Cuddling Koalas and Skippy Selfies: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Standard Aussie backpacker Facebook photos:

Cuddling a koala
Kangaroo Selfie

The list goes on.

Most remain longingly on my bucket list. Kangaroo selfie/koala cuddles – BOOM, and I ticked those off.

I’m going to set the scene because if you don’t realise how foul a mood I was in that day you won’t realise was an incredible effect this place had on me.

It was one of those typical disaster mornings. The night before I realised I had “misplaced” my camera charger. Nowhere to be found. Plans were set. finally I was visiting the koala sanctuary, something I had been saving since I arrived 8 weeks earlier. So of course, I wanted my **** camera.

Set alarm for 7.30 – get up, wash hair, go to town and get camera charged.

Idiot: sets alarm for 19.30. Who does that? Seriously?

So I roll out of bed at 8.40, panic, shower, wash hair, blow dry hair, do makeup etc and run into town a dishevelled wreck. Somehow, stupid Brisbane camera shops don’t sell/have chargers for my Panasonic Lumix TZ-30. Little did I know at the time, this is not a popular camera down under. To get a charger or anything at all is a mission best left to overseas-Amazon and eBay.

So 10am comes, I’ve already eaten 2 twix bars because I'm stressed and irritated, not to mention sweaty from zooming around the city for an hour (yes I do know Twix have diary & gluten but at that point I simply DIDN’T CARE, even if I felt SO unbelievably horrendous an hour later.)

Get to the bus – oh look, there it is. Leaving. Hour to wait. Find another bus stop, leaving AGAIN. Only half an hour this time... Whoopee.

Finally, my lovely French co-worker from BCB, Emy and I make it to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  And it was absolutely wonderful.

All day there are presentations and tours and photo experiences across the sanctuary. First we saw the Koalas and learned about their natural habitats and eating habits, history and unfortunate STI issues (they have Chlamydia?!?!).

Next up was – and I cannot iterate enough how incredible this demonstration was – the Birds of Prey. Trainers lead the eagles and owls, teasing them with dead mice as they fly around the arena, literally centimetres from the audiences’ heads. It sounds sappy but feeling the air whoosh past your face from the wing of a massive eagle is incredible. We also saw the snakes and the Sheep Shearing. The sheep shearing is a rough and uncomfortable process to watch (having worked on a sheep farm for 6 weeks already I was already all too aware of it), so we left after a few minutes to go see Skippy and co. bounce through the trees.

They have over 130 Koalas, as well as Tasmanian devils, Platypus (-I or –es??), stunning birds, kangaroos and so many others. They have photos throughout the day, which you purchase at the main store. Photos of celebrities adorn the walls, each cuddling the Koalas, wrapped in snakes or posing with birds of prey. Prices ranged from $16 for one, to $39 for all three, taken right in the middle of the sanctuary.

And for me, that was exactly it: it felt more like a home than a zoo for the animals. They appeared to be treated and cared for in a way that put you, a visitor, at ease while you explored.  Staff and volunteers were knowledgeable and helpful, all welcoming and attentive to the animals. It isn’t Lone pine zoo for a reason. It is a sanctuary.

Snakes are not what I expected them to be! They look so slimy, and actually terrifying, from a distance. I think, similar to spiders, I had the fear of god – re: snakes - put into me by my mother as a child. But this one was surprisingly pleasant. Even if he did decide to start constricting around my leg as I tried to release him to the trainer - he was heavy and I almost fell over, much to the amusement of a long line of Chinese & American tourists. Balance sustained, photo taken.

The koalas decided, unfortunately, that they didn’t like me. It took 3 attempts, with 3 separate koalas, to get a photo. The first one was grumpy and wouldn’t sit still. The second decided to start relieving itself, right as I was about to take hold. The third, well he only stayed about 15 seconds. Clawed at my hair and posed quickly. Honestly, those photographers & trainers have a real job capturing the happy moment.

Map, taken from Lone Pine Website

Schedule, taken from Lone Pine Website

Photos Courtesy of my iPhone and Emy (who didn't lose her camera charger)


Brisbane City Backpackers A.K.A. The Orange Prison

Central Location. Party hostel, complete with topless waitress Fridays and underdressed barmaids. It’s bright orange.

