Robyn was kind enough to lend us her car during our stay, so we were able to drive to the Australia Zoo, about an hour North of Brisbane. This was the first time that Dom had to drive a manual car on the left side. All went well and we arrived at the zoo just in time for opening.
Dom thought that since he had already taken Jen to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, we wouldn't have to the Australia Zoo.. but he was mistaken! Jen insisted he specifically visit the Australia Zoo. Shortly after arriving and seeing the animals, he understood why.
A few days before our visit, we had tried to book a red panda encounter online, but everything was fully booked for weeks. Robyn recommended we check with Customer Service as soon as we arrive in case there were any cancellations or openings available, so that was our first order of business.
Lucky for us, they had space for 3, for the Cheetah photo session. This wasn't even an option on the website, so it was a pleasant surprise and we booked it. We ended up being the only 2 people at the encounter with Lawrence, the cheetah, so we got to pet and spend extra time with him (and Jen was able to ask the keepers a million questions).
Our second order of business (after booking the Cheetah session) was to buy some "Roo Food" to go feed the wallabies and kangaroos before all of the other visitors arrived there. This was so much fun - you enter the huge enclosure with all the cute wallabies and grey kangaroos, crouch down to hold out some food, and let them approach you. They even let you pet them and they are so cute and soft!! Later we found a second enclosure with Red Kangaroos, so we had more feeding and petting time with them.
We also got to pet koalas! Again, you walk through their enclosure where you can see lots of koalas up close - there are no barriers, so you can walk right up to the trees that they are sleeping in. There is also always one koala with a keeper, that is available for you to walk up to and pet, while the other ones are having a rest.
Before coming to the zoo, we had asked Robyn if she had binoculars for us to borrow and she was confused why we wanted them, but gave them to us anyways. During our visit we understood that unlike at the Calgary and Taronga Zoos where the animals are so far away, here, you don't need binoculars at all. The enclosures are designed in a way that you have such a unique opportunity to get really close and personal with the animals here.
At the koala nursery, you can see mamma koalas with their super cute babies. This enclosure had walls to keep visitors from getting too close, but you can still get a really good view of the babies. We went multiple times and on one occasion, the babies were awake and moving around to eat.
Our last close encounter was with the lemurs. Here you cross over to Bindi's Island where the lemurs run around freely walk amongst the visitors and even through the playground for kids. The island is quite big so at first we didn't see anything and thought we were in the wrong place, but eventually a bunch of lemurs decided to jump down from the trees to come check us out.
After that, we roamed the zoo randomly but made sure to stop and catch the tiger and crocodile shows.
Every animal enclosure has "rest areas" where the animals can rest and hide away from visitors, if they aren't feeling very social. We got really lucky with our visit because almost all of the animals were outside and active. We got some great views of:
rhinos, meerkats, and giraffes
cassowaries, dingos, tasmanian devils, sea otters, water dragons, and more!
We finally had to leave the zoo because it was closing.. we were one of the last cars in the parking lot.
We both had an absolute blast! The great thing with the Australia Zoo is that they mainly only have rescued animals, so there's less variety but the enclosures are very well designed. Most of their proceeds go toward helping the injured animals brought to their animal hospital, taking really good care of the animal in the zoo, and educating humans to help keep wild animals healthy and safe in their natural environments.