Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary - a little haven

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the world's first and largest koala sanctuary.

It was founded in 1927 and has over 130 koalas, some of which are available for a 'cuddle'. While Lone Pine is famous for its koalas, it also has kangaroos, lorikeets, platypus, Tasmanian devils, wombats (my favourite), echidnas, many species of reptiles and birds, as well as much more.

Rainbow Lorikeets even fly to Lone Pine for nectar 'meals' and you are able to feed them twice daily.

Lone Pine is set on 20 ha (50 acres) of beautiful natural forest overlooking the Brisbane River in one of Brisbane's most leafy (and exclusive) suburbs, Fig Tree Pocket, about a 20 minute drive from the city. The 'suburbia' surrounding the sanctuary is spacious - all the houses are on large lots, many acreage - and Fig Tree Pocket is off the beaten track.

(It was overcast and a little bit on the cool side when I was there, so a few of the animals decided the hollow of a log, or somewhere equally 'snoozy', was a better place to be than posing for photos. As a result, I've borrowed a few photos from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary website - thank you).

I have discovered that this post runs slowly if viewed on Internet Explorer. It's best viewed on Google Chrome or Firefox (not as fast as Chrome).

There is a sanctuary in there! Lone Pine's 'naturalness' is a delight.
The platypus (photo courtesy Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary).
My favourite - the wombat (photo courtesy Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary).
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." (lyrics here).
Inland taipan - the world's deadliest land snake.
Thankfully they've very shy and do their best to avoid danger.
The emu - Australia's largest native bird and second only, in height, to the ostrich.
water monitor sits in its log.
Tasmanian Devil, with it's famous cartoon 'likeness', Taz, from Looney Tunes.
(Photo courtesy Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and inset, Warner Bros.)

It's not all platypus, wombats, kookaburras, snakes, emus, water monitors and Tasmanian Devils. Here are some photos of what Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is famous for...
Koalas are very much the stars and they've appeared in millions of tourist photos (done the math - 
possibly billions of photos!).
Koalas don't spent all their time eating and sleeping.
Even though this one is sitting still, they're quite adept
at getting around on all fours on the ground. 

Cute and cuddly - who wants to take one home?

Lone Pine is one of the very few sanctuaries in the world where visitors are actually allowed to hold koalas (for a fee) and no end of celebrities have gladly taken up the offer to 'cuddle a koala'. Strict regulations ensure that each koala is not held for more than thirty minutes every day and they have every fourth day off (nice work if you can get it!).

Photos are reasonably priced, too, and start from $16 for a 20x15cm (8x6in) photo presented in a sturdy folder made from 100% recycled paper. You can also order larger size prints and photo packages.
Some of the celebs that have rushed to 'cuddle a koala'...
 LtoR Mikhail Gorbachev, Taylor Swift, Jackie Chan and Eric Clapton.
If you want to see the many other celebs who have done the same as the four above, then look here.
(Photos courtesy Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary)

Once at Lone Pine, you feel totally removed from the world, even though you are, in effect, in a suburb of a city with a population of over one million. There's nothing 'Hollywood' about Lone Pine. There are no thrill rides or shows done to a booming soundtrack. It's a sanctuary and keeps true to this. 

While there are enclosures, many of them aren't fenced and much of the site is enclosed in, for want of a better word, forest. You feel like you are a part of the natural surrounds. It's little wonder Lone Pine has been voted in the 10 best zoos in the world.
Where to go?
Many of the enclosures aren't, in fact, enclosed, so you feel much closer to the animals.
Even in the midst of the enclosures, you're surrounded by forest.
The open walkway leads over and through 'Koala Kingdom' natural habitat.
The entrance to Koala Kingdom, with walkway at right.

The shows are timed so that you can go from one to the other and see really fill up your day, while still having time to wander and see the wildlife up close, as well as 'grab a feed' (have lunch).

Another popular feature is that visitors can feed and pet the free-roaming kangaroos in the 'roos five acre open-plan reserve, where more than 130 of the animals reside. If you're lucky you'll see a joey in a pouch.

In-between looking at the wildlife, there are plenty of other shows and activities to keep you occupied, including: 
Sheep Dog & Shearing Shows
Bird of Prey Flight Show
Snake and Crocodile Photographs
Hand Feed Kangaroos
Tasmanian Devil Feed and Keeper Presentation
Platypus Feed and Keeper Presentation
Barn Animal Encounter

The shows are timed so that you can go from one to the other and see really fill up your day, while still having time to wander and see the wildlife up close, as well as 'grab a feed' (have lunch).

