February 2006

Wild About Animals

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The sands of time

Sunshine Coast Daily, Sunday 12 February 2006, page 20

Wild About Animals: A world of wildlife awaits on Australia Zoo Travel tours
News source: Sunshine Coast Daily, Sunday 12 February 2006, page 20
By Janine Hill

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight – and so might a few adventurous travellers if an Australia Zoo travel idea kicks off.

The Sunshine Coast tourist attraction operates its own full service travel agency, Australia Zoo Travel, and staff are looking at ways to bring adventurous travellers up close and personal with different wildlife around the world – just like the Irwins.

Manager Melissa Smith said the idea had come from customers and patrons of the zoo, inspired by the work of Steve and Terri Irwin, particularly in the area of conservation.

Melissa said that having seen some of the animals at the Zoo, visitors and patrons were keen to go further – literally – and see them in the wild.

“We get a lot of interest from our in-bound tourism – a lot of people coming from the United States… people wanting to come to the Zoo, and then wanting to see where the animals actually come from,” she said.

“And because the Zoo does a lot of work in conservation, you get a lot of people who donate money for the animals, and they want to see where the animals came from.”

The agency is testing the water with a 10-day, nine-night African Wildlife Safari tour in Kenya.

The tour, worth $5549, would take in Lake Nakuru – a favourite with tourists enamoured by the pink flamingos which stand like a living sunset around the blue-water’s edge.

The tour would also take in the Samburu National Reserve (home to the Samburu cattle herders) and Masai Mara (known for its fabulous wildlife viewing, year-round).

Melissa said a staff member who took a tour last year got about as close as one could safely get to a lion when one of the big cats rubbed up against the open-topped vehicle in which she was travelling.

The agency is also looking at tours to India to see tigers, with spots like Bandhavgarh and Kanaha national parks on the list.

A tour of Borneo for travellers interested in orangatans is also on the cards.

Given Steve Irwin’s title as the Crocodile Hunter, it seems a little surprising to outsiders that some croc adventures are not also on the list.

Melissa said that the idea had been given consideration, but the Irwins’ vessel, Croc One, had so far been too involved with conservation and research work to be freed up for travel experiences.

For those who liked their travel and wildlife a little tamer, Australia Zoo Travel has a strong relationship with Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island and frequently organises tours and stays on the island.

If orang-utans, tigers and lions do not quite meet your wildlife fantasies, Melissa promises the agency will try to satisfy any customer’s animal and travel tastes.

“If someone has a particular animal in mind, we’ll try and tailor something to suite,” she said.

Even reindeers are a possibility.  “We’ll give anything a try,” she said.