The lush hills of the Yarra Valley glow in the Australian sun as we drove out with family to see both wineries and the Healesville Sanctuary, a preserve to see indigenous animals. The valley is known for growing grapes for wine making and cheeses made from the sheep that dot the
Our main attraction today was seeing the Healesville Sanctuary, a zoo where they keep indigenous animals in a natural habitat for visitors to see. Of course, we had seen our share of crocodiles, wallabies and emus up in Northern Territory. In addition, I wanted to see koalas and kangaroos. The former I first saw in 1997 at the Sydney Convention Centre, strangely enough.
This time the koalas sit in trees with gum tree leaves placed there by handlers. To be honest, koala bears can be vicious, despite their sedate and cute looks. Some of the trees on the Great Ocean Road are ravaged by wild koalas, completely devoid of leaves. These guys sat, somewhat lazily, eyeing the replenishment of fresh branches, then leapt to the new tree with calculated flop. It’s not a bad gig, to sit in a tree, eat your favourite meal and be photographed by hundreds of adoring fans.
The kangaroos, similarly, were quite relaxed: A pack of them sat, asleep in bales of hay, until a sound suddenly drew them all to attention. It was the opening of a gate behind a fence, by a worker, which signaled them that lunch was ready. Their immediate association and attention
probably indicates a routine they’ve become used to.
Another exhibit shows the Australian native dingo, a wild dog. The pair on display seemed quite majestic and regal on their habitat’s rock, despite whatever maligned reputation they have in popular culture. There were habitats for adorable field mice, dormant wombats and scurrying Tasmanian devils, who apparently are endangered. There were also some unusual Australian animals like the echidna, who we previously thought was a hedgehog, of which there are none indigenous to the country; and the bilby, a rat/rabbit like creature which is nocturnal.
There was an extensive live bird show, featuring birds of prey and parrots of different kinds, all native to Australia. But I was most pleased to get a good photo of the galah, another native Australian bird. I had never really considered nature and animal photography, but after this trip I have learned the joy of capturing the pseudo-wild animal, even if it is prompted by a handler holding food.
Later in the day, we drove back to Melbourne, and stopped into the Chandon winery in Coldstream, Victoria. This offshoot of the famous Moet-Chandon company is based in Australia, and Siobhan and I enjoyed the beautiful view out the sloped hill from the shop and cafe. There is a magical landscape here in Australia, so often transformed and unlocked by the golden sun.