Aussie Experience nr.3 – Australian wildlife at the Billabong Sanctuary
When someone mentiones Australia, the pictures of Kangaroos and Koalas immediately pop up in your head. It’s like Germany with beer, USA with big burgers and Norway with high price tags. We couldn’t go to Australia without paying a visit to an animal park, for some close encounters with these magnificent animals that exist in this part of the world only.
The Billabong sanctuary is a famous wildlife park in Townsville that has received several tourism awards for their park and it contains arch Australian species like Kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, Dingos and lets not forget the crocodile! The park itself is a tourist trap, but it had everything that we wanted to see in a nice surrounding and it offered some excellent training for the three photographers in training, Erlend, Karl Kristian and me. As the late Steve Irvine would have said, “Crikey!”.
We started off with a Koala session where Veronica and I ended up paying a bit extra to actually hold the Koalas, since you don’t really get the chance to do that every day. It turns out that these cute teddybears has some ferocious claws! We were warned to move as little as possible as the Koala would think that a storm was approaching and use its claws to get a iron grip around whatever it had it’s arms around. As this was potentially my waist I stood as still as a stone statue while Karl Kristian snapped away with my camera. The Koalas themselves cost quite a lot of money to keep, as they eat Eucalyptus leaves by the ton, that was atleast the explanation for the relatively high prices we had to pay to hold them 🙂
Next stop was a wombat that was brough in by one of the park employees. The wombat is actually way cooler than the Koala as it just looks like a really fat teddy bear, and has the most awesome defence system ever. They live in small tunnels underground where Dingos often hunt them. Their bum is extremely padded to the point of resembling armour, and they use it to block the Dingos from getting to them. The Dingos can’t get through the tough skin and will try to climb over the back of the Wombat. This is where the wallabies strong back legs snap into work and they crush the Dingos spine or skull using their bum by squeezing the predator against the roof. They even told us about an incident where a 4 your old child died after climbing into one of their tunnels and getting crushed.
The park had a program that it runs twice a day that takes you through their main attractions, and that includes the park attendants giving you a detailed explanation of the animal and how they interact with their habitat. After getting hooked on most Discovery and Animal Planet programmes, I have discovered that one of my favourite things is learning new stuff, so their presentations were actually very interesting. The Dingos are beautiful, but as they pretty much look like dogs they pale a bit in comparison to the rest of the inhabitants of the park. During the Dingo presentation the Kangaroos that wanted to get fed really stole much of the show as they came all they way up to us and let us handfeed them ourself.
Crocodiles was the next thing on the plan as we were guided towards the their territory. The crocodiles are lumbering beasts capable of crushing your bones under immense jaw pressure. Their hunting tactics have been honed and perfected over the last hundred thousands of years as they are one of the few direct descendants of the dinosaurs. They got one of the crocs to jump up and grab a piece of chicken that they had suspended from a stick. It was an amazing sight as the big crocodile leaped up into the air and snatched the meat away from the game keeper. Crocs share the throne with sharks as the two animals I don’t want to get trapped in the jaws of. Not only do they crush you and rip away your limbs, they also drag you underwater to drown you at the same time…Talk about a decent way to go…
After the shows were over we were left with some time to walk around the park and got the chance to lookat animals like the Cassowary that actually roamed the area where we were travelling. The Cassowary is a huge birds about the same size as an Emu, and is known to have attacked humans on several occasions. As we got back to the place we held the Koalas the park guides had gotten ahead and taken out a Joey, a snake and a baby crocodile for us to hold. Take a look at the pictures from some definite awww moments!
All in all the Billabong Sanctuary seemed like it was taking care of it’s animals properly and we had a really good time there. The service was good and the guides were both entertaining and informative. If you’re heading up the coast and want the Australian animals in one package for easy viewing then I can very much recommend this place. If you’re an aspiring photographer like the tree of us think we are too then it’s a really good place for some animal pictures as you get to go really close to the animals. That was it for Aussie Experienc nr. 3!!