South Australia is teeming with a lot of attractions, so there’s bound to be something in here for everybody. Adelaide alone has a rich assortment of museums, galleries, and of course, zoos. (Because what would Australia be without its kangaroos and koalas?)
If you love animals and are looking for something other than the typical zoo, there’s the Cleland Wildlife Park. Sometimes called the Cleland Conservation Park, it is a haven for 130 species of Australian wildlife.
About a 30-minute ride from Adelaide (a designated driver will meet you at Franklin and Bowen Street across the Adelaide Central Bus Station), a day spent here is sure to be a memorable experience, not least because it’s perhaps the only place on Earth where you can do the following:
1. Gaze at a breathtaking panorama of the Adelaide Plains.
Mount Lofty Summit is on the way to the park and your driver will make a short stop there, so you’ll get the best view of the lovely plains below.
Be sure to take a moment to absorb all of the natural beauty before you and to bask in any refreshing breeze that may blow your way. Now would probably be a good time for a selfie as well, but do watch your step. (Seriously, you wouldn’t want your camera to snap a photo of you falling to your doom now, would you?)
2. Get up close and personal with a koala.
If you have “hold a koala” on your bucket list, you can cross that off when you visit here. Sure, zoos in Australia usually have koalas on display, but the Cleland Wildlife Park is one of the very few places in the world where you can actually hold one in your arms.
And while you’re relishing the feel of the koala’s soft, fluffy fur, you can even have a souvenir shot taken. That would certainly make for a cool new Facebook profile photo, no?
3. Feed a kangaroo.
For a small fee, you can pick up a bag of animal food upon entry. It’s not just the kangaroos you’ll get to feed too, but also the wallabies, emus, and waterfowl who live freely around the conserve.
If you move slowly and non-threateningly (i.e., don’t surround or poke any of the animals), these adorable creatures will come to you and you will literally have them eating out of your hand. Unless you want to swap spit with a kangaroo, you’ll have to wash your hands after the encounter but you’ll have so many cool photos. (At this point, you’ll probably have enough Facebook profile photos for an entire year.)
4. Walk through the park. At night.
For a truly unforgettable experience, you can opt for night walks. In the hands of experienced and knowledgeable guides, you can see Australia’s nocturnal animals in action. Bandicoots, potoroos, and bettongs will forage for food right before your awestruck eyes while the Bush Stone Curlew and the owls add to the nighttime soundtrack with their howls. Best of all, you’ll get to watch the Tasmanian Devil feed, a sight that most people aren’t privy to at all because it happens at night.
In case you are terrified of the dark (or have kids that are), worry not because your guides will provide you with torches and lanterns to help you see your way more clearly. Snacks made with locally-sourced ingredients will also be provided at the end of the trip if you work up an appetite watching so many animals chow down.
5. See animals that are rarely, well, seen.
At the park’s Ocean to Outback Interpretive Centre, you get to see animals from all four corners of the continent. One thing they have in common is that they are rarely seen for some reason or other. In this corner, you will find animals that only come out at night, such as the bilbies as well as tiny, hard-to-find spinifex hopping mice. Venomous reptiles such as snakes and lizards can be seen here too, but they are kept in a controlled environment for safe viewing.
However, the whole point of this area is to make visitors appreciate how these creatures survive the varied and sometimes harsh Australian landscape. The guides here also hope that you will leave the place with a renewed awareness on what we humans can to do to help conserve the habitats of those we share this world with.
6. Chat with a keeper about your favorite animal’s eating habits, among other things.
Speaking of guides, you’ll find a lot of friendly and well-informed ones here. The staff at Cleland Wildlife Park are partly chosen for their love of animals and nature, and they’ll be more than happy to answer all your questions about any creature on their watch, all while teaching you how to hold a snake or a koala.