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Victorian sanctuary named in world’s top five nature attractions

23 Nov 2021

The prestigious National Geographic magazine has labelled the stunning Otways ecotourism attraction Wildlife Wonders as one of top five places in the world to enjoy nature in 2022.

The Ross Trust is thrilled with the incredible accolade, having provided a $500,000 impact investment loan to create the sanctuary, which helps fund research and conservation land management.

The Conservation Ecology Centre, an environmental charity, spent five years building Wildlife Wonders, in a journey that started with an idea and came to life when the gates opened in February 2021. But the attraction, on the Great Ocean Road, was almost immediately stymied by lockdowns and the sudden halt in international travel.

Centre CEO Lizzie Corke OAM said there could not have been a worse time to open. “However, we are now very excited as visitors are coming again and we are receiving wonderful reviews,” she said, although admitted the National Geographic plaudit was a massive surprise.

“It’s certainly wonderful to be listed in such an important publication and we’re really looking forward to welcoming international visitors to see and learn about the incredible plants and animals of the Otways.

“We’re prepared for a wonderful summer, and we are very grateful for the support of The Ross Trust. We hope we can show how a social enterprise can help a conservation organisation to recover from the pandemic.”

Wildlife Wonders is the brainchild of Brian Massey, the landscape designer of New Zealand’s Hobbit movie set tours. Massey, along with botanists, scientists, zoologists, and environmental specialists, crafted a sinuous wooden path that winds through bushland and blends seamlessly into the landscape.

Visitors to Wildlife Wonders can enjoy a guided walk through bushland, and spot bandicoots, potoroos, koalas and other animals in a habitat protected from feral predators. Lizzie said The Ross Trust was instrumental in getting Wildlife Wonders off the ground. “The Ross Trust was the first major funder to come on board for the first critical stage of the project – the purchase of the site,” Lizzie said. “A project like this requires one funder to commit for other funders to have the confidence to move forwards – for this project that was The Ross Trust and we are forever grateful for that commitment and support. 

Wildlife Wonders is also a finalist in the Victorian Tourism Awards in the New Business category, with results due to be announced in February.

Find out why National Geographic thinks Wildlife Wonders is one of the world’s best destinations.