I used to be obsessed with koalas. It was sometime after my Lisa Frank phase and before my full-blown horse phase. Third grade, maybe? I remember writing a report about koalas, and being riveted. I collected photos of koalas from magazines, and checked out so many library books about them [this was pre-internet research, people!]. I knew they ate eucalyptus leaves and were NOT BEARS. Don’t even call them a koala bear around me, I will still cut you. They are marsupials. Get it right, people. These adorable bundles of gray fur captured my little heart. And 25 years later, my third-grade self had a dream fulfilled. I got to HOLD A KOALA IN AUSTRALIA.
We went to Australia for our first “visa run”, which involves an exciting trip to an immigration office, and both koalas and kangaroos were on my list. Fun fact, you can not find koalas just anywhere in Australia, they can only live in a few climates. The Outback is too hot and New South Wales gets too cold, but Queensland is just right. And what do you know, we were going to Queensland. We went to Townsville, actually, for a conference. For a day of tourism, we took a ferry out to Magnetic Island, just off the coast. On Magnetic Island, we were able to snorkel part of the Great Barrier Reef, do nature wildlife hikes, and visit a koala sanctuary. It was there my date with destiny occurred.
Because spotting a koala in the wild is pretty rare, and downright IMPOSSIBLE to hold one in the wild, I shelled out the cash for the experience at the sanctuary. And it was worth every penny. The guide told me to pretend I was tree. And I was the best tree ever for that little guy. I wrapped my arms around him and my fingers sunk into his soft fur. I swear I heard him purr. Ok, maybe not, but he was content. We smiled for our picture together, and as he visited others, I took some selfies with him too. I knew this may be my one chance with life to hang out with a koala, so I made it count. Selfies for days. Finally, we had to say farewell, and we parted ways. But, I’ll always remember those delightful moments when I got to hold a koala. Way to go, third-grade me! Your dreams can come true!
In other Australia news, I never did see a kangaroo, in the wild or in a sanctuary. But I did eat one. And he was tasty.