Despite the rain, we drove the Troopy over the Macalister Range and arrived in Kuranda village for a very special day with the local wildlife. The Kuranda Wildlife Experience is the ultimate ticket for animal lovers and is a fantastic way to meet unique, beautiful and interesting animals from Australia and around the world!
Kuranda Koala Gardens
Our first stop was the Kuranda Koala Gardens, but don’t be fooled by the name – they have much more than just those cute, cuddly balls of sleeping fur. They had a variety of turtles, bearded dragons, kangaroos, pythons, and even freshwater crocodiles!
The first highlight was watching the wombats – the fussy female was paired with her second potential mate, who was on heat that morning. We had never heard such a strange hissing/growling noise come from a wombat before! She was resisting all advances and as she scurried away, the male wombat was hot on her heels. Later that day, we mentioned it to one of the keepers and she said that the female brings it upon herself, because she often tries to get his attention, and then runs away! What a tease!
The second highlight was feeding the swamp wallabies. These creatures were absolutely adorable and very friendly. As you offer food, their little paws reach up and hold onto your hand.
The third highlight was visiting the new glider enclosure at feeding time. There are two varieties on display, the squirrel glider and mahogany glider. Both are just as cute as the other, but their feeding habits are a little different. While squirrel gliders prefer to munch of fresh fruit and vegetables with only a little sip of nectar, mahogany gliders prefer their sweet cocktail over fruit and veg. Another interesting fact that we learnt was that mahogany gliders were thought to be extinct for over 100 years and were only rediscovered in 1989.
Just before moving on to the next experience, we decided to cuddle a koala and get a souvenir photo. Alternatively, if koalas aren’t your thing, you can hold a snake instead, but with our fabulous reptile experiences in Alice Springs and Darwin, we thought the koala was the right choice… although he doesn’t seem to understand what ‘happier and with your mouth open’ means.
All feelings of anticipation and excitement were replaced with angst and trepidation when we were shown the “stolen property” tub on the reception desk at Birdworld Kuranda. It was full of bracelets, buttons, ear rings, Barmah Hat badges and anything else small and shiny that the birds can pry off you with their burly beaks. Juz promptly de-accessorised…
Once we walked through the door we were presented with an aviary large enough to house trees, a small waterfall and a pond. We walked out onto a platform at the top of the aviary and were greeted with the pleasant aromas of tropical fruit that had been served to the birds for breakfast. There were three colourful macaws perched nearby, as well as a couple of Alexandrine Parrots and Eclectus parrots having a morning meal.
As we did a lap of the aviary, we got to know the inhabitants – there was a small aviary full of little finches, huddles of green-cheeked conures, a white-faced heron in the trees, streaks of colour as rainbow lorikeets sped past, a few mandarin ducks and black swans in the pond, and even an intimidating cassowary. Despite their danger factor, these huge birds are endangered due to being hit by cars and the destruction of their habitat.
Once we returned to the platform, the Alexandrine Parrots set their sights on our poor, defenceless pen. With a big red beak, the parrot effortless cracked the shaft and deformed the push button, and we knew that if Dave let go of the pen, it would never survive. At this point, Juz spotted a juvenile fig parrot sitting on the wire of the fence surrounding the platform and gave it a brief rub on the back of its neck before a sharp peck said it was time to go.
On our way out, we got to meet Cobbler the Cockatoo and then swung past the Troopy for a new pen before hitting up our next destination.
Australian Butterfly Sanctuary
Established in 1985, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary works to increase butterfly numbers by protecting the offspring. In the wild, only 1 or 2% of eggs laid survive to adulthood while at the Sanctuary, their success rate is 60-80%.
There are 8 species of butterfly in the aviary, as well as the Hercules moth – the world’s largest moth. All of them are native rainforest species which is why the aviary has been designed to replicate their habitat. With 1500 beautiful butterflies, including the iridescent blue Ulysses butterfly and the big Cairns Birdwing with its bright green and yellow colours, it was easy to stop and become mesmerised by the quiet fluttering of colour all around.
There are several stations around the aviary that function as both a feeding platform and a place to lay eggs. Each station has a few dishes that are filled with a special nectar formula and topped with a white lid to attract the butterflies. They used to put honey in the dishes before they realised that the honey was fermenting in the heat and causing the butterflies to get drunk! The stations also have particular plant clippings which act as hosts for the butterfly eggs. Each butterfly has a particular plant they lay their eggs on to ensure the survival of their caterpillars, and having these particular plants at designated stations makes collecting the butterfly eggs much easier.
The eggs are taken to the laboratory where they are cared for until the caterpillar hatches, grows up and turns into a butterfly. Depending on the species, the caterpillar munches for around 20-30 days before they transform into a chrysalis (cocoon) and stew for between 10 and 30 days, before a butterfly emerges and is released into the main aviary to live a short life that lasts between 10 days and a few months. The more they flutter, the shorter they live – that’s why some of our photos are a bit blurry – butterflies don’t live long and have to get sh*t done!
Our Kuranda Wildlife Experience was absolutely magical. We got to see a wide range of animals, from mammals and reptiles to insects and arachnids. Each experience was interactive as we got up close and personal to koalas, wallabies, parrots and lacewing butterflies. We even got to meet some fellow Melbournians – Rob and Belinda – who were visiting Cairns on holiday.
Tickets for the Kuranda Wildlife Experience are $46 dollars for adults, $23 for children. They can be purchased from any of the three attractions.