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Pictures of the Australian Reptile Park
Pictures of the Australian Reptile Park

Pictures of the Carnavon Gorge, Central Highlands, Queensland, Australia
Pictures of the Carnavon Gorge, Central Highlands, Queensland, Australia

Aboriginal Australia

Frog and Toad's Aboriginal Australia

Frog and Toad's Aboriginal Australia

Aboriginal Languages

Aboriginal Languages







REPTILE PARK :: CENTRAL COAST :: NEW SOUTH WALES
SOME OF MY FIRST ENCOUNTERS WITH ANIMALS CAME AT THE CENTRAL COAST'S CELEBRATED REPTILE PARK, WHICH BOASTS AN IMPRESSIVE AND ECCENTRIC RANGE OF ANIMALS AN HOUR'S DRIVE NORTH FROM SYDNEY. No trip to Australia is complete without an up close and personal experience with the land's wildlife, and there are a number of places in the Sydney region which will grant you this experience. Featherdale Wildlife Park near Blacktown is one, and having visited there occasionally in my time as a Blacktown journalist, I can give it a thumb's up. But for sentimental reasons, I would recommend the Australian Reptile Park above Featherdale, if you have time to visit only wildlife sanctuary while you are in Sydney. Featherdale Wildlife Park might have all the cuter-than-cute animals that tourists just love to cuddle in front of the camera -- but the Australian Reptile Park has a spicier, racier, more exotic edge. There are plenty of koalas and wombats and kangaroos at the Reptile Park -- but as the name suggests, they are not the main drawcard. Snakes and lizards and spiders and crocodiles and alligators and turtles are. Tourists are free to cuddle koalas in front of the camera -- but more often than not they choose to get cuddly with a huge sagging python or desert lizard. This is a zoo dedicated to all the animals man loves to hate -- those animals otherwise known as creepy-crawlies. This is a zoo designed to raise your consciousness as far as the reptiple and arachnid kingdoms are concerned. Spend some time here, and hopefully you won't hate them as much after you leave. And you will gain some new respect for the cold-blooded creatures of this world.

This is certainly a zoo with a difference, as the park's own website points out: "The Australian Reptile Park and Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1948 - by the late and great ERIC WORRELL, Australia's first naturalist - and is now regarded as one of the countries (sic) premier attractions. The Sanctuary is the only zoo in Australia committed to saving lives with a Venom-Milking Program in place for the past 50+ years, saving over 300 lives each year being the sole supplier of a variety of venoms, which is used for all snake and funnel-web anti-venom in Australia."

That's right, they milk spiders and snakes here just as a farmer might milk a cow! If you have ever wondered what a snake feels like, this is the place to satisfy your craving -- visitors are allowed and encouraged to fondle a range of reptiles including pythons, baby alligators (crocodiles are too aggressive to be handled, unfortunately), and all manner of cool Aussie lizards. Some of the other animals which can be seen here include the unique platypus (the star of the Australian Pavilion at 2005's World Expo at Aichi in Japan), the aforementioned koalas and wombats, Tasmanian devils, echidnas, dingoes and of course the ubiqitious friendly hand-fed kangaroos. There are more koalas than I have ever seen in one place and they all seem to spend most of the time sleeping. I came across an aviary full of bats and dozing Australian frogmouths (see picture here. The Australian Reptile Park's location just off the Expressway at Somersby (near the Gosford turnoff) is enchanting and refreshing and sometimes mysterious. Natural streams gurgle past wildflowers and tumble down lazy sandstone waterfalls. Australian trees exude exquisite bush fragrances. The animals all look at home and in their natural environment here, unlike their counterparts in a city zoo. Photograph keepsakes of koalas or large python are available -- but you have got to pay about AUS$15 for the photo. Giant animatronic models of some of Australia’s deadliest spiders can be found in Spider World (in my opinion this place is a little kitsch -- the real spiders are interesting enough by themselves, and animatronics models get outdated so fast. But it appears that the park's real spiders were killed in a devastating fire in the year 2000, so that might explain why they have turned to machine spiders instead.) If you feel hungry, you can hit the Hard Croc Cafe (I wouldn't bother though because the food is nothing special, and besides, there is a barbeque area on the lawn nearby. For overpriced stuffed toys and birds that sing if you push them the right way, see the Australiana gift shop. All in all, the Australian Reptile Park should entertain you for a few hours.



REPTILE PARK HISTORY
ONE OF MY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES GROWING UP ON THE NSW CENTRAL COAST WAS THE MASSIVE REPLICA DINOSAUR WHICH STOOD ON THE HIGHWAY NEAR MY POP'S WINDSCREEN REPAIR BUSINESS AT NORTH GOSFORD. The dinosaur belonged to the Australian Reptile Park, which has had three homes in the past 60+ years, ever since nature guru Eric Worrell opened his first tourist attraction, The Ocean Beach Aquarium, at Umina on the Central Coast. By a strange twist of fate, my parents now live just down the road from the former aquarium, which looks like a house but with curious round windows. In 1958 the Ocean Beach Aquarium moved from sleepy Umina to North Gosford and became the Australian Reptile Park. During the next few years Eric became a well known identity Australia-wide as a naturalist and the park expanded from its two original snake pits and entry kiosk. In 1963 the 40-tonne, 30-metre dinosaur of my childhood memories (his name is Ploddy) was erected outside the park, as a mascot of the smaller reptiles living inside.

In 1993 the park, now under new owners, relocated to its present site at Somersby, close to the Sydney-Newcastle Expressway, perfect to include with tours to Hunter Valley, Barrington Tops and Port Stephens. Click here for more details on to get to the park and to get in contact with it, and what to do there when you get there.


 

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