The Moonlit Sanctuary, Mornington snuck up on us out of the blue. As with every city we visit, a short day trip out of town to explore the surrounds sounded really tempting from Melbourne. But with only 6 days to experience the city and spend some time with our friends, I wondered if I’d get to show Charles the penguin parade that I’d witnessed when I was younger at Phillip Island. And then our friend and host in Melbourne, Brett wanted us to sample the wines in the Mornington Peninsula and Kimmi wanted us to enjoy the great Aussie outdoors as well (she kept talking about Dandenong) So several emails flew back and forth, culminating in a frustrated Brett telling us we’d be better off just migrating to Australia considering the number of things we wanted to see in such a short while. So, as per what would turn out to be the norm on our entire trip through Aus, we ended up throwing away the guidebook and just playing it by ear.
It was 4 pm, we were feeling satiated having spent all morning tasting wines followed by a long lunch in the Mornington region. Kimmi said, “anyone up for some coffee right about now?” Brett kept glancing at his watch, “We really ought to get going.” He seemed pretty nervous about getting to our last stop for the day on time. A mate at work had told him about this place, which definitely sounded like a better way to get up close with all the peculiar animals of Australia compared to our other option – the zoo. So we drove, with the boys navigating and focusing on the drive up front, and the two of us girls lounging in post meal bliss at the back of the car. A couple of wrong turns later, we drove up into the parking area of the Moonlit Sanctuary.
While we enjoyed a day in the Mornington Peninsula wine region before visiting the sanctuary, a direct drive from Melbourne should take less than an hour via the M1 and A780.
Open everyday from 10 am to 5 pm the sanctuary offers visitors lots of options. You can choose to just turn up, pay the 18 AUD fee and enjoy a roam around, feeding and interacting with the unique Australian animals or choose from city pick ups, ranger for a day, night safaris, demos, bushfood and more.
1. The Curious Cockatoo
As soon as we entered the sanctuary, past the cash counter, was a large cage with a single cockatoo who looked extremely curious to see us. Trying to push his beak through the bars, he made the funniest of sounds.
2. The Surprisingly Docile Dingos
I’d heard stories of the great dingo fence across the middle of the country, scary tales of vicious attacks and dingos were certainly not on my must see list, but the ones here were calm, docile and uninterested as they stood in the far corner of their enclosure. As a tiny reminder was one of their eyes. Clawed out I imagined, but no such fascinating story as a poster explained his infection.
3. The Sleepy Koala
Next up we saw an enclosure with some trees and low branches. But it looked empty to us. Strange. Why would they have an empty enclosure right up front like this? We circled it, wondering. And that’s when we saw the cuddly little fellow, curled into a furry little ball, blissfully unaware of the world.
4. The Noisy Barking Owl
We then passed the owl enclosure, and a beautiful white barn owl immediatly caught our attention (It reminded me of the messengers from Harry Potter). But his cage-mate was not going to stand for being ignored. We suddenly heard a dog bark. But it sounded like it was coming from inside the cage. An owl and a dog sharing a cage? Noway! And we hunted for the source of that strange muffled bark. It was a brown missable owl. He just sat there on his branch, barking away at us, tirelessly. We stood there for what seemed like an hour, staring at this bizarre creature who had been given another’s voice. Nature really does work in mysterious ways. He stopped as soon as we walked away.
5. The Timid Wallabies
As we walked on through this increasingly fascinating wonderland, we saw a family of kangaroos sunbathing in the distance. Such a gorgeous sight. And just before us, a tiny fellow hopped out of the trees and towards me. “Aww woojie it’s a wallaby” said Kimmi. Oh, the tiny hands, now I get it. And everyone egged me to put some feed out for it in my hand. Squirming uncomfortably, eyes shut tight, I stretched out my hand. I felt nothing. I opened my eyes thinking he must have hopped off, but there he was, clutching the edges of my palm with both paws, gently picking up nuggets of feed, then turning his face away discreetly as he chewed. I’ve seen humans eat with less sophistication in Michelin star restaurants. I finally mustered up the courage to run a finger along his head, and the fur. Oh the fur, the softest sinkable texture my hands have ever touched. All of us spent some time feeding him and his siblings as we stood around thrilled to bits like little children on a picnic. Charles even felt bad and went and fed an injured one who was lurking in the trees, lest he be left out.
