Posted by: Tommy | August 15, 2011

Animal Adventures

One of the main things I was excited about was all the interesting animals that are found only in Australia.  Kangaroos, koalas, platapi and Tasmanian devils – all such interesting creatures.  According to Phil, driving an hour or so into the outback would yield a number of interesting sightings.  Unfortunately, our time in Australia is so short that an hour into the outback wasn’t possible from Brisbane or Cairns (also, Phil was known to exaggerate, so one hour could easily be 4) so we settled for seeing these fascinating creatures in something similar to, but not, their natural habitat.

From Cairns, we spent a half day and drove to Kuranda to check out the Rainforestation  tourist park.  There, you can see dingoes, wombats, crocodiles, koalas and various Australian birds.  And you can feed kangaroos.  A bag of kangaroo food sold for $2. We were among the first guests to arrive, so all of the kangaroos were still fairly hungry when we tried to feed them.  Predictably, the kangaroos were fairly tame.  They would let you walk right up, stick a handful of food in their face and they’d start munching away, letting you pet them or rub their head.  The kangaroos (all grey kangaroos – much smaller than the red kangaroos, which grow up to 7 feet tall) and wallabies (an even smaller version of the grey kangaroo) would eat about a handful before getting tired and either hopping away or just lying down and ignoring the treats.  Everyone but Jerry took a turn feeding the kangaroos – Jerry spent his time videoing the rest of us.

Anna, feeding a wallaby

After feeding the kangaroos, we walked around the small park, looking at the wombat, the dingoes and the lizards. We saw the huge, 17 ft croc and the area with poisonous snakes – interesting fact: Australia is home to 11 of the 16 most poisonous snakes in the world.  The most poisonous injects enough venom in one bite to kill over 2000 mice.  Since Anna’s so opposed to mice in her bed, perhaps she’d prefer having this snake there?

We spent quite a bit of time there looking at the koalas – Anna’s favorite animal of the entire trip.  We saw several with babies, we saw climb down its tree, pee and then climb back up and we saw some attacking a bamboo tree, trying to find the tasty bits.  Anna was so taken with the koalas that we ended up paying an obscene amount ($16) to get a picture taken of her holding a koala.  She really wanted to.

Cute koala

After the Rainforestation experience, there was only 1 Australian animal that I really wanted to see: the duckbill platypus.  We talked to the info center in Kuranda and they told us about a spot, 3 hours away, that routinely allowed people to see wild platypi.  However, we didn’t have 3 hours, so I made it a priority in Sydney to seek out the platypus.

And we found one, at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney.  With 2 days left in Sydney (this is 3 or 4 days after the Rainforestation) Sally asked everybody to name 1 thing they wanted to do in Sydney and we’d fit in each of the 5 things before we left.  Jerry chose riding bikes in a park, Sally chose the fish market, Anna chose to convict museum, Jack chose rock climbing and I chose the zoo (to hunt for the elusive platypus).  The zoo had great reviews on Tripadvisor, ranking as a top 10 activity in Sydney.  Jack wasn’t interested, so Jerry took him rock climbing (killing 2 birds with 1 stone, sort of).  Sally, Anna and I set out on the zoo ferry, riding through Sydney Harbour and getting great views of the opera house on the way to the zoo’s island.

View of the Opera House from the ferry.

The great views would last through the day – every time we came around a corner at the zoo, the harbour was layed out before us with spectacular views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Giraffes against the Sydney skyline

The zoo was divided into several sections: Africa, Asia, Australia, Reptiles, Big Cats, Monkeys and Ocean Life.  The Africa section allowed Anna and I to reminisce about our experiences on that continent – ostrich riding, getting charged by elephants and sleeping in the truck amidst the lions.

The Asia section featured (well, featured as far as I’m concerned) my favorite zoo animal – the tapir!

The reptile section got us excited about visiting the island of Kimodo in Indonesia – coming in November.  We couldn’t photograph them, but they had most of the most poisonous snakes.

The snow leopard was the most interesting of the Big Cats.  Jay and I looked for these in Nepal, but no luck.

The Australian animals were clearly the highlight – the zoo had species that weren’t at Kuranda.

The tree kangaroo doesn’t move like a kangaroo at all – it’s back legs can move independently, so it can walk, rather than hop.  It’s also very small and a beautiful, deep red color.

The zoo had red kangaroos in addition to grey kangaroos.  They are massive!  They looked like body builders – a strange thing to think about an animal, but true.  A scary vegetarian.

The Tasmanian devil is nocturnal, so it just layed around during our visit.  We did enjoy it’s faux-roadkill decor.

Someone else's platypus photo

And the elusive platypus.  You aren’t allowed to photograph these, but we did see two of them swimming in their darkened aquarium (they’re nocturnal as well).

We finished with the marine animals, but were so tired that we sped through the exhibits of penguins and seals.  We did manage to have a bit of fun – here are two of my favorite pictures from the day:

This is Sally, pretending to be a bat-eared fox.

And this is Sally, pretending to be a bear. Nice!



  1. Tommy’s love of animals was infectious. I got swept up with it too. But I feel kinda betrayed as he took the bear picture off my own camera. He had a bear picture too but I don’t see him posting that one. (Ha, ha)

    The zoo is really amazing and we had terrific weather to go there.

  2. Australia sounds wonderful…and I so glad you are having a nice holiday with Anna’s family. I really enjoyed the great animal pixs! I’m like Anna…koalas are sooo cute. miss you guys! xoxoxo, Kita

  3. Anna and Tommy, My name is Lacy and I work with your Mom (Sally). I’ve been enjoying your blog tremendously for months. I’m sorry that I have not gotten around to leaving a comment until now. Your blogs are always a lot of fun, but I have to say the picture of Sally as a bear has to be my favorite so far! Thanks for all of the interesting reading! I’ve told your Mom many times how much I enjoy both of your writing styles, so I guess it’s about time that I tell you. Hope that we get the chance to meet sometime.

    Best Regards and happy travels,

    • Thanks Lacy! Glad you are enjoying the blog – we enjoy writing it. I’m sure we’ll get to meet in person when we get home. Take care – Anna

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