Visitors to the Great Ocean Road can now experience the unique wildlife of the region in a new way as this ecotourism attraction opens its doors for the first time. Australia’s iconic koalas and kangaroos will feature alongside more elusive species such as potoroos and bandicoots at Wildlife Wonders, where visitors will be able to experience all the magic of a thriving Otways ecosystem during a 75-minute tour with a conservationist guide.
Experience a virtual walk-through of Wildlife Wonders
Wildlife Wonders is a not-for-profit ecotourism experience and social enterprise created to showcase what the Otways landscape was once like and could be again – with all profits going back into local environmental conservation projects.
“It’s a chance for visitors to learn more about the incredible plants and animals of the region, at the same time generating vital funding for wildlife and ecosystem conservation and research, which will help to restore and protect these unique species and their habitats in the wild.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria Danielle Green says: “We understand how tough it has been for tourism operators and communities along the Great Ocean Road - that’s why we’re supporting high impact, high value, projects like Wildlife Wonders.”
“This will help to drive tourism to the region in the long-term while showcasing and protecting some of our most unique and beautiful wildlife.”
The project has been supported by a $2 million grant from the Australian Government under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages, a $1.5 million grant from the Victorian Government’s Regional Tourism Infrastructure Fund and funding from the The William Buckland Foundation, The RE Ross Trust and local individual supporters.
On the visitor experience
Located on the spectacular Great Ocean Road, just over three hours from Melbourne, Wildlife Wonders is a 5-minute drive from the town of Apollo Bay.
Accompanied by a qualified conservationist guide, small groups of visitors will explore a beautifully restored Otways landscape, where koalas doze in the treetops, potoroos and bandicoots forage on the ferny forest floors and kangaroos hop along the horizon against a spectacular ocean vista.
The 75-minute guided tour follows a gently meandering path which is wheelchair friendly and suitable for children and older adults.
Visitors will also visit the conservationists’ Research Base on the tour, to see first-hand some of the research projects that Wildlife Wonders is currently supporting.
The visitor centre café provides sustainable snacks and light lunches, showcasing sustainable local produce, and the shop offers the opportunity to purchase a local memento.
The experience was been designed by Brian Massey – Greens Master for ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films, an art director of ‘The Hobbit’ and Landscape Designer of the highly-successful ‘Hobbiton’ in New Zealand.
On the Conservation Ecology Centre
The Conservation Ecology Centre is a nationally registered non-profit ecological research and conservation organisation dedicated to a healthy and resilient Otways landscape.
Generating knowledge to nurture Country, Conservation Ecology Centre partners with traditional owners, research institutions, NGOs, government agencies and community to better understand and protect threatened species and ecosystems by conducting vital research and restoring habitat.
Being based in the beautiful Otway Ranges (on the Great Ocean Road) provides a unique opportunity to facilitate research, and deliver programs, in one of Australia’s truly wild places. All projects are chosen for their potential to have a broad application and to benefit wildlife and environments locally, across Australian landscapes, and around the world.
On being a social enterprise and alternative funding model for conservation
Wildlife Wonders was created by the Conservation Ecology Centre to share the Otways experience with visitors while financially supporting research and conservation activities.
It builds on the model developed by the Conservation Ecology Centre in 2004 when the organisation opened the Great Ocean Ecolodge as an ecotourism social enterprise, providing a revenue stream which helped support the establishment and growth of the Conservation Ecology Centre.
“Wildlife Wonders takes the social enterprise model proven by the Ecolodge’s success to the next level,” says Conservation Ecology Centre’s CEO Lizzie Corke, OAM.
“It opens up a whole range of possibilities for the Conservation Ecology Centre’s work by providing reliable funding for environmental conservation activities and jobs, allowing us to increase our organisational impact.”