Australian Adventure (Monday, July 08, 2013)

40 Days Down Under (Day 25)

Monday, July 08, 2013
Australia has a lot of wide open spaces. The town of Werribee has taken advantage, and they have established the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Situated over more hectares than I can fathom, this zoo has created an open air African safari-type adventure.


They have a gorgeous, sprawling property and many neat animals.



Feisty monkeys





We went to tour the zoo, but the highlight was the Open Vehicle Encounter. Included with your zoo admission, everyone has the option to go on a 45 minute bus ride on a long bus through the safari area of the park where you can see giraffes, rhinos, zebras, etc.



We decided to pay to upgrade our encounter to a 90 minute open air jeep encounter with (no more than) 12 people per vehicle. The tour guide was phenomenal and informative, and the jeeps are allowed to leave the path to get closer to the animals. When they aren't in motion, you can stand up to get a better photo of the animal. It was definitely worth the extra money. I took a photo of each type of vehicle for reference.

Traditional tour train

Our safari adventure vehicle
There were 11 people on our tour. Kris and I were the only ones not from Australia onboard. Our first viewing experience...the American Bison. She thought we might be feeling homesick.

Interesting fact about the American Bison...they are one of the only animals to walk directly into the wind.


We next saw the Mongolian Wild Horse. This horse was a thorn in the side of Genghis Khan. It's the only horse species (other than the zebra) that can't be saddled. They just refuse to be broken.


We next got to view the addax (aka the desert/mountain antelope). This crazy creature has learned to live without drinking water. Instead, they feast on grass in the wee hours of the morning and collect their moisture from the dew.

Ah - the recognizable dromedary camel. They are often misunderstood cud chewers. Everyone thinks they store water in that hump of theirs, but it's a hump of fat. They actually store water, seven days worth, in their blood.  They even had a young camel, Alice, in their midst.


The camels had an interesting looking neighbor in the Scimitor Horned Oryx. This antelope has a hollow horn made of keratin (hair). It actually has blood vessels in its horn. (Deer horns, in contrast, are made of bone. For every year a deer lives, it grows a new branch off of its antler.)


If the oryx horn falls off, it will not grow back. Many oryx wind up with just one horn or their horns will even fuse together. People believe this may be how the myth of the unicorn started.

While driving through the park, we came upon a few wild Cape Marren geese with their babies. The babies don't look a thing like the adults. According to our tour guide, although the geese are wild, they like to come to the park to breed.


Our next stop was to see the zebras (who, oddly enough, actually have black skin). The stripes help to confuse lions in the wild. If a pack of zebras run past a lion in the wild, the stripes disorient the lion/lioness. They are unable to differentiate between the zebras and can't figure out which are the young, sick, or elderly.



Next was one of my favorite zoo animals - the giraffe.






We caught a couple laying down. Our guide mentioned that the giraffes, and most of the Werribee animals, have been zoo bred. Wild giraffes don't lay down. They stand up even to sleep.  At the park, whenever one of the giraffes require a medical procedure, they actually harness them and work on them standing up.


I love that giraffes have a blue tongue, and the youngest of the group made me smile.







We spent a good amount of time laughing at the inquisitive giraffes before moving on to the Southern White Rhinos. These rhinos are the biggest of their species. The recently born baby weighed 60 kilos at birth, and the big boy of the group weighs 2.5 tons.

Rhinos are gentle giants. They are "tidy" creatures, returning to poo in the same pile over and over again. But boy do you want to stay away from that pile (unless you want predators to think you are just rhino poop.) Another interesting fact about the rhino - if a rhino loses their horn, they will grow it back. I guess I just don't understand why so many hunters insist on killing them to get their horn. Seems like, if they want the horn so badly, they could tranquilize, remove the horn, and the rhino could grow another later and live a happy life.


We next saw some ostriches. The males are black so they are camouflaged at night while they sit on the eggs. The females, in contrast, are brown so they are camouflaged during the day when they sit on the eggs.


They are close cousins to the emu.


A bit off in the distance, we could see the Water Buck Antelope. These antelope have the ability to swim from danger.


Before leaving, we got a good look at a male and female hippo. These guys are some of the most cantankerous animals in nature, and they are probably the most dangerous vegetarians that exist. However, during our viewing, the zookeeper called the girl hippo's name several times in a high-pitched voice. To my astonishment, the female hippo got up and slowly meandered out the gate to the zookeeper. The male had no response. The girl hippo actually knew and responded to her name! I didn't know you could train a hippo!




We had to check out the gorillas before leaving the park.




After the zoo, we made our customary pb&j while at the Werribee Rose Garden, and I finished Green by Laura Peyton Roberts.







We opted to stay overnight at the Werribee South Caravan Park. Of the trip, they had the best caravan park shower so far with a lip and shower curtain plus a huge distance between shower and seating area so your clothes stay dry.


Plus it's right next to the waterfront.






Kris made a delicious dinner of pasta plus extra toasted grilled cheese seasoned with garlic salt and pasta sauce. Who would have thought the heal of the bread could taste so yummy?

After dinner, I filled out a few postcards.  That's our beautiful $14 heater sitting on the table.


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