Cuddling Koalas and Skippy Selfies: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Standard Aussie backpacker Facebook photos:

Cuddling a koala
Kangaroo Selfie

The list goes on.

Most remain longingly on my bucket list. Kangaroo selfie/koala cuddles – BOOM, and I ticked those off.

I’m going to set the scene because if you don’t realise how foul a mood I was in that day you won’t realise was an incredible effect this place had on me.

It was one of those typical disaster mornings. The night before I realised I had “misplaced” my camera charger. Nowhere to be found. Plans were set. finally I was visiting the koala sanctuary, something I had been saving since I arrived 8 weeks earlier. So of course, I wanted my **** camera.

Set alarm for 7.30 – get up, wash hair, go to town and get camera charged.

Idiot: sets alarm for 19.30. Who does that? Seriously?

So I roll out of bed at 8.40, panic, shower, wash hair, blow dry hair, do makeup etc and run into town a dishevelled wreck. Somehow, stupid Brisbane camera shops don’t sell/have chargers for my Panasonic Lumix TZ-30. Little did I know at the time, this is not a popular camera down under. To get a charger or anything at all is a mission best left to overseas-Amazon and eBay.

So 10am comes, I’ve already eaten 2 twix bars because I'm stressed and irritated, not to mention sweaty from zooming around the city for an hour (yes I do know Twix have diary & gluten but at that point I simply DIDN’T CARE, even if I felt SO unbelievably horrendous an hour later.)

Get to the bus – oh look, there it is. Leaving. Hour to wait. Find another bus stop, leaving AGAIN. Only half an hour this time... Whoopee.

Finally, my lovely French co-worker from BCB, Emy and I make it to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  And it was absolutely wonderful.

All day there are presentations and tours and photo experiences across the sanctuary. First we saw the Koalas and learned about their natural habitats and eating habits, history and unfortunate STI issues (they have Chlamydia?!?!).

Next up was – and I cannot iterate enough how incredible this demonstration was – the Birds of Prey. Trainers lead the eagles and owls, teasing them with dead mice as they fly around the arena, literally centimetres from the audiences’ heads. It sounds sappy but feeling the air whoosh past your face from the wing of a massive eagle is incredible. We also saw the snakes and the Sheep Shearing. The sheep shearing is a rough and uncomfortable process to watch (having worked on a sheep farm for 6 weeks already I was already all too aware of it), so we left after a few minutes to go see Skippy and co. bounce through the trees.

They have over 130 Koalas, as well as Tasmanian devils, Platypus (-I or –es??), stunning birds, kangaroos and so many others. They have photos throughout the day, which you purchase at the main store. Photos of celebrities adorn the walls, each cuddling the Koalas, wrapped in snakes or posing with birds of prey. Prices ranged from $16 for one, to $39 for all three, taken right in the middle of the sanctuary.

And for me, that was exactly it: it felt more like a home than a zoo for the animals. They appeared to be treated and cared for in a way that put you, a visitor, at ease while you explored.  Staff and volunteers were knowledgeable and helpful, all welcoming and attentive to the animals. It isn’t Lone pine zoo for a reason. It is a sanctuary.

Snakes are not what I expected them to be! They look so slimy, and actually terrifying, from a distance. I think, similar to spiders, I had the fear of god – re: snakes - put into me by my mother as a child. But this one was surprisingly pleasant. Even if he did decide to start constricting around my leg as I tried to release him to the trainer - he was heavy and I almost fell over, much to the amusement of a long line of Chinese & American tourists. Balance sustained, photo taken.

The koalas decided, unfortunately, that they didn’t like me. It took 3 attempts, with 3 separate koalas, to get a photo. The first one was grumpy and wouldn’t sit still. The second decided to start relieving itself, right as I was about to take hold. The third, well he only stayed about 15 seconds. Clawed at my hair and posed quickly. Honestly, those photographers & trainers have a real job capturing the happy moment.

Map, taken from Lone Pine Website

Schedule, taken from Lone Pine Website

Photos Courtesy of my iPhone and Emy (who didn't lose her camera charger)

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