Africa provided us an amazing opportunity to see wild animals up close and we saw many different species. It would have been a shame to come to Australia and not find some time to see some of their iconic marsupials before heading home.
Roos and Such
A visit to Maru Koala and Animal Park offered us a quick look to see koala, kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburra, dingos, a Tasmanian devil, red kangaroos, monitor lizards, emus, and wombats, Marsupials make up a major part of Australia’s native fauna. Their common characteristic is a short gestation period in the womb, then the young live off a teat in the mothers pouch for a determined period of time until the young is booted off on their own. The animals were part of a park and food could be purchased to hand feed the kangaroos so though you were not seeing them in their natural environment, you were able to learn about their behaviors and see and touch them. Occasionally you would see an albino roo or see a koala awake to eat eucalyptus leaves. We were grateful to have a chat with one of the trainers who has a 2 year old dingo she was working with, teaching it to follow sit, and walk commands. Apparently dingos, more related to wolves than dogs, are temperamental, and will only do what they want when they want. They do not bark, they also have no smell to give away their scent while hunting, but howl with each other to communicate.
We have been to a couple of places where seeing a penguin was on the list. Our timing was off in one way or another. So, our first penguin in the wild award goes to the Penguin Parade on Phillip Island, about a two hour drive south from Melbourne. It is what it sounds like. Penguins spend their entire day in the water, sometimes longer, but they will return to their burrows at sunset. Every night is different, sometimes they arrive in large groups, sometimes in smaller ones. But they return every evening to parade across the beachhead. The adoring public waits onshore, in convenient bleachers with low lighting and icy wind and rain, trying to refrain their excitement. The small penguins did not disappoint. They arrived as darkness set, huddled for safety as a group, then cautiously came up the beach. It was a low tide on the evening we were there and it made for great visibility as the groups waddled a good distance onto the banks, The cold Antarctic wind made it an early evening for many. It was a memorable event indeed.