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4 Amazing Accessible Animal Encounters in Queensland

Animal lovers of all abilities can get up close and personal with Queensland's resident wildlife, thanks to these amazing accessible programs.

Queensland’s success with the Year of Accessible Tourism is continuing into 2024, with a range of accessible experiences available for everyone to try. On your next family trip to the Sunshine State, there’s plenty to keep young wildlife warriors and animal lovers entertained, with these programs specially suited to specific needs.

Khaki Sensory Program at Australia Zoo

Australia Zoo has developed the Khaki Sensory Program for kids aged 7+ who live with autism and/or specific sensory needs. It’s a guided sensory adventure through the animals that call the conservation facility home. From scaly snakes to spiny echidnas, fluffy koalas to feathery native birds, participants will get to see, smell, and touch wildlife of all shapes and sizes.

The program varies seasonally, in line with the natural rhythms of wildlife, but each experience includes entry to Australia Zoo, an exclusive gift, and a personal photograph with one of the amazing animals. A parent or carer must attend the program (at no extra cost, of course), and will also receive complimentary entry to Australia Zoo after the session’s conclusion if they hold a Companion Card.

Book a Khaki Sensory Program experience via the Australia Zoo website.

A wildlife keeper handing a man in a t-shirt a koala to cuddle at Australia Zoo
The Khaki Sensory Program is a guided sensory adventure through the wildlife residents of Australia Zoo. Credit: Tourism Australia

Marine Life Encounter at Cairns Aquarium

If you love to go behind-the-scenes, the Marine Life Encounter is the ultimate way to experience the Cairns Aquarium. This VIP tour takes you out of the tropical warmth of Tropical North Queensland and into the cool waters populated by thousands of aquatic animals and plants. Each experience includes a unique opportunity to hand-feed the Cownose Sting Rays, tour the Cairns Turtle Hospital, and learn from the experience wildlife educators on site.

If your family (including children aged 3+) would prefer to avoid the crowds, get in early with an Aquarium by Sunrise tour held before opening hours – make sure you set your alarm!

Find out more and book your experience on the Cairns Aquarium website.

Family entering Cairns Aquarium through the main entrance
Go behind-the-scenes at the Cairns Aquarium with the Marine Life Encounter. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Crew For A Day with Whalesong Cruises

NDIS participants and their carers are invited to join the crew of Hervey Bay’s Whalesong Cruises for a unique adventure program specifically designed to empower people living with disabilities. This is the ideal experience for travellers who want to do more than sit back and watch, and prefer to get hands-on. You’ll learn to tie ropes, guide guests on board, and other essential functions of the crew on board – and spot whales from the deck while you’re there!

The Whalesong Cruises vessel is wheelchair accessible, and the crew have extensive experience supporting participants who live with disabilities. To find out more and book your Crew For A Day adventure, visit their website.

A whale breaching in still ocean waters with a sail boat visible close to the horizon in the distance
Everyone can get hands-on experience as a crew member with Whalesong Cruises. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Alpaca-assisted therapy at Mountview Alpaca Farm

In the Gold Coast Hinterland, you’ll find Mountview Alpaca Farm offering an Australian-first alpaca therapy program. Spend quality time with specially selected and trained alpacas, walking or wheeling the grounds or simply sitting together and soaking in the sunshine. Staff are on hand to assist, but for the most part the alpacas are pretty self-sufficient; they just want to help you feel relaxed and happy.

There are a range of alpaca therapy options available from Mountview for NDIS participants, including individual and group sessions on-site, or visits from the alpacas to your home or facility. Find out more on the Mountview Alpaca Farm website.

Two children patting an alpaca at Mountview Alpaca Farm
Alpacas make amazing animal therapists at Mountview Alpaca Farm. Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland
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