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Top wildlife experiences in Oz

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve

Catriona Rowntree is probably one of very few people who has had breakfast with 15 lions. She didn't have to take a long fight to Africa — in fact she went to a most unlikely destination: far north Queensland!

The Wildlife Safari Reserve is in Koah, a 40-minute drive west of Cairns. It's home to lions, tigers, cheetahs, alpacas, a white rhinoceros, ostriches, bears, lemurs, antelopes, several species of monkey and two of hippopotamus, including four of just eight pygmy hippos in Australia.

The experience is thanks to owner Jenny Jattke who had no background in zoos or animals, but bought the park out of liquidation five years ago and has restored it. Her focus is on exotic species and she is proud to give up close and personal visits with her animals.

Of course you can just go to the zoo and take a break in the cafe or enjoy a picnic in the grounds, but for something totally different, do as Catriona did and have breakfast with the lions. You can also have dinner with them and enjoy a first-class meal and drinks.

It's not for the faint-hearted. You will be on the edge of your seat as the king of the jungle follows its natural feeding instincts and mealtime is frenzied, quite the opposite of their laid-back behaviour for most of the day.

There are keeper talks throughout the day. Choose the animal you would like to know more about and attend one of the spread-out feed-and-talk experiences. It's quite amazing to learn just how much food and water the animals consume.

A highlight for Catriona was meeting Zeke, a 12-year-old cheetah. Cheetahs are some of the park's more feared animals and she was very surprised to hear the large, ferocious-looking animal purring like the family cat. Her absolute favourite was meeting Pie, a little baby with big attitude. He weighed in at just 5kg when she held him, but in time will be over 100kg.

Rottnest Island humpback whales

Jules Lund ventured as far from Cairns as far as you can and still be in Australia. Rottnest Island is a short ferry ride from Perth or Fremantle and offers another fabulous wildlife experience.

He joined a Rottnest Adventure Tour to see if they could locate the magnificent humpback whales and other sea creatures.

Every year, around April, the humpbacks leave the rich feeding grounds in Antarctica to calf and raise their young in warmer waters off the Kimberley. The return trip runs from September to November and the whales and their newborns venture much closer to the coast.

The tour circumnavigates the island in 90 minutes, calling in to crystal-clear bays, and there's an interpretation of the geography and marine life of Rottnest.

Everyone's on the lookout for the tell-tale humpback whales' blow and then it's cameras to the ready. Jules got lucky and was treated to an exhibition of the giant creature and reckons it was one of the best experiences ever.

They were also lucky enough to see New Zealand fur seals at Cathedral Rocks and finished a fulfilling day with sea lions on Dyer Island.


Koah, a 40-minute drive west of Cairns. And Rottnest Island off Western Australia's coast.


Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve costs $28 for adults, $14 for children and $75 for a family of two adults and two children. Breakfast with the Beasts is $49.50 for adults and $29.50 for children. Entry and African Savannah breakfast are included. Dine on the Edge runs on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday between 6.30pm and 9.30pm. It costs $110 per person. Hotel transfers can be arranged for an extra cost. It's open year-round between 9am and 4.30pm.

Rottnest Express 90-minute Adventure Tour costs $50 for adults and $25 for children. Whale watching runs between September and November.

Virgin Australia has one-way flights to Perth from:

  • Sydney and Melbourne $219
  • Adelaide $205
  • Brisbane $245

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 correct at June 25, 2011, and are subject to change.

Prices correct at June 25, 2011.

For further information

Virgin Australia
Ph: 136 789

Cairns Wildlife Safari Reserve
2579 Kennedy Highway
Koah, Queensland 4881
Ph: (07) 4093 7777

Rottnest Adventures
Ph: 1300 467 688

User comments
Wild life santuaries are great, however remember they only exist because we are destroying their nastural habit at an alarming rate. The Upper Hunter with all the mining is seeing animals killed everyday and everynight and everybody turns a blind eye because of the money. People once the landscape has all being dug up and the animals are gone and China has it all we will all look back because the animals are not part of our future. Australia has a geedy few recieveing all the wealth and leaving noting for tomorrow. Aussies do not care and one day will wake uop with nothing but empty waste land and they will deserve this as they are letting it happen!

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