Next time you’re visiting Healesville Sanctuary, why not try something out of the ordinary?
We certainly make the most of a recent visit, when we meet an Australian icon at a Wombat Pat and Play wild encounter.
When we arrive at the wombat enclosure the star of the show is playing prima donna, unwilling to join her fans. El Guapo makes the most of the time by pretending to be a wombat in a cave.
Just as the keepers are preparing us for bad news, Shadow the wombat emerges from hiding.
We sit on small stools in the enclosure and ask the keepers about the animals. Lightning is fascinated to learn that wombats have a cartilage plate in their tough backsides that they can use to protect a burrow’s entrance from predators.
Shadow munches on carrots, pumpkin and corn (her favourite) while we pat and admire her.
If you’re taking small children, remember it is a wild encounter and you need to be ready to move if necessary. Shadow tries to nip Lightning’s dad on the shin – it seems she’s learned that the keepers quickly intervene with food so she sometimes does this on purpose to get what she wants.
I’ve always had a soft spot for wombats over koalas and kangaroos so meeting Shadow is a special treat. Both kids love the experience, which is one of the wild encounters on offer without a minimum age (as long as children are accompanied by an adult).
We score a bonus wild encounter outside the reptile house, when Bailey the scrub python almost steals the show for Lightning. And if cheeky sausage roll-thieving ibises count as wild, we meet some of them too. You have been warned!
Read on to check out what else there is to see and do at Healesville Sanctuary. If you’re staying overnight then read my guide to Family Friendly Yarra Valley.
Thank you to regular contributor Erika Jonsson for the guest post. Erika is a journalist and mother of two, 5 year old Lightning and 2 year old El Gaucho.
- Arrive at least half an hour before your encounter to allow time to walk down.
- Watch your ankles – if the wombat heads straight for them you might need to move quickly.
- Toddlers are free with a paying adult. All children under 14 must be accompanied by an adult.
- Professional photos are available or take your own camera.