6. The Aggressive Emu
There’s something about Emus that’s a bit intimidating. Maybe it’s the sheer size, or that poky black beak behind which lie these large beady eyes. Or maybe, just maybe it’s their personality. It was undoubtedly a beautiful sight, this beady eyed fellow staring at us from behind his fence. All of us trying to push the other to feed him. Nobody wanted to. Brett finally put his hand out, and like a dart, before I could blink, the Emu had snapped off the food with his beak. Oww that hurt! howled Brett. And then each of us (possibly on realising there was no blood shed) tried it for ourselves. Rude, presumptuous and greedy, I muttered under my breath as the Emu felt full and walked away from us most ungraciously.
7. The Over-Friendly Grey Kangaroo
Recovering from our brush with the Emu, we walked into what was a long corridor through the trees. At the end of it, towering magnificently over us was a tall Grey Kangaroo. Kimmi squealed in delight, I gushed at it’s beauty, and almost as if in response, he started hopping towards us at great speed. Charles and Brett jumped out of the way just in time, and we all took a moment to recover, each of us, in our mind’s eye picturing him knocking Brett over. (And Brett isn’t exactly short). He enthusiastically pawed Brett, as if to say, I know you’ve got goodies for me in your hands, let me have it.
8. The Stinky Tasmanian Devil
Pulling ourselves away from our new hopping friend, we suddenly felt our nostrils invaded by a foul stench. That’s got to be the Tasmanian Devil said Kimmi. And sure enough, we bent over an enclosure and almost passed out with the smell. Growling, roaring, yapping away at us, they made the strangest sound, the pair of devils. We couldn’t bear the smell for too long, so quickly walked away.
9. The Burrowing Wombat
Look can you see it? No where. There. Where? There. I don’t see it. We spent about 10 minutes scanning the Wombat enclosure looking for the sloth like creatures. And finally, there is was, a tiny ball of a plug buried into a hollow trunk that was lying on the ground. We couldn’t even get a proper look at what it was really.
10. The Quiet Squirrel gliders, Spinifex mouse, Tawny Frogmouth
Sharing cage space with each other, these quiet fellows were either hiding, or nothing much to write home about. Except for the Tawny Frogmouth. It was easily mistakable for a patch of tree bark. Really.
11. The Fluttering Geese, Silly Swamphens, Darling Ducks,And Other Feathered Friends
Where there’s food, there’s a following. And as we walked all over the sanctuary we pretty much had an entire bunch of them following us, quickly picking up any nuggets that we dropped. Running around in circles, fighting each other, these feathered friends made quite a ruckus.The geese were huge (by Indian standards) and when one of them swooped down on us menacingly we got a bit frightened, I must admit. But there was another enclosure where we spied on cockatoos, parrots and a whole bunch of other beautifully coloured birds, some of which were endangered as the signs explained.
12. The Slithery Snakes
We almost missed these fellows. When we were done prowling about the sanctuary we tinkered about the gift shop for a while, Charles being the OCD he is ensured all of us washed our hands after touching all the animals, tried on an Akubra and had us rolling with laughter. And then we saw it. The glass tanks with snakes lying curled up in there. The attendant volunteered to get them out of the cages for us, and as soon as I heard her, I pretty much ran to the car.
We left the Moonlit Sanctuary reluctantly, just hoping we could spend a little longer, maybe an hour, maybe stay the night. We’re really glad we went with this recommendation because we were practically the only people there. There was absolutely no touristy pushing or peddling, just a great experience with some of Australia’s friendliest animals.Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park 550 Tyab – Tooradin Road, Pearcedale, Victoria 3192 Australia. Tel: 61 3 5978 7935 http://www.moonlit-sanctuary.com/
Entry from 18 AUD