The Alice Springs Desert Park is the perfect way to learn more about the arid environment in Central Australia. The park doesn’t just have wildlife. You also get an insight into different desert habitats and plants. Seeing how the Arrernte people have lived in this environment for thousands of years is also a feature.
It wasn’t your average October day in Alice Springs for our visit. The temperature struggled into double digits and it started to rain. While it wasn’t quite what we expected, we still had a great time exploring the park.
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Location & Cost
The Alice Springs Wildlife Park couldn’t be easier to find. It is 10 minutes from Alice Springs on Larapinta Drive. If you are feeling energetic, there is pedestrian and bike path access. There are ‘Drive and Ride’ options from Albrecht Oval and Flynn’s Grave either side of the park.
Admission is $39.50 for adults, $20 for kids 5-16 and under 5 are free. There are also a range of concession discounts and family group packages. If you want to beat the heat, the park opens at 7.30am. The nocturnal house opens at 9.00am. The parks website suggests you allow 3 – 4 hours to look around.
Alice Springs Desert Park Wildlife
What we didn’t realise when we arrived at the Desert Park was that it is about more than animals. If you are expecting a normal wildlife park, with lots of animal exhibits, think again. There are dingo and kangaroo exhibits, the nocturnal house and several bird aviaries, but that’s about it.
That said, it was great to see these animals. As we approached the dingoes, they popped out of their den to see what we were up to. The red kangaroo area is a walk through exhibit. We don’t see red kangaroos in the Adelaide hills, so it was good to these up close too.
But don’t worry, there is still plenty for wildlife fans. The nocturnal house and the bird aviaries are fantastic. They are worth the entry fee alone.
Read More : See plenty of Birdlife at Trephina Gorge
Alice Spring Desert Park Bird Exhibits
No matter where we were in Central Australia, we couldn’t get over the number and variety of birds. So, it isn’t surprising that birds are such prominent feature at the Alice Springs Desert Park.
There are no fewer than seven bird exhibits spread around the park. Every one of them are full of colourful, noisy birds of all sizes. We got the shock of our lives when we saw a huge Australian bustard walk in front of us.
You can walk through two of the aviaries. Take your time, stay nice and still and you’ll see birds everywhere. From parrots to tiny honey eaters, there’s colour and bird calls all around you.
Nocturnal House is amazing
This is the best nocturnal house we have been to. It’s big in every way. There is heaps of room to move around and the exhibits are big too so everyone can get a good look (that said, on this cool, wet day in Alice Springs, crowds weren’t much of a problem!).
The nocturnal house has over 30 animals, most of which you’ll be lucky to spot in the wild. Seeing the rare mala (rufous hair-wallabies), bettongs, bilbies and spinifex mice were highlights. There are also some reptile exhibits near the nocturnal house.
We were walking past the thorny devils when it was time for them to get fed. It’s fair to say that thorny devils don’t react to feeding time with the same excitement that some animals do. Still, when a fresh tin of blank ants is on offer, the thorny devils were as busy as they can be hoovering them up.
Presentations & Activities
Throughout the day there is a full schedule of information sessions and events. There are keeper talks, cultural activities and free-flying bird demonstrations. There are also several screenings of Changing Hearts. This short movie looks at the geological history of the desert.
Our reward for walking around the park in the rain was that we had three keeper talks to ourselves. We went to the Desert Woodland and Desert Rivers bird feeding sessions. We also got to the Old Man Kangaroo talk in the red kangaroo exhibit which was interesting.
Despite the small crowd and dreary day the keepers were still enthusiastic and generous with their time. The bird feedings were fascinating. We heard how all the species co-exist in the aviaries and seeing them swarm the keepers for food was great fun.
Watch the Changing Heart Movie
This 20 minute short film covers the 4 billion year history of the desert. It is really well done. You get a brief but clear picture of how the landscape and the creatures living in it has changed over time.
The movie screens five times a day and it is worth fitting it in to your schedule. It is a lovely modern theatre and the afternoon sessions would usually be a nice break from the heat of the day. Instead, we enjoyed being dry!
The film ends with the story of the formation of the MacDonnell Ranges we see today. The finale is the screen disappearing to reveal a stunning view of the ranges in front of you. All we saw were the ranges shrouded in low cloud, it was a tad anti-climactic but still well done.
Nature Theatre – Free Flying Bird Show
Another feature of your day at the Alice Spring Desert Park is the free-flying bird show. Here, birds of prey showcase their natural hunting behaviours. It is on once a day in the Amphitheatre at 10.00am. Gates to the shows open 15 minutes before the demonstrations begin.
Most of the birdlife we saw was having a great time in the rain. In all the aviaries there was a lot of chirping and feather fluffing going on. The keepers said there hadn’t been rain for some time and they hadn’t seen the birds this happy for ages.
The exception to this was the birds of prey. The Nature Theatre was cancelled due to the weather. To be honest, we’d seen so many eagles, falcons and kites as we drove around Alice Springs we didn’t mind.
Read More : Birds of Prey & Wildlife on Kangaroo Island
Explore Sand, Woodland and Desert Habitats
Besides the birds and animals, the park features three habitats. There is the Sand Country, Desert Woodlands and Desert Rivers. With the ranges in the background it is nice walking through them seeing the diversity of plants.
While there’s plenty of interpretive signage, there is also an online audio tour you can do. There is a QR code you can scan with your phone that links to the Trees of the Desert botanical tour. A second QR code accesses a general park tour.
More Things to Do at Alice Springs Desert Park
We lasted around 4 hours but as the puddles got bigger, and the red dirt turned into gluggy red mud it was time to call it a day. We’d hoped to see the Dingo Dreaming talk at the end of the day, but the weather beat us. We walked past the dingoes on the way out. They didn’t bound up to see us this time, they looked quite happy curled up in their den out of the rain.
There is a 90 minute evening Nocturnal Tour you can do in the Mulga Enclosure. There is an extra cost to do it. It wasn’t on when we visited but it would be a great chance to see the desert come alive at night.
There is a big cafe and playground at the entrance to the park. You’ll be doing a bit of walking when you visit so travelling light and having lunch at the café is a good way to go. The kids will love climbing on the giant thorny devil outside the café.
- Stay nearby at the Ooraminna Homestead for an unique outback station experience
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