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If I Could Talk to the Animals

Given that spending time with our human friends seems to be increasingly risky, this school holidays we decided we would focus on the animals. Ever since I was a child, I have always felt a sense of calm when surrounded by furry little creatures, and it's a quality I have passed onto the kid.

Thankfully we are so close to a lot of the best animal experiences in the country. Our first stop was Oakvale Wildlife Park at Salt Ash. I decided to invest in an annual pass. Even though the July School Holidays and the current pandemic might not be the ideal time to take advantage of their large BBQ area and onsite water park, I would like to think that by December it will be the perfect spot to spend a hot afternoon. It was my little investment in hope.

Both the encounters we chose only have four people at a time, so if we pre-booked to ensure we got to do them on the day. All of which can be done on their website. We climbed into the dingy to row across to Lemur Island. As soon as the boat hit the water, the seven lemurs all gathered at the spot we were headed to greet us. To be fair, I think they realised that new people getting into the boat means they are just about to get food, but it still felt really special.

Once we sat down, the lemurs all gathered around us, sat on our shoulders and our laps to take the food from the trays we were holding. The thing that surprised me the most was that I was expecting they would have claws. Instead, they have gorgeous velvet human-like fingers which lay on my hand as they ate. We spent the rest of our time on the island watching our new friends jump around and sit in this gorgeous position that the keeper tells us is called sun-worshipping. They sit with their legs and arms out, so the sun shines on their belly. It seems like a perfect way to spend the day if you ask me.

Then, still at Oakvale, we headed across to the Meerkat enclosure. There are three of them, and the senior of the group is eight-year-old Tilly. I was surprised at how tiny they were, weighing in at around 1kg each. They too raced around us and sat on our laps again mostly for the food. It was interesting to watch up close, them standing upright which the keeper explained was called century duty and was Tilly's way of watching over the herd. We saw her do this a lot during our time in the enclosure as a hawk was hovering overhead.

The following weekend we headed out to Ben Ean Vineyard at Pokolbin for an amazing 3km walk with the llamas and one alpaca. Oddly enough, my grandmother raced camels for a living, so I have spent a lot of time around the llama's cousins, and they really are beautiful animals. There is something more dignified about the llama though.

The same beautiful eyes and eyelashes to die for, but somehow softer and more approachable. There were plenty of opportunities for photos, and the kid even got to be the

lead llama on the walk, which she was stoked about. There are some gorgeous spots on the walk to stop and take photos from – with the stunning backdrop of the winery. The team were so lovely and very informative.

The thing that struck me as impressive with all three encounters was that each animal, when in a group, was always watching out for the rest of the herd. You do wonder in the current pandemic filled climate; why we humans are unable to do the same. I wonder if that makes them better than us?

Words: Chloe O'Sullivan | On Tour with the Kid

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