The Australian Reptile Park has been a favourite family attraction for maaany years.
The wildlife park houses a wide range of spiders, mammals, amphibians and birds and reptiles.
Of course they have plenty of spiders and snakes and deadly ones such as funnel-web spider, eastern brown snake and common death adder.
As well as a huge saltwater crocodile, a lake full of alligators, a Galapagos tortoise, wombats, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypuses.
You will also see koalas up close eating gum leaves and kangaroos roaming freely.
The experience is enjoyable because you get close to the animals. You see them inside the exhibits and during shows. Also staff walk around the site with creatures in their arms that you can approach such as snakes.
The role of the Australian Reptile Park is more than mere entertainment. The park is the only supplier of venom from funnel-web spiders and terrestrial snakes to produce the anti-venom. No one has died from a funnel-web venomous bite since the anti-venom was developed in 1980.
The Australian Reptile Park also manages a 500 ha breeding facility for Tasmanian devils in Barrington Tops (Devil Ark) to help save the species from extinction.
All the exhibits and shows are fascinating, but some have left a bigger imprint on us than others…
The Australian Reptile Park houses one saltwater crocodile, Elvis. And he’s aggressive. Elvis was removed from Darwin Harbour after attacking fishing boats. Then he was sent to a crocodile farm and used as a breeder, but he killed the females he was supposed to mate with. He was then brought to the Australian Reptile Park. He was recently dubbed the “World Crankiest Crocodile” after he charged at workers and pulled their lawnmower underneath the water (and lost two teeth).
Elvis appears medium size underneath the water, but when he emerges his true size is revealed… much bigger than medium! Elvis measures 5 m and is one of the biggest saltwater crocodile in captivity.
When he snatches the food you can hear the bang of his jaw slamming shut. This crocodile gives me chills and it’s my favourite show.
Kangaroos roam freely around the picnic site. They are tame and let you approach and feed them (you can buy food at the kiosk). It’s a lovely experience for children and overseas tourists who have not yet seen kangaroos in the wild (such as my brother below from Canada). Feeding the kangaroos is one of my children’s favourite moments at the zoo (and my brother’s ;-)).
A compelling show with many reptiles and of course deadly exotic and Australian snakes. They bring the reptiles hidden in boxes to the show pit and take them out one at a time. You never know what creature they’re going to take out next. The staff explains facts about the lizard or snake’s origin and behaviour, how they attack and how venomous they are. They demonstrate how they collect the venom from a snake and explain how the anti-venom is produced.
Mostly the show entertains. If Ranger Mick presents you are in for a laugh; he has a great sense of humour… “If you want to pick up a snake and not get bitten it’s simple: get someone else to do it”.
Spider world is an exhibit room full of spiders, such as funnel-webs and other common Australian spiders as well as tarantulas.
Spider World is fun for toddlers and pre-schoolers. A puppet spider dancing on rap music greets you at the door. Pull a lever or press a button and a spider appears.
Incy Wincy Spider moves up and up the ‘water spout’.
A giant mechanical spider with a scary voice rears up. This used to give our daughter a big scare when she was little.
Behind the viewing window you may see staff milking funnel-web spiders – they collect venom from the spiders’ fangs with a pipette.
To collect enough venom (to meet the demand for anti-venom) they rely on people catching and bringing the spiders to the Australian Reptile Park or another drop-off point.
The staff aims at milking 300 male spiders a year (male's venom is six times more toxic than the females). But they have received less spiders lately (they only milked approximately 200 in 2015). So they’re urging the public to catch spiders. They even show videos on how to catch them. But as Ranger Mick says: “PLEASE don't go turning over rocks looking for funnel-web spiders, especially if you are young and male”.
The alligators congregate at the jetty where they are being fed and jump out of the water to grab the food. It’s exciting to watch.
This show focuses on the plight of the Tasmanian devils facing inevitable extinction because of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease. The number of devils decreased by 90% in the last 20 years. Today less than 25,000 remain in the wild.
They are hoping one day to release the devils from Devil Ark into the wild on the Australian mainland. Scientists are certain it will be a good thing for the ecology: The population of devils would increase, they would evolve into top predators and suppress feral cats and foxes which decimate native wildlife such as bandicoots. Sounds like a great plan.
Everyday the 63-year-old Hugo the Galapagos tortoise comes out of its enclosure for a stroll while being fed. It’s quite an experience to stand next to a 166 kg tortoise.
Sometime after lunch we like to take a break from the scheduled shows and go for a walk. You can walk along the alligator lake and in the bush on the paved pathway. The bird cages are located along the pathway.
Can you tell I have kids? The large colourful playground (at the back on the photo) helps break the day and let the little ones run free so no one goes mad (as you can see on my son's facial expressions, it's time to head to the playground.
Open daily 9 am - 5 pm; closed on Christmas day.
Adult $33; child (3-15) $17; concession $20; family pass for a family of four: $85
You can buy food and coffee at the kiosk but we prefer to bring our own food and snacks. We eat at one of the picnic tables in the centre of the Australian Reptile Park or adjacent to the playground. We leave our picnic bags at one of the tables while we visit. You can also cook on free gas barbecues.
Located in Somersby (near Gosford) on the Central Coast NSW, about 1h from Sydney or 1h15 from Newcastle on the Sydney - Newcastle freeway (M1/F3). Take the Gosford exit and follow the signs.