Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Experience : Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Alice Springs Reptile Centre


We love reptiles.  They vary from smooth and slinky to spiky and strange, they’re one of the oldest living species on earth and they’re solar powered!  Therefore, our time in Alice Springs would not have been completely satisfactory unless we visited the Reptile Centre.


The Reptile Centre

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre was transformed from a rundown lot behind Billy Goat Hill into a fascinating and educational attraction that opened to the public in January 2000.


The centre has the facilities to display a variety of reptiles from the Northern Territory, such as a cave room for the geckoes and a large crocodile pond with an underwater viewing booth for Terry the Saltwater Crocodile.   The humidity, temperature and lighting are carefully controlled to suit the animals based on their natural habitat, and the geckoes are the hardest animals to please because they are very fussy.  The centre is also an Eco Certified attraction and was granted an advanced solar system in 2010 that generates power to the entire centre.


There are about 60 different species of animals on display, and each one is loved and cared for by the passionate and friendly staff.  The centre is busiest during the winter months of July to October.


The Reptiles

We got to meet four reptiles very personally during the afternoon demonstration.  The first was Ruby the Spencer’s Goanna, who is the resident reptile at the centre.  Ruby was very happy to just laze around and get patted by the visitors.  In the wild, she’d use her blue forked tongue to seek out food like eggs, mice or snakes.  Spencer’s goannas don’t usually climb trees; they’d rather live in burrows that they’ve dug themselves or stolen from other creatures.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


Next up was Jessie the bearded dragon.  It was interesting to learn that bearded dragons change colour depending on their mood or temperature.  They are dark when they’re cold so they can absorb more sunlight and more lightly coloured during the hottest part of the day to reflect the sun away.  Their spiky beard also changes colour from happy orange to grumpy black.  They like to eat fruit, vegetables, insects, plants and particularly spiders – all sorts, even the poisonous ones.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


Nora the blue tongue lizard was a southern species with darker colours on its scales compared to the lighter coloured lizards of the north. They eat fruit, vegetables, meat, anything they can – even pet food, which is their favourite.  Nora was smooth, cold, stocky and quite heavy.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


Our final friend was a beautiful olive python.   These gorgeous creatures prefer a tropical environment and their diet ranges from mice to crocodiles.  Their jaws can expand to fit larger prey and they have heat sensing pits on the sides of the heads to detect prey.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


After the demonstration, we checked out the other critters within the centre.  The inside enclosures housed a variety of snakes, including adders, pythons and even an Inland Taipan, which is considered to be the most venomous snake in the world!  The dimly lit gecko cave displayed a fantastic variety of geckoes, from Dave’s favourite marbled velvet gecko to the quirky knob tailed gecko, which kinda looks like Gollum from Lord of the Rings.  Outside were more blue tongue lizards, as well as a thorny devil and a huge perentie monitor.  It was here that we got to personally meet Terry the Saltwater Crocodile, who was captured in Darwin Harbour in 2002.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


The Essentials

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is open daily from 9:30am to 5pm, except for Christmas and New Years day.  Demonstrations are run daily at 11am, 1pm and 3:30pm.  The entry fee is $16 for adults and $8 for children, or $40 for families (prices current as of March 2014).


9 Stuart Terrace, Alice Springs

Phone: 08 8952 8900


Alice Springs Reptile Centre


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Wildlife : The Goanna

Name: Goanna

Scientific Classification: Varanus

Alternative Names: Australian monitor

Location: they live throughout Australia, but not so much in Tasmania.  They like scrubland and forests where the soil is soft for burrowing.


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Fast Facts

  • Goannas are predatory, carnivourous reptiles that will eat small animals, insects and eggs and scavange on rotting meat.
  • There are around 20 species of goanna and 15 of those live in Australia.  They vary in size and can grow to up to 2 metres long.
  • They live in burrows, wander around on the ground looking for food but are great at climing trees.
  • When they breed, they lay about 5-6 eggs which hatch little babies that are about 25cm long.  Sometimes, the goanna mums will dig up a termite mound and lay their eggs inside.  The termites will build their nest around the eggs, incubating and protecting them from predators.  When it’s time, the baby lizards will hatch and dig their way out, or mum will return to give them a hand.


Cuteness Rating: They’re giant lizards with dry skin and long claws.  If you think that’s cute, then that’s your own problem.

Danger Rating: don’t get bitten by a goanna – their teeth are filled with bacteria, so a bite can lead to a nasty infection.


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Our Encounter  

We were camping in Mount Remarkable National Park at the Mambray Creek campground, when Juz noticed a goanna under the shade of a nearby tree, just hanging out in the grass.  We had read that they are attracted to campers by the smell of meat, and while we didn’t really have food out, he seemed quite content in perving on our campsite.


Later on, while we cooked dinner on the electric BBQs in the visitor area, another goanna came by looking for scraps before climbing a nearby rivergum and hanging out on one of the top branches.  The next day, we had another visit and it was cool to watch them move and scurry.


A goanna walking past our campsite