What is the first thing that you associate with Australia? I bet it is either a Kangaroo or a Koala. For me, it was the latter. From the time I got my invite to visit Gold Coast, I dreamt of hugging a Koala. Those cuddly, furry little things had always caught my fancy. And guess what – I actually lived my dream. The best part of it – I did not have to wait for long for this happened on Day One in Gold Coast. I met my “Star” at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary wasn’t just about meeting the Koalas and the Kangaroos. It introduced me to the Pesky Emu, the Colorful Lorikeets, the Mighty Eagle, the Dangerous Dingos and more. What is more is that I quite go up, close and personal with them, making this visit even more memorable for me. With its unique wildlife and animal interaction sessions, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is deemed as the most popular tourist destination in Queensland, Australia. Post my experience here, I second that with a further note – the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the topmost among things to do in Gold Coast. Take a peek as to why –
About Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Gold Coast
The history of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is an interesting one. A floriculturist by the name of Alex Griffiths was facing a major issue with the Lorikeets attacking his flowers for nectar. As a solution, he created a small feeding area for the Lorikeets. Slowly, not just him, but his neighbors came by with nectar to feed these colorful birds. Eventually, this area expanded and became the Currumbin Bird Sanctuary.
Alex Griffiths’s sanctuary expanded beyond his house to the reserves nearby. In 1976, he gifted the entire bit to the National Trust of Queensland. The sanctuary soon became a home for many Australian animals and a small animal hospital was set up to help the injured creatures. Today, it has been rechristened as Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and is a popular tourist destination in Australia.
The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization. It ensures that its proceeds go towards various wildlife and nature conservation projects. It constantly rescues injured animals – specially Koalas, nurses them back in the hospital and releases them into the wild. The visitors here, can not only enjoy the Australian wildlife but can see the hospital for themselves. And that to me, was the most impressive thing about Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Stop One – The Free Flight Bird Show
After a quick introduction to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, our volunteer host ushered us to the Koala enclosure. We were to meet these cuddly cuties first but a whole bunch of Chinese tourists beat us to it. Given that the wait time was long, she suggested we walk through some other parts of the Sanctuary. We could get back to the Koalas later. As reluctant I was to go along this contingency plan, there was no denying the practicality of it given our limited time at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. And so, we set off.
Waving around to kids on a mini train and trying to spot the hidden animals in various enclosures, we followed the crowd that was headed to the signature show of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. The Free Flight Bird Show was all about showcasing the winged beauties of Australia. Everyone had already occupied the best seats and all we were left was the open lawn area near the stage.
Before I could load my telephoto lens, the show began. In flew the colorful cockatoos & the rainbow lorikeets. Punctuated by the gleeful whoops of the crowd – the adults & kids alike, these birds flew around demonstrating their beautiful skills. None of them were tied or tagged and hence, the name of the show – “Free Flight”. Every characteristic of the bird was not just explained by the MC but you could well see it with the stunts that the birds performed. It was a beautiful educational experience for kids and adults.
The interactive bit of the show involved the crowd. The presenters would pick people randomly to join them on the stage to interact and perform with the birds. Little Emily was the most stunned as the giant beauty – the Australian Pelican was ushered in and she fed it a fish.
The white owls got me thinking of Hedwig – the beloved owl of Harry Potter. It was as if they would be off delivering some owl mail to some wizard. While all the birds were stunners, the real star of the show was the Fierce Eagle – The largest bird of prey in Australia – the Wedge-tailed eagle.
Stunning in its size, I think everyone’s jaws dropped as it flew straight at the audience, low enough to scare them but precise enough to just glide above their heads. I could not stop clicking this guy’s profile for he definitely impressed me to the core. Before I knew it, he flew away to his home and the show ended.
Time to Feed the Kangaroos
Since we were already at the far end of the Sanctuary, our host suggested we visit the national animal of Australia. That definitely had me kicked for I had never ever seen a Kangaroo in real life. We were handed over 2 packs of food – not for ourselves but to feed the hopping wonders.
