I spent last Wednesday through Friday in a little pair of cities called Albury-Wadonga. I was primarily there for work, but I managed to fit in a walk through Albury’s CBD on Thursday afternoon and snap a few photos of lorikeets and magpies. The highlight of the stay was the Hovell Tree Inn Best Western Plus. The dining room had good food and my room was humongous; I had a kitchenette, a dining room table, a couch and an office desk, the queen bed was in a separate room, and the bathtub was deep with whirlpool jets. Okay, the food and room size really didn’t matter. All that mattered was the tub. Maaaaarvelous tub.
On Friday evening I arrived back in Melbourne, and my coworker and I went to dinner at Stalactites. I had eaten there for lunch the weekend prior, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to go back. I even ordered the same dish- an appetizer platter for one that has a variety of meats, sauces and olives. Nomnomnom.
Food of the Greek gods.
On Saturday my coworker and I rented a car…ahem…hired a car and drove out to Healesville Sanctuary, which I only knew about because of philhoenig and Suido – excellent recommendation, thank you both! Driving on the left side of the rode wasn’t nearly as stressful as I had thought it might be. We even made it through the streets of Melbourne without crashing into any pedestrians or the tram – go us! The only thing that we both kept forgetting was that the turn signal was located on the right of the steering wheel. Our turns were often marked by a sudden swipe of the windscreen wipers rather than a taillight signal.
We stopped for breakfast in a mom and pop café in Coldstream. The food was meh but filling. The memorable moment of that stop was a cute little boy – maybe three years old – who had stripped off his clothing and shimmied in between the floor to ceiling shop window and some shelving. His mother overheard me say “Huh…there’s a little naked boy in the front window.” She went over to retrieve him with the patient but exasperated air of someone who had performed this task on previous occasions. I could hear him say “But Mum, why? The sun feels good!” I hear you, kid. As someone who has to return to Minnesota at the end of the month, I hear you.
We made it to the Sanctuary by about 10:30am. It definitely has a zoo feel to it – in that there are separate and distinct enclosures for the animals – but the habitats appear to be large and comfortable. The paths wind in an out and all around, but are well-marked and don’t require much backtracking to see everything.
There were these large black and white ibises everywhere around the park. They reminded me of Canada geese – ubiquitous and begging for food. You could tell who the tourists were: we were fascinated and snapping photos. Everyone else just went about their day.
Families enjoying picnics while ibises search for food.
An ibis strides across the grass in a picnic area.
One of the first things that we did upon our arrival was sit in on the flight show. Two trainers showed off raptors – a vulture, falcon, hawk, kestrel and barn owl – and several parrots, all native to Australia.
An owl looks ready to to take off away from the trainer.
A colorful parrot flaps its wings as it balances on the trainer’s hand.
A raptor swoops across the show yard.
This was one of the coolest parts of the flight show. This large bird grabbed a rock from the grass (thrown there by the trainer), stood above this egg and threw the stone against the egg until it cracked open, revealing the nomalishious eggy center.
The zoos in Victoria, including Healesville, are currently running a big ad campaign called Wipe For Wildlife, a conservation effort that aims to save trees by urging visitors to buy toilet paper made from recycled paper sources (there – doesn’t that sound better that what I originally wrote: …to buy recycled toilet paper). Some of the pushes are cute, like this one where a parrot has been trained to pull a string, which releases this banner:
Some of the ads are truly giggle-worthy efforts, such as the marketing slogan “Do you have a guilt-free bum?” and the Wipe for Wildlife mascot, Crapman.
There were several walk-in enclosed aviaries – one for lyrebirds, another for waterfowl, another for parrots. We saw emus and cassowaries. So many birds – it’s been one of my favorite parts of Australia. Many of the parrots I’ve only ever seen in pet shop or zoo. It’s surreal to seem them flying wild.
The koalas were next, and sharing their habitat were the echidnas! I got to see my echidnas! Here’s a photo and a really rough unedited video which features me audibly fawning over the silly little creatures:
Note: I’m having trouble getting the video to embed correctly. I’ve got it here on YouTube if it’s not visible to you here.
We arrived in time for the changing of the eucalyptus branches, so we actually saw the koalas moving about. I’m not even going to apologize for the ridiculous number of koala photos below.
Air-guitar koala doesn’t care.
Air-guitar is exhausting.
Look at his ridiculously tiny mouth and tinier teeth. Too cute. Stahp.
This is a baby koala – a joey.
Best koala photo evar.
We found the platypuses, but they were in a nocturnal enclosure, and very active, so I didn’t get any decent photographs of them. They are fast and smaller than I expected – maybe about a foot long.
We went through the reptile house and saw some of the Australian snakes that all of our American friends gleefully warned us about in the weeks leading up to this trip.
Green tree snake is sleeping. Is not here to entertain you, human.
A boa constrictor in the middle of a rat dinner.
We found the Tasmanian devils and wombats, neither of which felt up to performing for us in the 95F/37C heat.
These remind me so much of Rodents of Unusual Size.
If these wombats had fingers they would probably be giving us one. Too hot – and nocturnal to boot!
But we did see baby wombats!
Baby wombats, orphaned by hrududu and being cared for by an animal rescue group at Healesville.
And of course, we can’t forget the kangaroos. They too were having none of this entertaining-tourists-at-high-noon bullshit:
We left the Sanctuary at about 4:30pm and made it back to Melbourne in time for dinner. We ate at an Indian restaurant called Desi Dhaba and then retired for the evening. We had another big adventure planned for Sunday: The Great Ocean Road!