A haunting cackle pierces the night sky. As a Kiwi, I’ve never heard such a thing in person. But I instantly know what it is – I’ve heard it on TV shows before.
A lively kookaburra is waking us up; it’s our alarm clock at the koala sanctuary.
You haven’t truly experienced Australia without seeing a koala, and one of the best places to do that is in Port Stephens, an idyllic little harbour town 2.5 hours’ drive north of Sydney.
The Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is home to a state-of-the-art hospital and also offers a place for ιɴנuʀᴇd koalas to live if they can’t be released back into the wild.
A kilometre-long trail ascends into the trees via a “SKYwalk”, where you’ll see the rescued koalas.
A recent addition to the sanctuary is a series of luxurious glamping tents just outside the koala enclosure – they’re designed to be like plush hotel rooms in the bush.
Each tent includes an uber-comfy bed, a heat pump, treats on arrival and indoor bathrooms. (Don’t worry, they’re fully sealed, so no creepy crawlies can get in.)
We settled into the tent, before beginning a private tour of the sanctuary – the gates of which are about 50 metres away. Most of the animals here have been нιт by cars; some are being rehabilitated into the wild, while others now live here permanently.
Miss Sunset broke her hip after being нιт by a car, while Solstice was also нιт by a vehicle and needs daily laser treatment on his arm. They are just a few of the characters to see.
You’ll also learn all about these incredible creatures during your walk – such as why they hug trees so much. In summer, they use them to help cool down: tree trunks can be up to seven degrees cooler than the air.
One of the advantages of staying in the camp is you get early access to the sanctuary the next morning, which is when the animals are fed with fresh leaves.
This means many of them are active, giving you the best chance for photos – and before the public (non-glampers) arrive for the morning. If you’ve always wanted to see a koala, this is the place to do it.