The morning we were supposed to drive to Queenstown, we decided to make a pit stop at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve. This place is hidden in the depths of a neighborhood which seems so unassuming for a wildlife reserve. We got there right as the reserve opened and began our little journey into the wilderness. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting by going here but it was pretty awesome. You can feed the eels in the lake right as you walk in. It’s kind of weird because they’re like fat snakes and make slurping sounds when they eat. I’m not a fan but the child in front of us loved it. One thing to note about this wildlife reserve is that they let the birds roam free. So at one point, I had a duck following me thinking I had food to feed her. She swam next to me for about 100 feet just staring at me and hanging. When she finally got the hint that I had nothing to offer, she turned around and started swimming after another person.
During the time that we were there, we had to spend a large portion of our walk avoiding birds who would get in our way and not move. The smaller ones were fine but there were some incredibly large birds that looked like they would be vicious when they realized we had no food to spare. That may have been our biggest mistake or our best decision. I’m not sure how I would have felt if I had a flock of birds chasing me around because I had food.
Overall I really enjoyed the wildlife reserve. Here are my highlights:
– Meeting the wallabies. I am terrified of touching animals, even in wildlife reserves because what if they decide they hate me and don’t want me to touch them. So we when we walked into the wallaby area, it was gated off by multiple gates because you need to make sure you don’t let them out. As we walked in, we saw a group of 5 or 6 wallabies lounging on the trail staring at us. I wasn’t sure if we should walk toward them for fear of an attack and so we stood back confused as to what to do and how to move forward. A family walked by us and approached the adorable little wallabies and that’s when we knew we were safe. I managed to take a selfie with a wallaby from a distance. He was eating, and I stood and took a photo. This ended up into a full photo shoot as soon as he realized I was photographing him. He perked up, posed, got bored and then hopped away to start eating. It might have been one of my favorite things.
– Meeting the KunKun Pig. Have you heard of a KunKun pig? Because they are amazing. They are excessively large fuzzy pigs that are super social and love being rubbed behind the ears. KunKun in Maori means “fat and round” which is literally the perfect description for these pigs. There were two and one was only interested in the family that had food. There was an ugly black one that decided he loved us and refused to leave us. I’m pretty sure he wanted a head scratch but he smelled pretty terrible so I decided against it. But he just stared at us with his upturned nose, terrible underbite and three teeth waiting to be our friend. If he hadn’t smelled so bad, I probably would have tried to give him a hug.
– Getting chased by turkeys. Okay this was NOT a highlight, but there are giant wild turkeys there that run full speed when they are spooked. For some reason, there were two who decided to follow us and eventually ended up running after us at one point which I’m pretty made everyone around us bust up laughing. It was terrifying and in retrospect, the turkeys were probably spooked and were not actually chasing us but regardless I did not appreciate it and it freaked me out.
Other than that, I enjoyed seeing the other animals but the KunKun pig and wallabies were my favorite. I wanted so badly to see a Kiwi bird but they’re nocturnal and we couldn’t any in the exhibit.
We finished our walk after about 3 hours and then went and grabbed sandwiches from their café. You’d think that it is expensive but it was a fairly decent priced café with a really good chicken pesto and brie sandwich. I highly recommend it. Also, if you have a student ID, bring it because you can get a discount on your entry fee.
After eating our food, we began our journey to Queenstown, New Zealand.