By: Toni Stevens, February 2022
In February 2021, in the middle of the official opening of Wildlife Wonders, phones started beeping telling everyone to go home, Victoria had been placed in another lockdown.
It was an ominous start for a new tourism business, especially one designed with international tourists in mind.
But tonight, Wildlife Wonders was named as one of the state’s best new tourism businesses, awarded the Silver Medal in the “New Tourism Business” category at the at the Victorian Tourism Awards.
Wildlife Wonders is a wildlife sanctuary on the Great Ocean Road, expertly created to showcase the ecosystems and wildlife of the Otways region. Since opening it has been named as one of the world’s best places to enjoy nature in 2022 by National Geographic Magazine.
The visitor experience is set around the ‘Walk with Wildlife’ guided tour – a chance to encounter iconic and elusive Australian wildlife in a spectacular natural setting, accompanied by a knowledgeable Nature Guide.
Conceived and founded by the Conservation Ecology Centre (CEC), a highly respected environmental NGO, Wildlife Wonders differs from other nature tourism experiences, because as all profits are channeled to the CEC, funding vital conservation work.
“What led us to proceed with opening in such uncertain times, is our purpose,” says Wildlife Wonders co-founder Lizzie Corke OAM, who is the CEO of the Conservation Ecology Centre. “To create a model in which the CEC can engage people with the wonder of nature and generate funding to address our most urgent conservation challenges, which are not going away any time soon.”
“Since opening, and in spite of issues arising from the pandemic and lockdowns, Wildlife Wonders has been focused on its key purposes: facilitating connection with the natural beauty of the Great Ocean Road; generating of a reliable revenue stream and regional employment; and funding vital conservation of wildlife and ecosystems,” she says.
Wildlife Wonders has been embraced by the community, resulting in extraordinary levels of local support, including regular local visitation to our café, volunteering, and strong attendance at micro-events such as Children’s Storytime, Kids’ Wildlife Talks and Nature Book Club.
“We are thrilled that Wildlife Wonders has been recognised for its significant addition to Victoria’s tourism offering and the visitor economy on the Great Ocean Road,” says Lizzie.
“From the outset, Wildlife Wonders was designed to operate sustainably and support our community and environment. These principles have stood the venture in good stead throughout the tumultuous global events and extended border restrictions since it opened in early 2021.”
About Wildlife Wonders
Wildlife Wonders is an illustration of how the Great Ocean Road region’s wildlife used to be, and how this environment may be restored through conservation efforts.
The site is protected from foxes and feral cats by a carefully concealed conservation fence and is home to a range species, from iconic koalas and kangaroos, to the lesser known such as potoroos and bandicoots, as well as a stunning array of birdlife.
A guided tour takes approximately 75 minutes along a 1.4km, wheelchair accessible trail, through lush fern gullies, eucalypt woodlands and on to spectacular ocean vistas.
A visit to the on-site Conservation Research Base completes the tour, where visitors can learn about the challenges faced by Otways flora and fauna, and the many conservation and research projects underway to protect them.
Most visitors stay for some time after their walk, valuing the friendly ambiance and learning about the reasoning behind this remarkable venture.
The Emu Café, located in the Visitor Centre, has developed a reputation for excellent coffee and meals and has become a popular community meeting place. And the Gift Shop is stocked with beautiful Australian-made toys, puzzles and gifts, many sourced from the Otways, as well as an excellent selection of books.
For more information visit: https://wildlifewonders.org.au
About 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.
Current projects include: studies of the effects of fire on Long-nosed Potoroos and other small native mammals; koala woodland habitat restoration; and the tracking and removal of introduced pest species, such as foxes, cats, pigs and deer, from the landscape.
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.
Find out more: https://www.conservationecologycentre.org