One of the locals in 1770 told us about the Horizons Kangaroo Sanctuary, and given that we haven’t managed to come across any kangaroos in the wild on our own, we thought we’d give this a try. For $10 per person, plus an additional $10 for them to pick us up and drop us off at the dinghy dock, I thought this was worth it. Jack was skeptical and we both hoped this wouldn’t be some sad petting zoo enclosure with captive animals living a dreary life. It turned out to be not that at all, and it’s one of our favorite things we’ve done in Australia so far.
You may remember I wrote about our disappointment that New Zealand has so few animals, and even fewer that they don’t consider invasive pests marked for extermination. The variety and abundance of wildlife is one of the things we miss about our own country, and a delight in some of the countries we’ve visited, like Panama, Costa Rica and the Galapagos. We’ve looked forward to seeing the indigenous species of Australia but without a car, and spending most of our time along the watery edges of the land, we’ve seen mostly marine and bird wildlife but not the land creatures.
The caretakers at Horizons have been rescuing and reintroducing Joeys for years, and to help pay for the food and medical care they run a campground and offer a kangaroo “experience.” Denise picked us up and drove us to the Santuary, a beautiful hilly piece of land dotted with campsites. Just to be in such a lovely place on a sunny afternoon was itself a treat. We don’t get around much.
As soon as the car was parked we saw the kangaroos. There is no enclosure and they are all free to roam at will. Most were rescued as very young joeys when their mothers were killed, usually in road accidents. We weren’t allowed to see the very young ones as they’re still bottle fed and housed in a separate place, cared for night and day by Denise and whatever volunteers they can get. The older more ambulatory ones take refuge in quilted pouches hanging on the shaded porch of Gary and Denise’s house.
As other visitors arrived, Gary passed out slices of sweet potato for us to hand feed the joeys, encouraging us to get down to their level for their comfort. Feeding them, touching them, looking into their soft eyes was an incredible experience, as it always is when communing with another animal.
These creatures are gentle and friendly, but lively and full of personality, unlike zoo animals, who always make me sad.
Gary told us they’re free to move on if they want to and if a local wild group will accept them. Some have left forever, some go for a while and come back to visit, some continue to hang around the area.
In small groups Gary told us all about kangaroos, how they live, what they eat, and about the sanctuary and their mission. Both he and Denise seemed exhausted, and he admitted they work day and night to care for their rescues. He’d like to have more volunteers but they don’t get many, I suppose because of the relative remoteness of the location.
Gary drove us back to the dinghy dock, and the bird that hung out on his shoulder apparently didn’t want to be left alone so he rode on the hood of the car until Gary stopped and opened the window for him to fly in. He spent the rest of the trip as a passenger.