Australia Zoo, Thursday 16 May 2019

We woke up early in anticipation of a big day out at Australia Zoo. What a blessing today was with sunny skies and only a brief shower. Ian walked Dexter along a mangrove board walk and a leash free area. We then took him to the nearby Caloundra Pet Resort for doggie daycare.

Australia Zoo is famous as the Home of the Crocodile Hunter–the late Steve Irwin. Australia Zoo is located on Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, one hour’s drive north of Brisbane. It is managed by Steve Irwin’s wife, Terri, and his daughter, Bindi, and son, Robert. Robert has grown up to be a wildlife photographer, and much of his work is for sale at the zoo. Australia Zoo is the major sponsor of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors–a non-profit wildlife conservation charity established by Steve and Terri Irwin in 2002

There were 1200 animals and free interactive wildlife shows daily. There is the Wildlife Photo Studio where visitors can have their photos taken with a koala, snake or iguana. Children can visit the Australia Zoo Water Park to cool off. Visitors can book a hands-on animal encounter to pat a lemurs, have meerkats run all over them, or take a walk with a tiger or cheetah. Profits from these go towards Australia Zoo’s wildlife conservation efforts around the world.

Australia Zoo, here we come! We had visited the Sunshine Coast many times over the years, and now we finally had a chance to visit. The zoo is well patronized with many visitors in buses and cars, including several caravans and motorhomes. We parked Matilda alongside three other motorhomes.

Shortly after passing through the entry gate, we had our first adventure–a talk on Giant Aldabran Tortoises and a photo opportunity with Jarvis! Ian recalls he has a photo with a Giant Galapagos Tortoise taken at Taronga Zoo when Ian was only a few years old—must look out for it. Australia Zoo is trying to breed their Giant Tortoises, but it is slow going!

Ian & Katie with Jarvis the Giant Aldabran Tortoise

Ian enjoyed the dingoes, and we saw a couple of them being walked through the people coming in the gates. The binturong was an interesting looking animal—it is also known as a bear cat. We also saw a cheetah being walked by staff in the company of some paying guests.

Dingoes, Ian’s favourite dog
The binturong, or bear cat. Check out those whiskers!

We found it hard to follow the Australia Zoo’s schematic map. We tried to get to the tiger exhibit in time for an 11:00 am talk, but got hopelessly lost and ended up missing it. Several koalas were lazing around enjoying this bright sunny day and we just couldn’t help ourselves and patted one. We also patted a docile snake held by one of the animal handlers, and patted a docile kangaroo.

Docile kangaroo

We walked around Bindi’s Isalnd and saw lemurs. Further on we ended up in Africa, a savannah where giraffes, rhinos and zebras can roam free.  The meerkats are also in Africa, and seeing them reminded ourselves of our meerkat experience organized by our friend Michelle at Melbourne Zoo. While in Africa, we had a quick lunch of coffee, chips and ice-cream–not particularly healthy, but we enjoyed it.

Dinner time for the giraffes
A family(?) of rhinos
Meerkats on lookout, with rhinos in the background

We had a second opportunity to attend a talk on tigers, and this time we arrived well in advance, which was just as well because the limited seating filled up well before the talk started. We saw a Sumatran tiger being handled by two staff like a dog, except her treats were much larger. She ran up a tree for a chicken wing. As with dog training, positive reinforcement was the basis for the training. The audience was mesmerized, and it was definitely the highlight of our visit to the zoo.

A blind Sumatran tiger—not the one we saw perform
Well behaved Sumatran tiger

We had a top day in a well-run Zoo with very impressive landscaping. Attention to detail was extraordinary. Unfortunately, we missed the main show which included crocodiles at noon, but we felt that we had done well.

The gift shops promote Robert Irwin’s excellent photography. We bought a 2020 calendar featuring some of his work. Katie also bought a beautiful yellow color long sleeve shirt made of bamboo, designed by Steve’s wife, Terri.

We picked up Dexter on our way back to the Golden Beach Tourist Park. Dexter must have played with other dogs all day and looked thirsty and exhausted! We had leftover pizza for dinner, and we had an early night after a huge day.


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