Saturday, June 22, 2013

Breakfast With The Koalas!

22 June 2013

Several blogs ago, I mentioned that we were signed up for the Koala Breakfast for today (;postID=6553569633176248937;onPublishedMenu=overview;onClosedMenu=overview;postNum=3;src=postname - 18 June, 2013) -- this is a feature of the Wild Life Sydney Zoo.  (Their website is:

Today was the day.  And it was WONDERFUL!

We woke up early and dashed out by 6 AM - walked down to the Central Station and caught the tram (sort of a trolley train, not a rail train) to Darling Harbour - walked across the bridge - and arrived at about 7:10 AM, just at the time recommended.  There were another 10 or so people, and others gathered - by the time the doors were opened for us at around 7:25 AM, there were 25 or so of us ready for the Koala Brekkie.

As we lined up for check in (and drink orders), the cutie koala at the entrance kept us all amused as he watched us, yawned (bored?), scratched, and settled in for a long day of sleeping. 

We had a private tour of the zoo facility, with a lovely young zookeeper.  She showed us around, told us about each animal we looked at, and suggested times to return and see certain animals being fed, or catch another talk about that particular animal. 

And then we arrived at the first koala enclosure.  These were the males, who are separated from the females because otherwise the males would spend much of their time fighting over the females.  Koalas are nocturnal, so we arrived just as they were retreating to their trees after a long night of hard work.  At least, considering how much they sleep (about 20 hours a day), it seems as if they work hard when they're awake.  Actually, they sleep that much because the eucalyptus leaves they survive on are so toxic and hard to digest, it actually takes a lot of energy to simply digest the leaves - plus there is little nutrition in the eucalyptus, so the koalas just don't have a lot of energy.  That's also why they're so mellow.

The zoo staff bring in fresh eucalyptus branches every day, and place them around the "trees" in the enclosure - in the wild, koalas would move from tree to tree, as they tend to eat most of the tasty leaves after a few days.  In an enclosure, the "trees" are mostly bare, trimmed tree trunks that provide climbing and sleeping space - but the branches with leaves for eating are brought in and placed in holders in each "tree."  The koala staff seemed to have the sensibilities of florists, as they arranged the eucalyptus branches just so, in large vases, one for each tree.  

After a few more animals (more kinds of wallabies than I knew existed!), we went upstairs to the female koala enclosure, which is located right next to the cafĂ©, tables set for our breakfast.  We of course ooohed and aaaahed over the girl koalas, who are even cuter than the boys - they're a little smaller, with smaller noses and more delicate faces.  One even had a little baby riding around on her tummy, clinging to mama as she climbed up and down the tree!!! 

By the way, breakfast was perfectly normal, nothing cutesy with koala faces - eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and the British/Aussie egg accoutrements of grilled tomato (pronounced toe-MAH-toe, NOT toe-MAY-toe) and baked beans to eat on your toast.  With a vegemite option.  Lovely fruit.  Cold cereal for the children who wanted that.  And the hot drinks we had requested upon check in. 

So we sat under the umbrellas and enjoyed our brekkie buffet, watching the koalas settle in for the day of sleep - and it started to drizzle.  The koalas curled up tighter, hugging themselves to hold in their body heat.  It started to rain in earnest.  The koalas cuddled into their chosen trees, two smart ones under the overhang.  

And we took turns having our photos taken near the koalas, while the parrots moved in and turned it into Breakfast With Parrots.  (I've never seen parrots eat bacon and eggs - and somehow it seems just a wee bit cannibalistic.) 

The zoo is pretty amazing - it's a HUGE building, like a giant stadium, that is open at the top - instead of the seats, there are various floors housing the exhibits and animals enclosures.  Some animals such as the crocodile, kangaroos and wallabies, and koalas are exposed to the elements - if it's a rainy day, they get rain.  This is their natural environment, so they're used to the weather.  (Well, the croc is from up north so he has heated water and heated rock to climb on.)  But the little koalas and wallabies and roos all looked so cold, huddling under the small overhangs and cliffs, trying to stay out of the drenching rain and not get soaked, trying to get warm.

And of course, I wanted to cuddle or pet the koala who "posed" (slept!) in my photo - but there's the law to prevent the koalas from being exposed to people germs, or having their essential sleep interrupted - so we looked and didn't touch. 

After receiving our photos, we had time to re-visit the animals - I liked the mural comparing the size of the different wallabies and kangaroos.  (And the giant 7 ft roo is extinct, I think they were a prehistoric roo.  The Big Red is big enough at nearly 6 ft.)

Of course, there was also the funny photo opp board where someone could be the face of the Tasmanian devil.  And yes, they have a pair of devils, who were "retired" (read, aged out) of the breeding program at another zoo, and they're living here in their retirement.  They were hiding in their winter den, though, since it was a cold and wet day.

After almost 4 hours at the zoo, we decided it was time to head home.  We caught the ferry, and I was intrigued with capturing the Opera House through the rain-spotted window - playing with focus and depth of field, sometimes focusing on the rain spots, sometimes on the Opera House.

Sydney is expecting heavy rain and winds, a bit of a storm, over the next day or two.  This rain is the prelude to the deluge, as it were.  So we're probably having a night in the hotel, which has a famous restaurant of traditional Aussie foods (gorgeous braised lamb shanks, for starters).  It's seriously wet and cold out there, and we got a bit chilled at our Koala Brekkie.

But it was one of those wonderful, once in a lifetime things to do!  If you get to Sydney, definitely sign up for this one!

And I hope someone puts up a few umbrellas for our little koala breakfast buddies!

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