Another popular feature is that visitors can feed and pet the free-roaming kangaroos in a five acre open-plan reserve, where more than 130 'roos reside. If you're lucky you'll see a joey in a pouch.

You can also be a 'keeper for a day', where you spend a fully-supervised day with wildlife education officers and get to do things such as escorting dingoes or wombats on their daily walks, get close to snakes, owls and koalas...even clean out animal enclosures!

Wildlife Encounter Fur & Feathers Meet & Greet Session.
One of the Lone Pine staff introduces everyone to Australia's native dog, the dingo.
Two shetland ponies (not native to Australia) in the Barn Animal section.

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If you like the photography in my blogs, it's because I am a professional photographer. My photos don't merely show something, they tell a story. And visual stories i.e. photos, are more interesting than pictures that merely show something. 

If you'd like to know how to turn your images into visual stories, I've published a book that takes a whole new slant on photography and 'translates' the art of taking photos into a language we all understand.

To read more about my book and see some of its 100+ visual examples, please click HERE.

***I use all the tips and hints from my book in every photo I take, including those in Travel With Giulio.

*     *     *     *     *

Two sheep dogs work their magic rounding up a flock during the Sheep Dog Show.

Bird of Prey Photographs.
While guests are unable to handle birds of prey during the show,
you are able to get your photo taken with one afterwards.

Like the rest of Lone Pine, grabbing a feed also keeps in with the no 'razzamatazz' mantra. There is no big eating area with lots of options. The General Store also houses the 'Sleepy Koala Cafe', which sells a selection of sandwiches and rolls and a few desserts. It's so low key that when I went in there I wasn't too sure where I had to queue to order.

There were only two hot items on the menu - chicken roll and fish'n'chips. I opted for the chicken roll (it was a bit chilly outside and I was hungry) which arrived in a hotdog roll and was served with dusted chips. It was a good-sized serving and cost $11. 

You can dine inside or out but it is quite intimate i.e. no big, noisy food hall. Having said that, there was a large covered outdoor area with quite a few long tables and bench seats that obviously catered for large groups - schools even - and I'm sure that got a bit noisy if full.

There are also plenty of places where you can enjoy a picnic, which you are more then welcome to bring with you.

The General Store and Sleepy Koala Cafe (in the front left there was a BBQ happening).

There is also the Riverside Cafe located outside main entrance to Lone Pine. It appeared to offer a slightly more extensive menu to the cafe inside the sanctuary - lasagne, fritatta and quiche, for example. Riverside had a nice position overlooking the Brisbane River.

While it is outside the grounds of Lone Pine, you are able to leave the sanctuary in order to eat there, and re-enter. Just let the staff know and they will tell you the procedure (you need to keep receipts etc).

Lone Pine has a liquor license, so you can't BYO alcohol. Beer and wine are sold at the two cafes.

Riverside Cafe

The nice thing about Lone Pine is that arriving there is as lovely as being there. The closer you get to Lone Pine the more you leave behind the hustle, bustle, noise and stress of suburbia and the more you take in the tranquil, leafy surrounds of Fig Tree Pocket. Hopefully, by the time you arrive at Lone Pine, you should have relaxed sufficiently to 'be at one' with everything the sanctuary has to offer.

You're there! People queue to enter Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Getting to Lone Pine can be done several ways -

  • Drive - about a 20 minute drive west of the city and there is free parking.
  • Bus - the Brisbane City Council 445 and 430 buses depart the city. They are public transport buses, so you will make multiple stops and Lone Pine is close to the end of each bus's route. If you are a visitor to Brisbane you will more than likely have to buy a paper ticket from the driver. If you are travelling from the CBD, this will amount to $6.20 (as of June 2012). Timetables for both can be seen here (type 430 or 445 where it says 'Route Code' and use drop down menu to choose day of travel)
  • Taxi - from the CBD will cost around $30-$40, or use the taxi fare calculator if travelling from elsewhere.
  • Boat - Mirimar Cruises sail daily. The Mirimar II leaves from the Cultural Centre Pontoon, located in front of the Queensland Art Gallery and on the other side of the Brisbane River to the CBD. The trip takes a leisurely one-and-a-quater hours each way (costs below). The boat departs the CBD at 10am, arrives at Lone Pine 11.15am, departs Lone Pine at 1.45pm and arrives at the CBD at 3pm. NOTE - The cruise leaves bang on 1.45pm and, if you're late, you're left behind, as one family found out when they wandered down from Lone Pine as we were turning around in the middle of the river (see taxi fare above!).

