Healesville Sanctuary is the best place in the world to see Australian animals in their natural habitat, a comfortable one-hour drive from Melbourne in the Yarra Valley. The first indication of what's in store is a wild welcome from colourful lorikeets as they arrive for their morning feed.
Around 200 species of Australian wildlife flourish in a bushland environment of towering gums and tree ferns. Koalas, kangaroos, platypus, possums and dingoes are some of the creatures here.
Large walk-through habitat exhibits, aviaries, special nocturnal exhibits and walking paths through Australian bush provide opportunities to view many native animals. Meet the Keeper presentations are a great way to find out more about Australian wildlife from the people who really know the animals.
The first session is with the wombats, followed by an introduction of 600 species of fascinating Australian reptiles. Next are birds of prey, then koalas and on to the elusive platypus, a rare egg-laying mammal. Pelican feeding is not to be missed and dingoes are walked each day. Presentations are subject to suitable weather.
Most of Australia's mammals are nocturnal, with large eyes for dim light. Their sense of smell and hearing is well developed and many have long whiskers to extend their sense of touch. Animals of the Night is a nocturnal display including rare and endangered species.
A walk-through aviary provides a good chance to photograph some of the brilliant parrots and cockatoos which can also be seen free-flying in the bush.
Each year, the sanctuary cares for raptors which have been injured in the wild. They respond well to veterinary care but would not survive in their natural habitat. Careful training means they can be handled by highly-experienced keepers.
In 1967, the lyrebird aviary had the first chick born in captivity. Damp, dark gullies of wet eucalypt forest, ferns and creek are the perfect habitat for these graceful and shy birds and other birds have been introduced so the whole eco-system is reflected. Don't be surprised if you spot a duck waddling along.
The Frog Bog is a fun exhibition featuring swamp-living creatures such as croaking frogs, skinks, snakes, water bugs, dragonflies, spiders and even carnivorous plants.
During the day, the Flying Fox Exhibit is full of grey-headed flying foxes quietly hanging from the roof. In the wild, they wait for nightfall to search far and wide for food as many as 100,000 of them can take off together, making a spectacular sight and sound. They share their home with black-winged stilts and pheasant coucals.
The Flooded Forest habitat is dominated by mountain swamp gums growing in shallow water. It's securing the future of the precious and critically-rare helmeted honeyeater. The brush-tailed rock wallaby and orange-bellied parrot are also protected here.
The billabong is a truly Australian habitat. Visitors wander along a timber boardwalk over the water and enjoy magpie geese honking and getting on with the day among tall reeds, brolgas performing their beautiful dances and swamp wallabies hopping around.
Visitors are welcome to take a picnic and barbecue facilities are available. Hampers are available but you need to book in advance. Tables with shelters are sprinkled around the grounds, but please do not feed any wildlife. The bistro serves hot and cold meals and there is a range of Yarra Valley wines to enjoy. There's plenty of takeaway food available and they will cater for groups. Again, bookings are required.