My flight returning to the US from Sydney had a layover in Brisbane. I purposely arranged my layover in Brisbane to be overnight (landed there at 1:30 PM to depart the next day at 10:30 AM) thinking I could explore Brisbane.
Surprise surprise: There’s nothing really touristy to explore in Brisbane (and nothing for the “I’m not a tourist” travel snobs eitha!). That explains the weird looks I got when I told various Aussie locals that I’d be stopping in Brisbane for a day.
I planned pretty much NOTHING in advance for this whole 17-day vacation. Totally outside of my perfectionist, over-planner, control freak comfort zone. So I thought Brisbane would be a sore spot in my trip, ever reminding me to always [over] plan ahead, as I’m accustomed. Instead, it turned out to be a wonderful lesson in NOT having to keep a vice grip on every little move in my life. That sometimes, when you let life unfold organically, special moments happen. I discovered that the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (LPKS), one of the only places left in Australia where a tourist can hold koalas, happened to be in Brisbane. #iWin And while I was at first super excited, I then became instantly worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to make it there by the time koala cuddling ended at 4:30 PM (did I mention I worry?). The park itself closes at 5. In hindsight, everything worked out perfectly fine (don’t worry so much!) and there’s nothing to do in Brisbane anyway so stopping in town just for the animal sanctuary was perfect.
TIP: There is a bus that runs out to the park but if you land in the afternoon like I did, rent a car at the airport and drive out there yourself. The park is about a 20-minute drive. Much faster and round-trip out to the park from the airport and back to the airport the next day cost me about $40 total in rental fees and tolls. I did not rent the GPS/navigation because the maps.me app is awesome and worked just fine for offline navigation.
Holding koalas has been pretty much banned in Australia for the bears’ benefit (they’re also not really bears but you can google that). Basically, humans are inconsiderate and stressful to animals. And since I do quite love animals, I was skeptical about this so-called koala sanctuary. Those animal parks where you’re smiling like an a-hole with a sedated PREDATOR (i.e. lions, tigers, etc.) or riding depressed elephants and camels just so you can get the same stupid photo that all million other people taking the same stupid photo took, just stop. Because, you know, you’re a prey. And a lion, tiger or bear should not just wanna lay down with a prey and say cheese. Neither do elephants relish being stabbed, confined or beat so you can pay $60 (or whatever in the world it even costs) to ride one through the jungles of Thailand. ALSO DO NOT GO TO CIRCUSES! There is nothing, NOTHING, natural about a bear on a bicycle. Do you know what they have to do to those animals to get them to perform? That video that circulated a while back where the lions got fed up and started mauling the circus trainers and performers, I was rooting so hard for the lions! I died laughing from the comfort of my couch. Because I was not at the circus being almost mauled. And I never will be. Ok, back to Brisbane…
When I got to LPKS, I asked a loooooot of questions. Here’s the scoop:
- LPKS has over 100 very spoiled koalas. They live in natural tree habitats, eat whenever they want, sleep all day and socialize freely with one another. They are not kept in cages.
- Koalas are not listed as officially endangered but their populations in southeast Queensland are suffering and dangerously low due to destruction of their habitats and also predators. So creating a sanctuary for these guys to live in peace is actually a good thing.
- The koalas at LPKS were all born and raised in the sanctuary so they are incredibly used to people. People do not stress them out. I believe the handler said there is a rescue/refuge 20 km away for any injured or rehabilitating koalas but I couldn’t hear him well because one of the koalas starting barking or whatever that noise is that they do.
- Any one koala can only be held a max of 30 mins total each day and if the koala says “No” before that, the koala doesn’t do any more. While I waited the 15 mins in line, they switched koalas twice. I came at the end of the day so I guess they had had enough.
- Proceeds from the LPKS entrance fee and koala photo fee goes right back into the care of the animals, funding for eucalyptus plantations and wildlife research.
Aside from all the koalas, there are couple dozen other animal breeds that call the sanctuary home including kangaroos, emus, Tasmanian devils, platypus, very fat sheep (yes I know it’s just the wool but I like to imagine they’re just fat because swoon), lots of birds and snakes in their own snake house (so you don’t have to go in there if you want to avoid snakes). You will not avoid lizards and turkeys though, as they just roam freely around the park.
Observation of the Animal Habitats: The koalas are definitely the pampered children of the park. The “sanctuary” in Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is for the koalas, as the very name of the place explicitly states. The rest of the animals do not appear to be mistreated or forgotten about, but they are confined in more traditional habitats. The kangaroo area is the largest habitat, half the size of an American football field maybe, and visitors can enter and walk around freely with the bouncy marsupials and emus. That can be daunting at first because there were NO staff members in there giving directions or helping while I was there. The animals are obviously very accustomed to people. I did not like the bird areas because they’re just birds in [pretty large] cages. The Tasmanian devil habitat was also relatively small which I didn’t like. The sheep had an entire field. Their barn/pin was around a corner and not visible. The handler (shepherd?) brought out a big ram for the visitors to see and take pictures with and I did NOT like the looks of this ram! He was tied with a short little rope to a post and panting pretty hard. I asked was the ram ok and how long do they keep him out there like that. I was told the ram was hot because he needed to be sheared and that he’s only brought out for 15 mins, long enough for people to take pictures, then taken back to his wherever he lives. Meh. They need to retire that old ram immediately and let him relax. He’s done enough. There were a few other small enclosures in the middle of the park for large lizards and allegedly a southern cassowary but the dangerous bird didn’t make an appearance the day I went.
Important: THERE ARE NO SPIDERS ON EXHIBIT.
You can see video of most of the enclosures I described in the snap windup video below.
The Verdict: Overall, I’m ok with recommending this place as a spot to fulfill your dream of humanely holding a koala, feeding a kangaroo or seeing a dog and sheep show. All worth it. The other habitats and animals, mmmmm I may be sad to see them on their own. I do wish I would have asked more responsible questions about the kangaroos though.
Check out my Brisbane and animal park highlight photos, video of the day and link to the full album below.
Click here for more photos and videos of animals and Brisbane!
Bonus: Here’s that lion circus video. These lions had had ENOUGH! Tuh. #youThought
What do you think about animal encounters? Let me know! Plus any other questions or comments you make have…