My Australia Moment: When I Could Cuddle a Koala

Ever since I was a child, I have been travelling to Australia. When I was little, my parents were quick to notice my fascination for the ubiquitous kangaroos and koalas of this magnificent nation. And as I grew up, and travelled to this country as a journalist and then as a blogger, I realised I was not alone in this fascination. Almost every international traveller to Australia has an undeniable kangaroo and koala fixation. And understandably so! While I do love animals and have seen the best of them across the globe, I have to confess that I am strongly biased towards these two animals — and the koalas in particular. Nowhere have I seen more unique, adorable and charming creatures. And the efforts that the Australian government puts into making sure their animals are taken care of is unmatched.

During this trip to Australia, I learnt an interesting fact about government regulations towards koala conservation. Read on…

Wild Life Sydney Zoo, at the heart of Darling Harbour is a great place to get up close and personal with Australia’s unique animals. For those, like me, who are particularly passionate about the koalas, they have a special Breakfast with the Koalas option, where you can show up at the zoo in the morning and quite literally have breakfast in a special enclosure, while looking at the koalas, just a few feet away.

I could help but think of all the Internet photographs I had seen of people hugging and clamouring to cuddle a koala I asked around and that’s when I learnt an interesting fact about the state government regulations. Apparently, the government of the state of New South Wales (where Sydney is located) prohibits you to cuddle a koala. So as it were, I had to contend with being photographed, cheek to cheek with the drowsy furry non-bears. I was happy enough! Check out some of my photos here. Cuddle a Koala

Cuddle a Koala

Cuddle a Koala

I had to pursue this matter! I would not be able to rest until and unless I had the chance to actually cuddle a koala. Luckily for me, I was soon to travel to the state of Queensland, north of Sydney, on the eastern coast of Australia and home to places like Brisbane, Gold Coast and The Great Barrier Reef. The best news of all was when I learnt  that the government of Queensland PERMITTED tourists to hold a koala, under strict supervision. I was overjoyed. My longtime dream would finally come true.

Before I knew it, I was on Hamilton Island, during my visit to the Great Barrier Reef. There are only a few sanctuaries in Queensland which actually offer the ‘cuddle a koala’ experience and this was one of them. I made my booking at Wildlife Hamilton Island, a tiny little sanctuary at the heart of the island. I found it hard to curb my enthusiasm. I was led to the koala enclosure where I spotted a bunch of these cheeky, drowsy darlings lounging around on the gum trees. A ranger showed me how to place my arms just before a koala was brought to me and then….THERE IT WAS…My koala…

Before I knew it, he was in my arms, comfortable, snug, warm and huggable. He seemed perfectly at ease as he rested his hands on my shoulder and stared at the camera almost as if he had rehearsed. It is hard for me to explain how overwhelmed I was. That little creature in my arms felt like a slice of heaven. Here’s what my ultimate AUSTRALIA MOMENT looked like. One more thing to tick of my life’s to-do list…

Cuddle a Koala

Riaan George - 1



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