Never once did I plan on going to Australia to actually touch exotic animals. All of my family, friends, and co-workers warned me before I left to watch out for snakes, spiders, and other crazy animals.
But, here I was with a snake wrapped around my neck.
My EF Tour group, consisting of 28 people all ages 18 to 27, and awesome tour guide Lincoln Miller, travelled to Townsville, Australia on May 18, 2018. We had a private tour scheduled at the Billabong Sanctuary. First, we were welcomed by a handsome ranger, Jeremy, who was petting a wombat very carefully. The wombat was the least exciting animal of the day, mainly because he just slept.
Many animals were able to be pet and fed at the Billabong Sactuary in Australia.
Next, we had the opportunity to touch a cute little Koala in a tree. Although I’m not too familiar with what a Koala actually is, or why they are a “must see” animal in Australia, after the tour, I was smitten by their charm. Koalas are only found in eucalyptus forests mainly in the eastern part of Australia. They eat young leaves from gum trees which have a low energy content, but are high in fiber. Koalas spend 90 percent of their day sleeping in trees and are not very active. Thankfully, the day that we were there, most of the koalas were awake and moving!
After the koala photos, Jeremy went to a mystery box, and pulled out a huge snake! Now, I must throw this in here for all of you reading this who are absolutely terrified of snakes, the top ten of the most venomous species of snakes in the world live in Australia. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve always wanted to make a headline in the news back home “Wisconsin girl gets eaten alive by venomous snake while traveling in Australia.”
However, here I was, with a snake draped around my neck. And athough I might be smiling in the pictures, I was completely freaked out in the moment. The snake, a Coastal Taipan, had an odd texture; it had a long whip-like tail that felt cold and almost like a rubber. The eyes and tongue scared me every time it would come back in my direction. Jeremy informed us that the chances of stumbling across any deadly reptile in the wild is extremely rare, and the probability of actually getting bitten by one is even smaller. So, I thought what the heck, and held it twice (once to say I did it, and second to say it was pretty cool).
Wombat, koala, snake, what possibly could be next?
Well of course, you can’t go to Australia and not see a crocodile. In this case see many crocodiles, and hold a baby one! Australia has two species of crocodiles the Estuarine Crocodile and the Freshwater Crocodile, both of which I was able to see. Holding the baby one was pretty cool, but seeing the large one was insane. Jeremy held a long stick with a chunk of food at the end to get the croc’ moving and active. Honestly, it was quite the show. Many beaches in Australia are not open for swimming due to the high population of crocodiles. They hunt at night and can remain submerged under water for up to two hours. When swimming, only their eyes, ears and nostrils are visible. An average female crocodile is about 7.5 feet where a male is nearly 11 feet. The crocodile at the sanctuary was about 14 feet long and weighed nearly 1,000 pounds.
Onto one of my favorite animals at the sanctuary, the kangaroo! I was able to go into a large fenced-in area where Kangaroos of all sizes hopped around. I got to feed a few, pet some, and even give a few huge. I was very tempted to take one home. Kangaroos belong to a group of marsupial mammals with huge hind feet. The majority of kangaroos live in the wild in a variety of habitats from woodlands to shrubs to forested areas. The kangaroos in this sanctuary were actually a lot smaller than the other one’s I seen throughout the rest of the trip, but still adorable.
Overall, my experience at the Billabong Sanctuary was a blast! I loved being exposed to a wide variety to animals that I was not familiar with. If only I was able to bring a Kangaroo home!
Photos by Chelsea Bauman. © 2018 Chelsea Bauman. All Rights Reserved