So how did I come to call it home for a whole 10 weeks? Friends of friends of course. One recommendation and it was booked. Clearly I take a lot of persuasion. Turns out one of my original Melbourne boys had found himself trapped there for 6 weeks. ‘I’m leaving in 2 weeks’ he told me in the kitchen that first evening. Took him another 2 months. That’s the orange prison through and through.

Brisbane is a small city in comparison to many; to walk from one side of the excitement to the other would take no longer than 45 minutes (Upper Roma/Southbank to Fortitude Valley). Though it seemed no one other than me was ok with this – they laughed in my face when I suggested a walk (BCB breeds laziness).

Nestled amongst 4 others BCB is a popular option. You’ve got Chill – owned by the same management – with no bar and no outside guests but a “chilled” atmosphere; next up is Cloud 9. Cloud 9 has a reputation of being dirt cheap for good reason - it looks predictably filthy. Then its BCB, more on that later. Woodduck Backpackers is next-door, small and homely if you walk past around 7pm you may catch a whiff of something pungently herbal. And then there’s YHA, a lovely clean hostel with a bar and all your basic needs. Very chain-y. Very clinical. But with BCB’s loud bar, free swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, free cinema and a free pool table you’re probably going to give it a go.

So I arrived with a banging 3-day hangover following a wild 30th, an overdue reunion and a full on Irish St Paddys Day in Melbourne to be welcomed by some cheery receptionists. (I soon learnt that the job these girls had signed up for would destroy their souls, but they’d only just started and were blissfully na├»ve. Bless them.)

Into my all girls dorm I went to sleep for the next 6 hours. I was wary of an all-girls dorm – I have lived with girls for most of my life and yet have always found easier friendship with guys. It’s a stereotype but from experience girls = cliques and bitchiness.

A criticism: BCB automatically offers the ‘Girls Only’ option and only that if you email/call. Yes, it’s the best deal by far. For a 14-bed dorm, private ensuite bathroom, all very clean and modern, it’s only $154. But still – the options would be nice.  

There are many options other than the girls only. Room sizes range from a 30-bed door, aptly named “The Dungeon” for its lack of air con and permanent stench. Then there’s 14, 6-8, 4 and private rooms available, with fan or air-con options to suit budgets/weather.

So there I was, fast asleep till around 4pm when a little blonde German girl came in and laughed at me, first for the fact I’d been in bed all day and looked like hell. Second for the amount of luggage I had. Anna Guttenbach – one of the best people I now know.

2 days later and I was introduced to the Bar Manager by my Melbourne inmate – offered a job within 5 minutes. Great – done and dusted.

Working in the hostel was the best and worst thing I could have done: yes, accommodation and a (crap) wage. Yes, meet every long-termer and regular. Yes, fast-track to becoming one. Yes, it could be hilarious, plenty of ice throwing, water fights & cocktails. But living, working and socialising in the same room? Destructive. After 4 weeks I decided it was time to move on, so I migrated to Southbank to a nice little Italian restaurant. (It got shut down 3 weeks in by the health inspectors so again, a bit of a fail. Work-wise, Brisbane hates me.)

The Fiddlers Elbow, an Irish themed bar complete with pool table, themed karaoke and topless waitress Fridays, is overall decent. On nights when it’s busy it can be fantastic, some of my favourites being Killer Pool Thursday's and themes like "No Clothes Party" and "GI Joes & Army Hos"(Classy). But that would probably be more to do with the people than anything. They work hard to create themes and different nights. Monday became Open Mic; Tuesday was Quiz; Wednesday Karaoke and Friday was Titty shot girl night. Drinks aren't overly expensive as Aussie prices go; $10 jugs of VB in happy hour, $5 spirit and mixers. $2 Cowboy shots. They do all they can but it’s the people that make a place, as with anywhere.

Clean; massive kitchen; free movie room; job club. Secure – I once saw the manager chase a man down the street after he was seen trying to steal a laptop. Nobody gets away with anything here. BCB really tries to have it all. I would recommend this hostel to anyone looking to hang around a week or two at most. But any longer and you will get stuck. One girl I know had lived there for an entire year.

Some love it, some hate it. It is what it is. Try it, if it fails then it’s not like there aren’t other options within 500 meters. I had a fantastic time here, BCB was another home that I will always return to should I find myself in Brisbane.

To make a booking call/email here: