough.
One of Australia’s most fabled species, the Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine, went extinct on the continent’s mainland around 2000 years ago.
By this time we’d actually seen everything but it felt like there was still plenty to do, we’d actually missed a couple of the shows, like the birds of pray and otter feeding, but there was always next time. So instead, we wandered the gardens and revisited our favourite cuddlies. Snakes, Tasmanian Devil and the Wombats were high on our list again.
Day two highlights;
Baby Koala (again ha)
Things to note;
The tiger show got really busy. We only just managed to get seats half an hour before it was due to start… so get there earlier than you’d think was early and then a little bit earlier than that 😉
Australia Zoo wildlife hospital
After your visit to Australia Zoo, whether it’s your first day, second day or even 54th, you absolutely must visit the Australia Zoo wildlife hospital. It’s completely separate to the zoo, and entry is by donation only, making it the perfect addition to your day.
It was set up to do exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a hospital for injured wildlife. Members of the public can call and report any wildlife in need, or they can bring it in themselves. Either way, they’re guaranteed to get the help they need before being rehabilitated back into the wild.
For the donation entrance fee, the public is able to see the inner workings of the hospital thanks to their viewing windows at each room. You’ll be able to see any current patients as well as see any procedures that might be happening in the surgery room.
There are turtle and other reptile eggs in incubation tanks on full display with the reasons why each set of eggs are here; some had been found on construction sites, some had been rescued from poorly build nests on beaches, others had been found in unusual places. It was really interesting to see.
When we went they had several possums who had been hit by cars, a Bandit that had a broken leg and they were just taking in a barn owl whose diagnosis wasn’t yet displayed on the public board. Educational displays outlining the damage that construction and fishing industries are doing to wildlife really hit home too, as do their booklets filled with previous animals that had been bought into the care of the wildlife hospital.
If you want a closer look at what happens at the Australian Zoo Wildlife Hospital, they offer an experience afternoon where you get a full tour of the hospital including rooms not on display to the public as well as a personal introduction to some of the patients.
It didn’t feel right to take photos in the hospital but if you want to see a sneak peek, check out their website for more details.
So are you still wondering if two days at Australia Zoo is worth it? In a world where you have to question every zoo, sanctuary and reserve to make sure nothing dodgy or cruel is happening, Australia Zoo is a breath of fresh air. I might have only used 2 of the 365 days that we paid for but honestly, I’m not even mad. We’re hoping to go back when we’re next in the area and hopefully catch a couple of the other shows that we actually missed.
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