Including entry into Lone Pine -
Adult: $65
Concession (Australian seniors, pensioners, students only): $57.50
Children (ages 3 — 13): $38
Family (2 Adults and up to 3 children): $190

One way cruise is also available. Price does not include return trip or entry into the Park. Return to the City from this tour is at you own convenience by bus or taxi.
Adults $27.50/Concession $24.50/Child $16.50/Family $85

The day I went I decided to take the cruise. I've driven out that way enough times to know what to expect and, if you're a tourist, the cruise option is...well, more touristy (I think I was the only local among the 40 or so people on board). 

Having spent most of my life driving the streets of Brisbane, the cruise opened up a whole new world. For a start, I didn't realise there was so much waterfront property, much of it spectacular. This shouldn't have come as a surprise, as the Brisbane River meanders a long way through Brisbane.

The Mirimar II leaves from the easily-located Cultural Centre Pontoon. Once on board a recorded 'tour guide' tells you about the various landmarks along either side of the river throughout the cruise. This was good because even we got a history lesson about out very own city! 

It was also funny because sometimes the boat and the 'tour guide' didn't match up and several times, as we were being told about the landmark "...ahead on the right...", we were cruising past it, and a boatload of bewildered tourists were scanning the river bank, looking for what was being described.

The cruise is great value - $65 each for a leisurely cruise up the Brisbane River seeing a side to Brisbane you'd never see otherwise (including fabulous real estate), a day at the world famous Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and a history lesson, even if it didn't always synch. properly (insert smiley face here).

The Mirimar II at the Cultural Centre Pontoon, with the Brisbane CBD on the other side of the river
and the walkway and State Library in shot on the left. The Queensland Art Gallery, which
the pontoon is really in front of, is out of shot on the immediate left.
Maybe this angle will help with your bearings (that's Mirimar II moored at the Cultural Centre Pontoon).
The top deck - lots of seating and a good view. And you get the sea breeze, no matter what.
Or you can sit downstairs and inside, close to the bar and food.
You get to see Brisbane from the water, in this case the Eleanor Schonell Bridge, 
linking Dutton Park to the University of Queensland.
You also get to see a lot of Brisbane's riverfront property. Now, where's the Black American Express card?
Passengers walk from the Mirimar II to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

As mentioned, Lone Pine is located on the Brisbane River which didn't help during the floods of January 2011, the worst since 1974, that swept through Fig Tree Pocket and the low lying sanctuary. Lone Pine, along with the rest of Brisbane, recovered from the floods and within six months a new half-a-million dollar home had been built for the koalas. 

A lizard sits on the top of a submerged fence at Lone Pine during the 2011 floods.
We're no experts but we don't think it's a water monitor.
(Photo courtesy of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

I hope you enjoyed this tour of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. I've already said why we love it, so won't repeat myself, other than to say that don't expect razzamatazz and Hollywood productions. Lone Pine is very much about maintaining the balance between 'getting back to nature' and being a world-renowned tourist destination (which it is).

Below are the sanctuary's details. Enjoy!



*If you visited Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary as a result of this post, please tell me - TravelWithGiulio@gmail.com

To see more posts about accommodation, dining, and/or things to do in Brisbane and SE Qld, visit HERE.

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Open daily from 9am to 5pm every day
1:30pm to 5pm on Anzac Day (April 25)
9am to 4pm Christmas Day.

Adult: Daily - $33, Yearly - $62
Child (3 - 13): $22/$44
Student (with Student ID card): $24/$50
Family Pass (2 adults + up to 3 Children): $80/$176
Family Pass (1 adult + up to 3 children): $52/$126
Concession $24/$50
Backpacker (with YHA, VIP etc. card): $28

Children under 3 are free (supervision of children is the responsibility of accompanying adults)

And finally, a blast from the past...

Undated photo courtesy Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Photos & text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos/text must be via written permission

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