Green behind the gold

There's more to the sun, sand and beaches in Australia which has a unique eucalyptus-rich bushland and rainforest at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary full of colourful lorrikeets and cuddly koalas, discovers Saaed Ibrahim

The road to Currumbin Valley Rock Pools, Australia

For most visitors to Australia, the ‘Gold Coast’ has become synonymous with three things —­ sun, sea and surf. For the average tourist, the focus is invariably the magnificent beachfront at Surfers Paradise, lined with an array of multi-storied hotels and resorts.

But beyond the sun-drenched beaches, busy shopping malls, restaurants and bars, and theme parks, lies a fascinating green belt of subtropical rainforests, fruit plantations and national parks brimming with the most exotic flora and fauna. One such example of the ‘green behind the gold’ is the nearby Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, located off the Gold Coast Highway, an hour’s drive south of Brisbane and 27 km from Surfers Paradise. 

Spread over 27 hectares of landscaped grounds and bushland, the sanctuary houses over 1,400 native animals, birds and reptiles, and is a virtual oasis for nature-lovers. 

“Be sure you get there early and in time for the feeding of the birds,” our travel agent friend had cautioned. But for her timely advice, we would
have missed a most spectacular and unique wildlife experience.


A lorikeet feeding on nectar.

 

Flock for nectar

The feeding of birds takes place twice during the day, in the morning and in the late afternoon, when flocks of wild rainbow lorikeets descend on the feeding area of the park amidst a cacophony of screeching and chattering which the birds engage in whilst feeding. The rainbow lorikeet is a species of small parrot with a brilliant plumage — a blue head and abdomen, bright green upper parts and tail and an orange-red breast and beak. Lorikeets feed on nectar and pollen, move about in flocks or pairs, do not mix with other parrots and are found throughout north-eastern Australia.

As we approached the feeding area, a park warden handed out platters of the special nectar blend, which is fed to the birds as a supplement to their natural diet. Within minutes, and as if from nowhere, a throng of
these beautifully coloured birds descended from the sky to perch in clusters on the edges of the plates bearing the nectar. The outstretched hand carrying the dish became heavy with their weight and one barely managed to keep it balanced.


An eagle takes flight.

 

Adventures galore

Feeding lorikeets attract others of their species with their calls, and soon the first arrivals were joined by hordes of others. There were lorikeets everywhere, on the platter edges, on the arms and shoulders, and even the heads of the feeders. The entire area became a splash of colour — red, blue, orange, green, and the constant chatter and screeching of the feeding birds rose to a deafening crescendo. Even the park officer in charge of feeding was surprised at the number of birds that had gathered. “You’re lucky to
have so many of them here today. Although lorikeets abound in this area, they are wild birds and their numbers cannot be guaranteed.”

Apart from the lorikeet feeding, the sanctuary also offers a host of other live animal presentations that provide visitors and their families face-to-face and interactive encounters with wildlife in their natural surroundings — fresh water crocodiles, snakes, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and wombats to name but a few. There are aboriginal dancers depicting scenes from ancient lore through tribal song and dance, a dark forest area devoted to nocturnal wildlife, a research and development wing to conduct studies on rare and endangered species as well as educational programmes for school children. And, yes, there is also a mini steam train that goes chug chugging throughout the park area and comes as a welcome relief to the weary of foot.

But it is the rainbow lorikeet that has practically become the mascot of the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. It takes pride of place and is featured on the sanctuary logo. Little would have Alex Griffiths, the founder of the Currumbim Sanctuary, realised when he created his own special blend of nectar to distract the lorikeets from his flowers, how much pleasure and joy these beautiful creatures would bring to successive generations visiting Currumbin.

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