“ Walk amongst, touch, cuddle, feed and photograph the tame wallabies. Address: Gwen Dempster-Schouten, Bathgates Road Waimate / Tel: 03 689 7197 „
After leaving our holiday home in Karitane, near Dunedin, my brother, fiancé and I headed up SH1 just after New Year's Day to spend a couple of days in Christchurch, before my fiancé and I flew back to England. The road trip was fairly lengthy and required a couple of comfort breaks to break up the journey. It was a gorgeous and sunny day, and the rental car was beginning to feel a bit like a greenhouse. A break was well overdue as we had been on the road for just under a couple of hours, and then a random town sign amongst the countryside on our left caught my eye. The town in question was Waimate, which is south of Timaru, 45 km away. What grabbed my attention was a picture of a jumping wallaby and I said to my fellow travellers - "I didn't know there were any wallabies in New Zealand?" (other than at zoos). Well, after taking the 6 km detour into Waimate, and then heading out of the quiet town from a different direction, we eventually drove past a wallaby sanctuary, the oddly named "EnkleDooVery Korna". We pulled in to the driveway and got out of the car with a large amount of curiosity.
BUT I THOUGHT WALLABIES WERE FROM AUSTRALIA, NOT NEW ZEALAND?
Well asides from zoos, the wallaby is indeed from Australia where they are widely distributed. Wallabies are a collective name for about thirty species of macropod, the wallabies found at EnkleDooVery Korna are from the Agile Wallaby genus (Macropus agilis). These wallabies are most closely related to the Kangeroo. They were introduced to New Zealand where they are considered as a pest and are often hunted. From hunting activities, a number of baby wallabies became orphaned which eventually led to the creation of EnkleDooVery Korna wallaby park in 1999.
HISTORY OF ENKLEDOO VERY KORNA WALLABY PARK
The owner of the wallaby park is Gwen Dempster-Schouten, who has been hand raising orphaned baby wallabies since 1977. EnkleDooVery Korna has however, only been open to the public in October 1999. The interest in this wallaby park had become a fascinating and unique experience to local, national and international visitors that in September 2001, Gwen was able to extend her wallaby family area by adding large new wallaby enclosures which has been aptly named "Wallaby Wander".
Beyond the Wallaby Wander gates, we could roam around at our leisure to view the wallabies in their separate enclosures. We were given some basic instructions about how to approach and feed the wallabies from the guide at the beginning, but were otherwise left to our own devices after the first enclosure. The main instruction given was to make sure that you are crouched down on your knees so that you were at the eye level of the wallabies and not appear aggressive. The other instruction given was to hide the eucalyptus leaves (i.e. the food) behind our backs so that they were not snatched by any sneaky, hungry wallabies! After you fed the wallabies, you could stroke them, but at the lower back, above the base of the tail.
At first we were instinctively wary of the wallabies, but our guide reassured us and made sure we acted more confidently. Certainly with the first enclosure, the wallabies showed no signs of shyness, and bounced forward towards us whilst acting like they hadn't been fed all day! After crouching down and optimistically holding out one of the branches of leaves, the wallaby did the rest. It gently pulled off the apparently tasty leaves, and ate them using their front paws. It was amazing to get so close to them and observe even the simplest things like how they eat. Another impressive thing was observing the wallabies bounce around the enclosure - the enclosures were reasonably large with only a small number of wallabies per enclosure, so you could see them jump around without any obvious inhibitions.
As we proceeded through the sanctuary, we noticed that each enclosure had different themes with names such as the "Batchelor Boys". The wallabies appeared to be separated based on age and sex. Some of the wallabies in the latter enclosures were quite shy and reluctant for the leaves, we later realised that these were the more elderly wallabies. In amongst the 40 wallabies in total there were a couple of female wallabies that still had a Joey (young wallaby) in their pouches. We were lucky enough to see one very small Joey take some early bounces before it spotted us and dived back to safety in its mothers pouch. As you can imagine, this really enhanced the overall experience. We were able to take numerous photos of us feeding the wallabies, and we observed the wallabies from very close quarters. I was really impressed that we were allowed to wander through the enclosures at out own pace, and that we not under constant supervision.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL FOLKS...
During your visit, you can look through some interesting memorabilia of family treasures of times past. You get the opportunity to feel and experience how a wallaby trapper lived with an authentic hut set indoors. Also, asides from the wallabies, there is a large pond which is home to a range of bird life. Inhabitants of this area include Sebastopol and Cape Barron Geese, Ducks, Fantail pigeons and Peacocks. There are also other animals at the sanctuary too, including bantams, possums and some rare breed Finlayson sheep. There is also Muffin the miniature pony, a friendly animal that enjoys the attention of visitors to the enclosure.
AND LAST BY NO MEANS LEAST.... A BABY WALLABY TO HOLD IN EXCHANGE FOR A JOKE (?)
One of the most memorable experiences was the opportunity to hold a hand raised orphaned pouch baby wallaby. Gwen promised us that we could hold a baby wallaby after our tour, in exchange for a joke - well in our case three jokes were requested, one for each of us. Unfortunately, I am terrible at remembering any decent jokes, and my brother and fiancé also struggled whilst we wandering around the enclosure. The best joke (?) we came up with was:
Q: Why does the sea smell?
A: Because of the seaweed.
I can feel the tumbleweed moving across your screens as you read this... but fortunately despite the rubbish joke, Gwen took pity on us and presented us with a tiny Joey wrapped around in a blanket. The Joey was in the midst of a mid afternoon nap, but had no problems posing for a number of cute photos in the garden area.
This was the best random stop that we experienced on our New Zealand trip. We had no idea there were any wallabies in New Zealand, and to get the opportunity to get so close and feed the wallabies was unforgettable. It was also fantastic to get to hold a baby wallaby, something that I would thoroughly recommend. Our hosts were true South islanders, very friendly and welcoming. We had a very good chat after our tour which was a great opportunity to learn more about the park and its history. And of course, to really put the cherry on top of the whole adventure, you will be interested to learn the entrance fee (including holding the baby wallaby)..... NZ $10! That's right, $10, the equivalent of roughly £4.50. I would therefore have to say this is also the best value for money experience that I visited in New Zealand too. If you make it to EnkleDooVery Korna, make sure you stop at the nearby berry farm on your way out of Waimate. They make superb berry ice cream sundaes which went down like a treat whilst we were soaking in the sunshine.
OPENING TIMES AND CONTACT DETAILS
20th September - end of Queens Birthday weekend
Open daily: 10 am to 5 pm
No VISA or EFTPOS facilities available.
For bookings and further information contact Gwen:
Telephone: +64 (0)3 689 7197
Fax: +64 (0)3 689 1377
Or visit Gwen's internet page at:
© CJG, 2010