Certainly many people love the idea of packing the tent, portable stove, sleeping bags, mosquito spray and other odds and ends and taking off on a camping trip. For them it's all part of the outdoors adventure.
Others, quite possibly including Kelly Landry, like the idea of being with nature but not all the other stuff. The perfect solution is at Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park in Calga, around an hour north of Sydney. On one of their Wild Sleep-Outs, all you need to do is arrive. Your tent is pitched, fires lit and food cooked for you. By the way, tents are animal-proof as long as you keep the door zipped!
The 69 hectare sanctuary has more than 180 species of Australian marsupials, birds, reptiles and frogs, insects and spiders. They are all free to roam in natural bushland. They are quite used to human presence and most are happy to have you walk right up to them. The park is surrounded by state-of-the-art fox and cat-proof fencing making animals inside safe from their enemies.
The adventure begins as you are greeted by kangaroos, wallabies and emus at the entry gate and Dexter, the cockatoo, squawking hello.
Ranger Nick Carson took Kelly around on an experience she would never have had the opportunity to enjoy in a zoo. Guides can spot animals you may miss. They are knowledgeable about Aboriginal history and talk about bush tucker and medicine, shelter making, tools and social structures. There are carvings and paintings to admire at ancient Aboriginal sites.
Kelly fell in love with the alpine dingoes, one of the few animals who don't roam through the park, but visitors are welcome into their sanctuary. It took a little longer for her to become warm and fuzzy about Jub Jub, the park's diamond python.
One big positive of the day for Kelly was that she overcame her fear of emus.
After taking part in an interactive reptile and mammal encounter there's a delicious bush barbecue with the rangers. As you tuck into toasted marshmallows and marvel at the canopy of stars, rangers tell Aboriginal Dreamtime stories. Then it's off on a nocturnal animal spotting walk. You'll be amazed by how many critters do their thing after dark.
After a light supper you crawl into a comfortable bed. The next thing you will hear will be the sounds of daytime animals stirring and you'll be enjoying a barbecued breakfast as they come over to say hello.
Related videos: Sydney Wildlife World and Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Calga, around an hour north of Sydney.
Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park Wild Sleep-Out costs $165 for adults and $105 for children. They include ranger-led activities, nocturnal bushwalk, animal interaction, barbecue dinner and breakfast, hot showers and snake- and spider-proof tents. They run on Saturday nights and others by arrangement.
For bookings made in October and November, adults will pay children's price $105 instead of $165.
Day admission is $24 for adults, $12 for children and $60 for a family of two adults and two children to the age of 15 years.
There are between six and 11 tours, talks, shows and animal experiences every day. They are included in park entry price. You can adopt an animal for $30 to $90 a year.
Prices correct at September 30, 2010.
For further information
Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park
Peats Ridge and Darkinjung roads
Ph: (02) 4375 1100