Last year our family visited the Australian Reptile Park for the first time. We had a great day and we were surprised that most of the park is wheelchair accessible (though some areas are a little more challenging than others.) Our main focus during that visit was the shows and BJ was thoroughly entertained by Mick (an incredible character) who shared his knowledge. But these school holidays our visit was about providing AJ with a special experience which was centered on her interests and love of animals.
In the first week of the holidays AJ and her BFF had the opportunity to participate in the Kids 2 Keeper program at the Australian Reptile Park for half a day. The park is located at Somersby, about 45 minutes north of Sydney.
Our family have been lucky enough to do many animal encounters, both here and overseas and this one tops the list for its variety and educational content. It is the best value for money by far.
Up to 16 children can participate in this program which includes, among other things, washing a Galapagos Tortoise, grooming Dingo pups and weighing a reticulated Python named Cupcake.
Our two zoo keepers Stacey and Siobhan met the group in the entrance foyer to the park, so for parents wanting to kiss and drop this is possible. Four hours of free time in school holidays………unheard of, right?
Stacey and Siobhan are enthusiastic, young zoo keepers who are keen to share their love and passion for the animals with the kids. They also share an incredible amount of information about the different animals throughout the day and they were always happy to answer the children’s questions and encouraged their curiosity. Good manners are encouraged which as a parent I love.
First stop for the day was the Dingo pups. At 13 weeks of age Kayla and Adina are already quite big but they are happy to interact with the children. Each child had the opportunity to hold a pup and give it a brush. AJ and her BFF said this was one of their favourite activities of the day because, “it’s not every day you get to hold a Dingo puppy.”
We were then off to meet and pat Theo the Koala who seemed unfazed by the attention.
The theme of the Kids 2 Keeper program for the current school holidays is babies and birthdays and there were plenty of babies to see around the park. I was constantly drawn back to the Koala enclosure where I could spy at least three joeys being carried by their mothers. It looked like an Australian version of mother’s group with the Koalas interacting and sitting close together with their babes.
Although the girl’s pick of the day was the Dingo pups, my favourite was seeing Willow the Tasmanian Devil joey. The Australian Reptile Park is involved in a conservation project called Devil Ark which is working tirelessly to ensure that Tasmanian Devils do not become extinct. Tassie Devils are not the cutest of animals when they are fully grown so I don’t think people are as moved by their cause as they are by Orangutans for example. Having the children interact with Willow will hopefully connect them more to the need to save them. We need people care if they are going to support this worthwhile cause. And you have to admit she is pretty cute.
Washing a Galapagos Tortoise is definitely unique and seeing a photo of this on the Australian Reptile Park’s facebook page was what attracted me to the program in the beginning. After the kids learnt facts like the shell of the tortoise is made from keratin like our own fingernails it was time to give Dippy a wash. Dippy seemed totally entranced with her keeper Stacy and it was interesting to see the interaction and obvious affection she has for her. The kids enjoyed the activity and each had a photo taken with Dippy.
It was then off to the Crocodile show with the reptile park’s legend, Elvis the croc. The kids had a reserved viewing area which gave them an unobstructed view. They all chatted among themselves but silence fell when the presenter Billie tapped the water with a stick and prepared to feed Elvis. Elvis weighs a half a tonne and moves slowly through the water until he is ready to feed. When Billie tells the audience that the croc’s largest tooth is bigger than his brain (Elvis that is, not Billie) it is obvious there will be no reasoning with him. Especially when a croc’s brain is about the same size as a human’s thumb.
Elvis is a happy bachelor. Although he was given the opportunity to have some female companionship he showed his firm love of being alone by doing away with the ladies. So, if you were in any doubt that Billie is a brave man stepping in the croc arena to share his knowledge of crocs, I hope I cleared that up.
Throughout the afternoon the kids met a Tawny Frogmouth, Jack the Bearded Dragon, Banjo the Blue Tongue Lizard and Homer a Stimson Python. Surprisingly they all seemed keen on fishing with the turtles. Stacey and Siobhan attached small fish to the kid’s bamboo fishing rods which they then used to feed the turtles. I would never have imagined the kids would be so enthusiastic about feeding turtles, but they were. The program is well thought out with a good variety of experiences and it is well paced to ensure boredom doesn’t set in.
The Kid 2 Keeper program runs each school holidays with seasonal changes. A great way to keep up-to-date with what is happening at the park is to follow along on their facebook page.
Although this program cannot cater for individual wheelchair users due to the pace and access limitations to some enclosures, the park can cater to groups of wheelchair users. An experience can be individualised and animals can be brought to your group. For more information regarding this please email [email protected]
We had a wonderful day at the Australian Reptile Park and would like to thank Stacey and Siobhan for allowing me to tag along to take photos and learn more about the program so I can share it with others. Thank you also to the Australian Reptile Park for providing a complimentary experience for AJ. Our enthusiastic blog is a result of having a fantastic day doing an educational (shh don’t tell the kids) and fun program.
Wheelchair accessible parking is available near the entry to the park.
Companion cards are accepted.
I recommend getting a spot for the crocodile show early to ensure a clear view for wheelchair users
There is a cafe which has a range of sandwiches, hot chips, cakes and ice creams.
For more information about the park head to the website.
Christine @ Adventure, Baby! says
What a fantastic program! Off to see how old kids have to be 🙂
It’s a great day and educational in a fun way.