There’s nothing like seeing wildlife where it belongs: in the wild. But koalas can be hard to spot. If you want to see a koala in the wild near Brisbane, I often see one or two when I visit Stradbroke Island and it’s a beautiful day trip. But if you don’t have time for trying your luck and want to see one from close, I recommend the Daisy Hill Koala Centre. I believe it is the best Brisbane Koala Sanctuary. And it’s not because it’s free.
1. Why should you choose a koala sanctuary?
I have a simple way to look at the difference between a zoo and a sanctuary: a zoo exploits the animals while a sanctuary rescues them.
The main idea behind a zoo is entertainment. They buy, sell, breed or trade animals for serving the objectives of the zoo and attract visitors. They may keep in captivity animals who belong to the wild or overbreed animals to have cute babies to show.
A sanctuary hosts animals who can no longer survive in the wild. If they recover, they are released back in the wild. It sounds like a fair deal and a win-win situation.
But it’s not always black and white like this. It is essential always to research any activity that involves animals to make the right choice. For example, I decided not to visit the Lone Pine Sancturary, the most famous Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, after hearing bad comments and reading negative feedback on TripAdvisor*. They may do a good job for the 130 koalas in their sanctuary, but the atmosphere in the visitor areas doesn’t sound appealing to me (and many nature lovers apparently).
Koalas are in danger in Australia and need sanctuaries.
Koalas inhabit the popular coast of Eastern Australia. So they have to compete against human development to survive. And needless to say, it’s not a fair competition. Nowadays, they need to spend more time on the ground as they lost their habitats and have roads passing through their forests. As a result, they get injured by cars or dog attacks. They are also more prone to stress which makes them sick.
Koala sanctuaries are important to raise awareness and help koalas survive, whether they go back to the wild or stay in their centres.
2. What to expect at Daisy Hill Koala Centre
Daisy Hill Koala Centre is a small venue where you can learn heaps about koalas. It focuses on the challenges that koalas face in Australia, and what we can do to help.
They created interactive displays where kids and adults can excitingly learn about conservation. Although it’s highly focused on koalas, you will have the opportunity to learn about other Australian native animals.
We spent almost one hour inside the centre. But if you have kids, you may want to allow more time. They also have a beautiful amphitheatre where you can watch a movie – but we felt like enjoying the sunny day so we didn’t watch it.
They have a few rescued koalas in the outdoor area of the Daisy Hill Koala Centre (three when we visited). They all have a story and a lesson to share. A Wildlife Officer gives an interesting talk twice a day (11 am and 2 pm) about these koalas and the species in general. Don’t expect too much from the stars of the centre: the koalas usually sleep or eat, as they’d do in the wild. You can stand a few metres away, from the ground platform or the upper boardwalk.
It’s not perfect: the area is small and doesn’t look very natural with the building surrounding them. But it does look like animals are being genuinely cared for.
At Daisy Hill Koala Centre, you won’t have the opportunity to hold or touch a koala.
There are easy walks that start from the centre around the Daisy Hill Conservation Park. You may spot wild koalas and wallabies in the 435 hectares of the eucalyptus forest.
Responsible travel tip: Although koalas seem not to care about anything and are probably used to have a crowd around, it’s important to stay calm and quiet near animals.
3. Why holding a koala is not a good idea, even at a Brisbane koala sanctuary
Holding a koala is not allowed in the state laws for Victoria and New South Wales. So visitors who have ‘holding a koala’ on their bucket list go to Queensland to make their dream comes true. I do get that it’s a unique opportunity and I don’t think it’s ridiculous to want to do it: I want to do it!
But the fact that it’s not allowed by law in some states to protect the animals should make you question if it’s a good idea to do it where it is allowed.
And I decided it was not. There are a few reasons why I am in general not in favour of holding animals, especially if they don’t ask for it.
Just like humans, I guess no one can enjoy being taken from one person to another again and again, with other people around taking photos. It sounds stressful, even if they do it for a limited amount of time. And koalas are very sensitive to stress. In a sanctuary, I expect to find wild animals who went through an accident or an illness already. They’ve had enough troubles; I feel they should just relax and enjoy their convalescence.
And I’m not a wildlife expert, but I imagine human contact can only increase their risks of catching bacterias.
Where is Daisy Hill Koala Centre?
Daisy Hill Koala Centre is 25 kilometres south of Brisbane CBD, in the direction of the Gold Coast. It’s close to the Pacific Motorway (M1) and well signed from exit 24 if you go there by car. The drive takes around 45 minutes from the CBD.
Unfortunately, it takes a lot longer to access by public transport (90 minutes or more!) as the closest bus stop from Daisy Hill Koala Centre is more than one kilometre away from the centre. You can check the itinerary on Translink.
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