Just an hour north of Sydney
, Catriona Rowntree
went to Somersby to see Australia's largest collection of reptiles. It's celebrating its 60th year of operation this year so why not go and wish the residents happy birthday.
The park and wildlife sanctuary was established by the late Eric Worrell, Australia's first naturalist. It's the only zoo in Australia committed to saving people's lives with a venom-milking program, saving more than 300 lives every year. It's Australia's sole supplier of venoms used for snake and funnel-web spider anti-venom.
Visitors wander through tranquil bushland with trickling streams and waterfalls. Take along the makings of a barbecue and stop and enjoy lunch in the Australian bush. You may prefer to stop at Hard Croc Café, which serves hot and cold meals.
Curator Tim Faulkner knows the origins and life story of all his exhibits. They range from South American iguanas to the world's rarest and deadliest snakes. There's a Burmese python at the park with the name "Fluffy". Someone there has a wonderful imagination!
Enter Lost World of Reptiles though the mouth of a 20m crocodile and get ready to see pythons, giant tortoises, American alligators (one named Leonardo), crocodiles, lizards and snakes. They come from every corner of the globe.
Visitors are drawn into Spider World by a cute dancing spider-rapper. That might put arachnophobes in the mood to enter the exhibit. At Tarantulaville, safely behind bullet-proof glass, lives a collection of tarantulas and scorpions from Asia, Africa and South America. It's your only chance to see live tarantulas in Australia, and they are kept under strict control. There are animatronic models of some of Australia's deadliest spiders.
In the funnel-web spider laboratory you can see the milking facilities through bullet-proof glass. There has not been a death from a funnel-web spider bite since 1982, so as you watch the milking session you can feel very assured. They are fed at 1.30pm every day.
Children and adults can have a nose-to-snout experience with animals. Staff and volunteers produce an array of animals suitable for interaction and it's a great experience.
If reptiles and spiders aren't for you, the park is home to many Australian animals. Platypuses, koalas, wombats, emus, Tasmanian devils, echidnas, dingoes and hand-fed kangaroos all live there.
Many of them have been rescued and have usually been orphaned after their mother has been killed in a road accident. It's wonderful to know they are getting a second chance.
The park works with scientists and other zoos to help save the Tasmanian devil from extinction. Their population is in steady decline in the wild because of a disease sweeping through groups. There are around 50 at the park and lots of joeys, which will grow in a healthy environment and continue to breed.
On her visit to the Australian Reptile Park, Catriona made friends with an African bullfrog, a skink from the Solomon Islands and a lizard from Argentina.
The park has an Adopt a Crazy Critter program. Maybe you would like to adopt a Galapagos turtle, a koala or a threatened species such as the Tasmanian devil. From $80 to $500, individuals, families, clubs, schools and groups can become proud parents by adopting an animal.
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Somersby on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
The Australian Reptile Park entry is $24.50 for adults and $12.50 for children. Family passes are $64. Entry to park, wildlife shows, interactive animal experiences, adventure playground, nature trails and entry to Lost World of Reptiles, Spider World and Frog Hollow are included. There are gas barbecues in the park. It's open every day between 9am and 5pm.
Virgin Blue has flights to Sydney.
One-way fares from:
- Canberra $79
- Brisbane $89
- Melbourne $95
- Hobart $99
- Adelaide $129
- Perth $219
- Darwin $235
There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are subject to change.
Prices correct at November 25, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
The Australian Reptile Park
Ph: (02) 4340 1022
Ph: 133 039