65 kilometers (40 miles) from Melbourne, in the Yarra Valley, is the Healesville Sanctuary, a safe haven for Australia's native creatures. I spent a splendid, albeit sweltering, afternoon there, walking among the animals in their natural setting. I walked the entire length of the roughly 2.6-kilometer (1.6 miles) trail in 108-degree heat. I can't believe I did that, but I really wanted to see these animals!
I started with the emus and walked clockwise through the entire sanctuary.
Next stop: koalas!
An echidna waddles through its habitat.
I fed this joey a chunk of carrot that a Healesville staffer gave me.
I made friends with a couple of rock wallabies.
I was stunned by the giant eyes of this pelican.
I sat on a bench about five feet away from these sweet wallabies.
My new friend, the Tasmanian devil, burst from behind the brush to say hello.
The frill-necked lizard is one of the more unusual creatures I saw.
As this dingo noshed on a hunk of meat, I could hear his teeth crushing the bone. Eerie.
Australian white ibis were everywhere around the sanctuary, even in the parking lot.
It's not a typical zoo where animals from around the globe are locked in cages behind bars and forced to sit on concrete slabs. These are Australia's own animals in their own habitat. Sure, there are birds in mesh cages, and some animals are contained behind a thin rope stretched between wooden stakes. But the biggest surprise to me was how accessible the animals are. I spent more than three hours at Healesville, enjoying the nature around me. Although I was disappointed that I didn't see a wombat - he was probably keeping cool underground - I was happy that I made the trek from Melbourne and dripped perspiration from every pore in my body (nice image, huh?).