There were two types of Kangaroos that we met – the lazy Grey ones (they aren’t really lazy but on that day, they were) and the slightly active Red Kangaroos. The difference between them is that the first ones are in the Grassland areas of Australia (I saw a few in the wild while on my Hot Air Balloon ride). The other ones were common across the dusty red landscapes of the country. I frankly, did not bother to sit and check out other differences, for I was totally enamored by them.
I loved petting them while they ate from my palms. Soft and smaller than what I expected, these guys were just so adorable. A few of them had Joeys snuggling into their pouch and well, those were the ones who were the most hungry.
It was fun watching the kids trying to feed them. The moment the Kangaroo would touch their hand, most of them would just drop the feed and run away. That was a signal to those annoying ducks to invade upon the scattered feed and take over from the Kangaroo. It was hilarious actually to watch them fight over the tiny nodules of Kangaroo feed.
I think the Kangaroos were just too tired of eating and we soon gave them up for the huge bird of Australia – the Emu. Somehow, this guy had wandered into the Kangaroo enclosure and decided he was hungry. Crosseyed and crazy looking, he kept scaring everyone – not wanting to eat from our palms but demanding the entire bag of feed! 😉
Back to Koalas in Gold Coast
With a failed attempt to spot the Tasmanian Devil (The Devil that she was – hiding in her lair), we made our way back to the Koala enclosure. Finally, it was time to meet them. The tiny little creatures hugged the various trees and pretended to sleep while we clicked their pics. The only movement came in when a volunteer entered with some branches of Eucalyptus trees.
Food! Their stimulant had them walk a bit and frankly, that was the only movement that we saw them make.
It was our turn for the Koala cuddle – an activity that you can indulge at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. A small guy was brought out to meet us. “Star” was his name and he was just just just…….sooooooooooooooooooooooooo….cute! I was made to clasp my palms to receive him and the 10-month-old Koala just turned to me and hugged me. It searched my face, realized that I was his biggest fan and then turned to the camera for a quick pic with me. Even for those few seconds, it just felt right.
Amy, his caretaker, took him back and with a few more pats, I had to say goodbye to him. How I wish, I could have stayed longer. Maybe, someday, I will return to volunteer at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary – just so that I can be near Star!
A brush with the Creepy Crawlies
I was reluctant to leave the Koala enclosure but well, it was just enough time to see the Reptiles enclosure. I would choose Koalas over Creepy Crawlies any day. However, out of politeness, I went along to see some snakes, crocodiles and plenty more of those slithering creatures. Glad I did for I caught the Australian cousin of Komodo dragons in Indonesia and the Flying Lizards in Wayanad. A Water Dragon stood still in the open, possibly waiting for a prey. There was something dangerously fascinating about him and he became the object of my attention in this enclosure.
Other Activities at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
It was time to leave though there was plenty left unseen here. I would have loved to spot some Wallabies and Tree Kangaroos. Or maybe go on the Treetop Ropeway. Bilbies, Red Pandas and Cassowary eluded me in this visit. I guess, you need a complete day to at least do most of it while I just had 3 hours.
Never mind! It ain’t over – for I know that I will get back to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary again. To meet Star and Introduce him to my daughter. And meet some more of those lovely Australian Animals!
- Gold Coast City has an international airport with a decent connectivity to the rest of the World. There are plenty of flights including Flyscoot Airlines that operate to this airport.
- Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is closer to the airport than the main city, It is around 23 kms from Gold Coast city and takes about 30 minutes to get here by road. You can get it on your mobile by clicking here.
- You can either hire an Uber Cab or take a bus to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary from Gold Coast.
- Click here for the official website of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
- You can book your tickets through the website or get them at the entrance. A day pass for an adult will cost you around AUD 50. There is a concession for kids and also, if you visit as a family.
- Wear flat shoes and comfortable clothes while visiting here. There is plenty of walking to do.
- There are plenty of restaurants and restrooms within the Sanctuary.
- All animal encounters are fairly safe as long as you follow the rules and instructions mentioned there
- You can clean your hands with a sanitizer after every animal interaction. You will find handy dispensers at every animal enclosure.
- There is a small shopping area where you can buy memorabilia from your visit to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
- The photo sessions with the Koala and various birds are on a chargeable basis. You will need to purchase the photographs on your exit at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
- I recommend a complete day here to see the best of Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.
I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including BBC Travel, Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.