Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

By Elise Karriker

Today was a day of dreams come true. I got up-close and personal with kangaroos that roamed freely; got to hold a cute, cuddly koala; and saw a baby kangaroo in its mother’s pouch.  Truly, my ‘bucket list’ just took a triple hit! When we arrived at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the anticipation was real. So real. I couldn’t wait to hold, and get my picture taken with, a koala. I’ve always loved koalas and thought that they were so cute. With their calm and deliberate ways, they remind me of my favorite animal, the sloth. To set the stage for our visit, we heard a brief lecture from the general manager about Lone Pine and some of its marketing and other business strategies. It was so interesting how little the nonprofit spends on marketing each year, yet it continues to grow steadily, as does its customer base. Lone Pine simply lets its guests do the marketing with their pictures and reviews, and this approach is obviously working. I mean, koala pictures are a pretty great marketing tool! Even more, I am proof of the contagious enthusiasm generated by the experiences the sanctuary offers. After the lecture, we walked further into the zoo and to the first exhibit: the koala exhibit. I went immediately to the store and got my photo pass as fast as I could, then got in line to hold one of these adorable creatures. Finally, it was my turn. I held a koala. She was soft and cuddly, and I felt like “Cordelia” was giving me a hug. Even though I was filled with such joy, I had to work to contain my excitement so I wouldn’t frighten this sweet Aussie ambassador.

Snack-a-roo

After lunch, my friends and I went to the free-roaming kangaroo area. Difficult as it is to top holding a koala, this may have been my favorite part of our visit. I had purchased a small bag of kangaroo food and began feeding and taking pictures with the adorable “’roos.” They are such beautiful and unique creatures, with their contrasting bunny-like faces and scissor-like claws. Interacting with them and watching them interact with each other was just amazing. They let us get so close, seemed to ‘ham it up’ for pictures, and some of them would even hold my hand as they were eating out of it. This was probably one of the cutest things I have ever seen. One thing that I have always wanted to see was a baby kangaroo (a joey) in its pouch. Now, I kind of wish I hadn’t seen it, as this picture was actually a bit disturbing. (Let’s just say that the inside of the pouch is definitely not all cute and fuzzy like we’ve been led to think.) But, it still was an unforgettable experience.

Met the cutest baby kangaroo

This cute ‘roo grabbed my hand as I was feeding him

Cute and cuddly koalas. This picture was taken after the one on the far right jumped over both of the other koalas to get to his resting spot!

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