When we decided to go to Tasmania with our little boy, one place I was determined to revisit was the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park on the Tasman Peninsula not too far from Port Arthur. I remembered it clearly from my first visit as an amazing place to see Tasmanian devils up close and feeding time in particular stuck in my mind - they were so ferocious and loud about eating, such bad table manners! - and I felt sure an almost-two-year-old would enjoy seeing that.
What greeted us when we arrived was something much, much better. In the years since my last visit (more than 15 years, I admit) the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park has been completely overhauled and now it's truly an amazing place to see, one that I can't recommend highly enough.
The Tasmanian devils are, of course, still there. I got to see this little family snuggling up shortly before feeding time - but once the food came flying in this comfortable little scene turned into something quite different!
These two devils were fighting over "upstairs, downstairs" rights to their enclosure and kept us entertained for ages. It was about this point in our visit that my little boy learnt to say "Tassie devil" (and since we took home a toy Tassie devil from the park, it's become his favourite companion when we're driving around!).
Then came the tunnels. Now, if you can find me a two-year-old boy who is not fascinated by tunnels, I'll be surprised. Put said tunnels underground and leading into a Tasmanian devil enclosure and you totally have a winner! Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't send my boy into an enclosure full of hungry Tassie devils or anything. The end of the tunnels (they come from two directions) is like a small cave with glass walls so you can see directly into the devils' habitat at their "downstairs" level, and the top (I could just stand up) is a glass dome so you can pop your head up and potentially come face-to-face with a Tassie devil running around in the grass. The brochures call it the "unzoo" concept and I think it's fantastic. Needless to say we spent a LONG time in these tunnels!
The extra-exciting part of our visit was that now the park is a lot more than just devils. The bird show was probably the highlight of the whole affair and the only time in his entire life when our little boy sat still for an entire half hour. A bunch of rescued birds (who are unable to return to life in the wild) are taken care of at the park and they have become part of an amazing show - there's one who collects gold coin donations (but gives them back - nice touch!) and another who can fly through a tunnel formed by a line of school kids standing with their legs apart. And there's the tawny frogmouth who my little boy got to pat (thereafter expecting that all birds will sit still so that he can pat them. Oops.)
But wait, as they say, there's more. Beyond the main enclosures for the Tassie devils and friends is a large grassed and bush area, the first containing some particularly friendly kangaroos, and the second being a natural bush habitat for animals including wallabies. It's a gorgeous walk and a great place to actually see animals how they really live.
Visiting the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park was absolutely the highlight of our Tasmanian trip. It's a definite must-visit for kids but even we as animal-loving adults found it just fantastic.