One of the main things we wanted to do on the East Coast was make a visit to Australia Zoo, the life's work of Steve Irwin, and today was the day. The zoo is about 40Km South of Noosa and as we drove down Steve Irwin Way we were greeted by huge signs and billboards of Steve and you couldn't help but feel a pang about what had happened to this man with the huge character. The zoo is most famous for its owners, the Irwin Family and was previously home to the Crocodile Hunter himself. The bus ride down only took about 50minutes and you hardly noticed it as we got to watch one of the DVDs that Steve Irwin had made prior to his untimely death earlier last year. We arrived just in time for the live "Wildlife Warriors 101" show at the cheesily named Crocoseum; this fantastic spectacle was to set the scene for an amazing day at the zoo. Steve Irwin was passionate about animal conservation and his family and staff are continuing his work especially pushing the message to kids and the message really does come through loud and clear in everything you see and do in Australia Zoo.
The show involved elephants, snakes, birds, and then crocodiles. First of all as we watched the big screen, our two keen young hosts made their way into the Crocoseum in a 4X4 followed by three huge elephants that put on a quick show as they just happened to be passing by at the time… When the real show actually started it was with the snakes and they did a quick dramatization of how to avoid being bitten by a snake and what to do if you are, all the while making a big point of making sure the kids understood what to do and how to act. Next was the bird display, which we thought was brilliant; the show had so many different types and sizes of birds flying around the huge 5000+ seat arena only a couple of feet away from your face and landing amongst the audience members all while we were been told facts about each of the birds and their habits. But the crocodile demonstration was the best - I mean come on, we were at the Crocodile Hunter's Zoo. The whole purpose of this show was to demonstrate the behaviour of the crocodiles, so, Monty a huge 15foot "Saltie" (Salt Water Croc) was brought into the arena by the highly enthusiastic zoo staff who went on to demonstrated the ways in which crocodiles hunt and linked it to crocodile safety, and proper safety techniques around the water as it is a very important issue here in Australia. The staff also tries to clear up any myths and misconceptions and talked about how crocodiles only attack for food or when they feel their territory is being invaded. The show was really good, and as with everything else it was about learning how to look after the animals and how to not get caught out, and despite the show being a little cheesy it was enormous fun and had us excited about touring the rest of the zoo. After the show we went to find the world largest snake (26foot), which lives in the building that is built under the Crocoseum, and we found it curled up in the corner of its massive purpose built habitat enclosure, but disappointingly we couldn't get a very good photo due to the reflection of the glass and the lighting, but trust us, it is absolutely huge!
Behind the Crocosseum is a walkway dedicated to the tributes that flowed in after Steve Irwin's death. On display are the myriad of letters, shirts, and other gifts people from all around the world sent in to honour the memory of Steve and comfort his family. Many of the items that had been received after his death were on display, along with the hundreds of khaki shirts that people had signed during their visits to the zoo. It was amazing to see how many people he had touched during such a short lifetime and all by just doing exactly what he loved the most in the world. As well as hundred of shirts signed by the public and other visitors there is also a section of tributes from celebrities and global figure head and politic leaders who all have visited the Zoo and are devastated by the loss. Whilst we all know him as an animal conservationist and the Crocodile Hunter, the memorials around the zoo also talked about how much of a family man he was - an incredible doting father to Bindi and Bob and also how much he adored his wife Terri. The photos around the zoo of him with his family were amazing. Whilst he is gone, the memory of him continues to thrive in the zoo and his mission in life is continuing through the Wildlife Warriors organization.
The whole aim of the zoo is to get people up close and personal with animals to make them care about their future and learn about animal conservation and the show we saw first was a great start. The zoo itself doesn't have a huge variety of animals (Yet), but those they do have, they have a lot of them and the enclosures are done right - these animals are very well taken care of. Most of the time you don't see cages or animals behind glass and even begin to wonder how they don't escape, 90% of the enclosures are ones which we can go and walk through and interact with the animals. The first and one of the best enclosures we went to was the Roo Heaven; you walk through a double fence into a completely open enclosure full of kangaroos - and you're just walking through them, whilst they jump and crawl all around you, eating the grass, lounging in the shade - they're just everywhere. It was so cool to be able to pet as many as you wanted, to crouch down next to a mother feeding her joey, and to lounge with them on a hill. The animals were obviously used to having visitors around because for all intents and purposes they just ignored us. But they were so cute and the way things were set out just gave such a unique experience. We, as usual, have different opinions on what our favourite animal is, but we both agree that kangaroos are in the top three here at Australia Zoo.
During the afternoon we visited the elephant sanctuary to see Bimbo, Simba, and Seya eating their afternoon snack; we saw a koala show where we were able to pat these gorgeous cuddly creatures and learn more about them, and even got to pose with a koala bear for a picture (Kara nearly ran the camera out on the battery she took so many photos). Our final stop was the Tiger Temple. When we first arrived in there, we saw two huge adults who were on display and being made to do some exercise, they were huge and the guy behind the glass with them said they weighed 180Kg (28 ½ Stone). The guy in the enclosure kept on throwing big chunks of meat onto the glass about ten feet up so that the tiger would jump up onto its two back legs and come right in your face, it was pretty scary to think what they could do to humans especially as the guy kept saying how they love to chomp on lambs ribcages and eat chickens whole, bones and all. Finally just before taking the adult back into their resting area, the guy said he would demonstrate how good the tigers are at climbing when they need to be, so attached to a 20 foot pole, he put on a nice big piece of rump steak and held it up the top of a palm tree; the tiger came running from out of nowhere, jumped 10 feet up at least and within another second, was at the top munching on some dinner. Before we left and just as they started to push the merchandise we watched three 5 month old cubs playing and learning to swim, even these seemed big and like they could do some real damage.
The day was amazing and we had such a good time. It was sad at times, with regards to Steve's death, but was definitely worth a visit to see. We would highly recommend a visit to anyone that is coming to the East coast of Australia - absolutely incredible and very exhausting!