Visiting Melbourne and hoping to see Australian animals up close? Then Healesville Sanctuary is where you’ll want to go – described as a bushland haven for Australian animals.
I haven’t been there since the children were small and I’d forgotten how lovely it is to wander along the gravel paths between the gum trees to see emus, koalas, kangaroos, dingos, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, possums, birds and much more.
It’s a one hour drive from Melbourne, but well worth the trip. You can catch the Zoobus leaving Federation Square at 9am everyday or drive and add on a tour of the nearby wineries, restaurants and art in the Yarra Valley – more on that later.
Whatever your mode of transport, my advice is to book at least one Close-up Encounter in advance. The keeper takes you and a maximum of 7 other people into the animal enclosure to either feed a kangaroo, pat an echidna, handle a python or take selfies with a koala.
There are also daily keeper’s talks for a wide range animals – we loved the platypus talk!
Up close with a koala
Meet Tony who was rescued in 2013 after a road accident and is now missing a couple of claws as a result. The Healesville staff aren’t sure how old he is, but he’s a big boy with a very loud bellow (the name for a koala’s mating call). Usually sleeping for 20 hours a day, Tony was wide awake and very mobile during our close-up encounter, as you can see in the video.
Up close with a kangaroo
The Healesville kangaroos from Kangaroo Island in South Australia are surprisingly gentle when they eat from your hand. Smaller and sturdier than other species on the mainland, they have no natural predators on the island and are known to be the slowest moving kangaroo species. Healesville Sanctuary is also home to the red kangaroo, the largest living marsupial.
Up close with an echidna
It was quite a surprise to see an echidna eating. Shuffling along under a spiny armour, you’d imagine them to be munching in the undergrowth, but as you can see in the video they have incredibly long tongues. In the wild their diet usually consists of ants and termites and tiny spines on their tongue help them capture prey.
For more information about visiting Healesville Sanctuary, go to: www.zoo.org.au/healesville
Where to see other Australian animals
We’ve put together a few ideas in the Where to see Australian animals post on other places to see Australian animals, fairy penguins and dolphins.