It had always been a dream of mine to hold a Koala…The koala is kind of my spirit animal, it eats and sleeps all day long, wakes up and repeats. What a spectacular life they lead. Just a couple weeks ago, while visiting the Gold Coast, my dream of holding a koala came true at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Accompanied by our Gold Coast tour guides, Jenny and Shelli, friends of Ridges from when his family cruised on their sailboat in the mid 1990s. We entered the park late morning to find medium size lines, but it didn’t take long for the tour buses to unload and line up behind us. As soon as we entered the Sanctuary, we went straight for pictures with the koalas, and boy was I thankful we did, because as soon as we got in line (first), a whole bus load of people lined up behind me. I had waited to hold a koala my whole life and the moment was upon us. When the employee of the Sanctuary asked us who wanted to hold the Koala, I immediately said me…but seconds later the koala came out and I saw that it was much larger than I thought. Ridge looked at me and said, it might be heavy—do you want me to hold it? I looked at him and wanted to say “absolutely not”, but the look in his eyes made me change my mind immediately. He might as well have been wearing a T-shirt that said “I LOVE KOALAS!!!”. He might dispute this, and say he did it to be nice, but I have proof otherwise. See below.Look at his face. Those laugh lines. It looks almost as if he is about to cry tears of joy. What an amazing experience…and we had only just arrived. After the koala snuggling, we traveled on: we saw wallabies, kangaroos, Tasmania Devils, emus, bilbies, snakes, frogs, lace monitors, Crocodiles and more! In addition to checking out some of the animals enclosures, the park has a daily schedule that is filled up with shows involving some of the animals. We were able to catch the tail end of the wild bird show which looked super cool. Have you ever seen a wedge-tail eagle? They are GORGEOUS and MASSIVE- I think my jaw literally dropped to the floor when I saw it. In addition to the wild-bird show, we watched a sheep shearing show, the salt water crocodile show and the Tasmanian devil feeding. The crocodile show was pretty cool, but after a short time of watching, we realized that it would be a good time to sneak off and pet and feed the kangaroos and wallabies while everyone finished the croc show. This turned out to be an amazing idea because when we previously passed by the roos and wallabies, they were kind of hiding from the large crowds, just out of reach of where they could be petted, but when we returned and it was only a few of us, they came jumping to us wanting food. We ended up staying with them for a while, feeding them and petting them and watching them jump all over. This area of the park had both gray wallabies and red kangaroos of all different sizes. We saw little tiny babies, juveniles and kangaroos that look like they go to the gym 7 days a week. It was really cool to be in such close proximity to these cool creatures. Another favorite of mine from the day was the Tassie devil feeding. Tassie devils are so cute…ferocious little buggers, but cute. Watching them get fed and run around in their enclosure was the cherry on top of a perfect day at the Sanctuary. Tasmanian Devils are currently listed as an endangered species and are being wiped out by a cancer called DFTD or Devil Facial Tumor Disease. This cancer is only one of two cancers that is contagious and it spreads between them like a cold or flu. The disease is passed between Tassie Devils when one bites another that is infected and it then causes tumors to develop in the mouth and neck, eventually making it so the Tassie devil can no longer eat, and starves to death. The cause of DFTD is not known, however some speculate that it was caused by carcinogenic chemicals used for flame retardants. There is no cure for DFTD and their numbers in the wild have dropped so low that non disease ridden Devils were sent out of Tasmania to Mainland Australia to maintain the species. If you are interested to learn more about Tassie devils, DFTD and how you can help, I suggest going to http://www.devilark.org.au/devil-ark-2/ . Devil Ark is a non profit that was started to ensure the survival of the Tassie devil. They are located in Mainland Australia and currently have 150 healthy devils roaming their grounds and released their first batch of 22 Devils back into the wild in November 2015. An amazing place doing amazing work. A day at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary will run you about $50.00 for an adult, in addition to a small fee to park, but it is worth every penny once you walk around and see what your money is funding, keeping the Sanctuary and neighboring Hospital running. Since opening its doors in 1989, the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital has admitted 8,000 sick, injured or orphaned wildlife and is one of the busiest wildlife hospitals in the world. Around 50,000 animals native to Australia have been released into the wild after having treatment here. It is truly a remarkable place filled with people doing amazing work. Currumbin Wildlife Hospital is not State or Federally funded, and relies solely on donations made by the public. If you would like to donate, head to http://www.savingyourwildlife.org.au/ , and if you are ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by and taking a look for yourself.