Australia Zoo

Dear wombats,
Congratulations on confirming your spot in the top three of Michelle's Favorite Animals! It is quite a privilege to be chosen for this short list. Since securing your spot at #3 you all will now be mentioned to everyone Michelle meets. Could you please pass word onto the echidnas that they made Honorable Mention?

Dolphins & polar bears (#1 and #2 respectively)

We arrived at Australia Zoo an hour after they opened. I barely knew what a wombat was, but I did know:
1) I had yet to see one in the wild
2) They looked overweight (Mom thought they looked like pigs!)
3) They were "naughty" according to The Crocodile Hunter

Immediately upon entering the park, Mom & I walked to the information center to book a session for photos with a wombat. I was devastated when I saw the red, capital letters "SOLD OUT". This couldn't be right. I came across the largest ocean in the world to see these critters! So I double-checked with a staff member. Nope. I read it correctly. "But..." she advised "we still have the Wombat Walk Experience." She didn't have to go any further, I already had my wallet out. It turned out the Wombat Walk Experience was an even more hands-on approach to learning about wombats for the same price! A small group helped a trainer walk the wombat on a leash around the park -- which was part of their daily exercise. The walk started at 1:30pm so we had a lot of ground to cover until then.

It was rather early so a lot of the animals were still sleeping. However, Mom & I were relieved to be at the Australia Zoo on a Monday because we often found ourselves alone in a particular area (with no noisy children to scare off the animals nor crowds of people to fight off for photographs). For instance, we were the only two people in the koala sanctuary. While strolling through, a staff member let us pet a female up in a tree. Her fur felt thick -- like touching sheepskin -- but at the same time it was very soft. They were peaceful creatures. Mom wanted to steal one she liked them so much. They looked like Yodas rolled into balls then staged on a branch.Early on we also saw dingos, Tasmanian devils, a shingleback, an enormous python, and monolithic tortoises that Mom thought were rocks. Cassowaries -- a flightless bird -- were also among Mom's favorite animals at the park. Then, we tried to find birds of prey in the enclosed area. I was finally able to see a kookaburra up close even though I've heard their call since I first arrived in Mackay. We walked through the outdoor aviary which had dozens of species of parrots, finchs, parakeets, doves, and other colorful fliers. Every step we took either Mom or I would see another type of bird & marvel at it. I particularly loved the bright blues in this parrot's tail feathers.

After studying the zoo map, I knew what section came after the birds...

We arrived at the exhibit just in time to see a Common Wombat (there are only 3 species) scurry across the open field. It was love at first sight (as you can hear from my giddy chuckling in the video).

We watched the first wombat go into the cave (which also had a viewing area) and wake up the other two wombats. Neither were interested in playing so the instigator left. Next door, but separate, were the Southern Long-Haired Wombats. According to zookeepers the Long-Hairs were the most social species.

Forcing myself to move on we saw a red kangaroo asleep on the lawn in the funniest position. We stopped by the Asian exhibit to see the elephants & tigers. The park also had a red panda which I've never even heard of! It had an adorable face, but was not round like typical black & white pandas. It looked like a panther with its long tail and the way he slinked on the branches. I found the emu very intriguing. Standing two feet above it on a platform, I realized how extraordinarily tall the birds we saw on Blackwater-Rolleston Road were. Plus, this emu was making a rumbling sound that seemed like it was resonating from its stomach.

We moved on and saw a rock wallaby. I never knew what one looked like/how it differed to kangaroos ever since I watched the cartoon Rocko's Modern Life on Nickelodeon. We observed echidnas -- not nearly as fascinating as in the wild. There were a lot of wetland birds to see including cranes, storks, ducks, and the most gorgeous bird in the zoo: a Jabiru. Its entire, long neck was vibrant shades of dark indigo which contrasted against its stark white, slender body, and bright orange legs. Mom & I were both transfixed by its beauty.

Finally 1:30pm arrived: it was wombat time!