*Yea that title isn't as catchy as the orig but it'll have to do- also it was less 'oh my' and more me shrieking 'oh my god oh my god oh my god this is the best!' repeatedly.
I flew in the night before and checked into my awesome hostel- the Brisbane City YHA. This was the best hostel I stayed in and here's why:
-the views from the rooftop deck are beautiful and there is a rooftop pool! Yup rooftop pool!! The kitchen and dining area was on the top level too so you could enjoy the view- also the herb garden outside was easily accessible
-there was an onsite bar and restaurant with well priced food (had dinner there both nights-veggies tasted awesome!)
-awesome elevator floor (see shark image below :-))
-the multi-share rooms have individual lockers to hold your backpack (with outlets inside so you can lockup your stuff while it charges <-- soooo smart!)
-each bed has its own light so you can stay up reading without pissing anyone off
-and most importantly (since it was super hot) each room had AC
The hostel was near a huge supermarket so the first night I picked up some food for breakfasts/snacks (Tim Tams!) and then headed back just as a huge thunderstorm kicked off. I was exhausted and had a big day ahead of me so I ended up crashing early (after getting some much needed laundry done).
I really can't say that I've really seen Brisbane because the only thing I wanted to do (and was able to fit it with the timing) was go to the Australia Zoo! And that's not even in Brisbane, its up north in Beerwah. I was a HUGE Crocodile Hunter fan and loved watching Steve Irwin on his show so this was a bucket list item for me. Before leaving for the trip, I probably talked about this part the most. In fact, I booked my bus (via Croc Connections) 4 months in advance...yup four months in advance for a ride to a zoo. But it wasn't just any ride, Chris does an amazing job with his tour. The van has a DVD player to watch Crocodile Hunter movies on the way up and has the AC blasting with cold water on hand (it was so HOT). He handed out maps and did a quick orientation of the zoo along with tips on how to maximize our day there (show times, best times to see different animals, etc). My favorite part was all the stories about the Irwin family- as I am a total Steve Irwin fan it was great! Booking with Croc Connections meant our tickets into the park were already paid for so we got to go right in and check it out. There are other ways to get to the zoo but I was happy I booked with Chris as there was the added benefit of not having to wake up any earlier since he picked up/dropped off right at the hostel.
As soon as we got in the park, I took off. Could not wait to see everything I had been reading about. It's a really good size with lots to see (the Africa area is a fair walk to get to but so beautiful). I intended to go track down the tiger cubs who were taking their morning walk around the zoo but ended up getting side tracked by kangaroos. Caught up with the cubs in their enclosure playing for a bit before taking a nap. They were adorable obviously.
Speaking of kangaroos, they have two big enclosures where they are just lying around and you can walk right up to them...so cool!!! You could pet them, take pictures of them, feed them (special food) and as soon as they felt overwhelmed they would move on. Certain areas were roped off so that the kangaroos could get away from people if they felt like it and people (for the most part) respected this space. Most of them were just dozing in the shade trying to stay cool and didn't give me a second glance as I freaked out over the fact that I was petting kangaroos (and wallabies).
So the kangaroos were awesome but then I saw the sign for koalas and almost lost my mind. Now many of you know I exaggerate and assume I'm kidding about how badly I was freaking out...I can assure you that no, I was literally completely ridiculous. My voice was crazy high pitched, my cheeks hurt from smiling, I took hundreds of photos (most blurry because I wouldn't stop moving long enough to make it a good one) and every time I saw an employee all I could say was something along the lines of 'this is the best day- I am so excited!'. It was embarrassing really. Anyways, yes the koalas omg the koalas. They were all so cute sleeping the day away but in the afternoon they started waking up and it was so cool to see them checking everything out. Koalas get almost no energy from the eucalyptus leaves they eat and sleep 20 hours out of the day in an effort to save energy. The best part...I got to hold one!! He was a little male and I think his name was Luca?? I just spent a large chunk of time comparing his little face in my picture to the ones on the zoo's website and can't be sure. Either way, I was in love and wanted to take him home with me.
So holding a koala and petting kangaroos was beyond cool but there was one item I've had on my bucket list forever and that's to hug a wombat. I had to do a report on marsupials when I was in elementary school and ever since then I've been obsessed with wombats. They are just so cute (video proof)! Plus their major self defense its their butt! Who doesn't love that?!? When they feel threatened they dive headfirst into their hole so their butt is out and since its hard like armor the attacker can't hurt them. If the attacker keeps at it, the wombat will bend its little legs so the attacker starts to climb over them and then it pushes up crushing the scull of the attacker...bold move. Anyways, they are adorable and I love them and was willing to pay a little extra for the wombat encounter. That meant that I got to go into the wombat enclosure (just me since no one else paid for it) and hang out with Laura, Meg, Tonka, Minibus and Milo the wombats! Minibus, Milo and Tonka are common wombats (bit more of a rodent like snout and not endangered) whereas Meg and Laura were southern hairy nosed wombats (little bit more like a pig snout and are endangered). They all had such distinctive personalities:
-Meg: loves food and couldn't be bothered by me as long as there was food in front of her
-Laura: the oldest and apparently the 'drama queen' of the group who loves to start trouble
-Tonka: the calmest and the one I was able to hug (cue me trying to hold in my delight so as not to scare him)
-Minibus: the mom of the group was there looking out for Milo her little 18 month old baby (who kept trying to steal her food)
-Milo: BABY wombat...enough said!
After all the cute, cuddly creatures it was time to see what the zoo is known for- the crocs! Holy crap these guys are intense. They are huge (Graham in the show below is almost 12 feet long), incredibly fast considering their size and man can they jump! Also was freaky to actually hear their jaws crashing together from way up in the stands. I think the craziest part was when I was wandering around the enclosures looking in the water for one of them (some enclosures have clear water and others have murky water making them hard to see) and was about to give up when I looked down and saw teeth. It was lying next to the fence with its mouth wide open, not moving and not making a sound...uh yea officially impressed by how sneaky they are.
Hands down one of the coolest experiences I've ever had! I ended up writing them a letter (which made it into the zoo newsletter- holla!) because I was really blown away. I think what I loved most about watching Steve Irwin was his genuine enthusiasm (understatement) and passion for conservation. You see this throughout the park with the love and care taken with all the animals as well as the continuing message of conservation throughout the zoo. Additionally there is a wonderful wildlife hospital on the property where animals are cared for and returned to the wild (when possible). If you ever find yourself in Australia be sure to check out the zoo- you won't be disappointed!