Behaving like animals
HARTLEY’S Crocodile Adventures has become a whole lot bigger thanks to the closure of its associated Cairns attraction, the Cairns Tropical Zoo and relocation of many of its animals to the renowned croc park and farm at Wangetti.
The Freemans, owners of Hartley’s, have spent $2.5 million of an extensive makeover of the park, which includes refurbishment of existing facilities as well as building new infrastructure to house and display what was a significant collection of wildlife at the Tropical Zoo, which was sold last year and closed down.
The upgrading of Hartley’s is in fact the culmination of a longheld dream.
“It was always the plan to integrate the zoos,” said owner Angela Freeman.
Ms Freeman says it has made Hartley’s the equal of any similar attraction in the state and one of the most remarkable in the country.
For example, its new reptile display is one of the better ones in the nation, featuring the country’s largest python, a 6m whopper.
From the Cairns zoo the Wangetti park inherited first class collections of birds of prey, reptiles (including alligators) and various macropods, and a Komodo dragon, among various things.
Nearly everything at the park has been involved in the makeover, from buildings, to new enclosures, upgraded paths and walkways, a new amphitheatre with more shade and viewing lines, new power generating systems (solar), and a new croc spotting boat with electric engines.
“The whole idea was to do a complete refurbishment,” Ms Freeman said. “We wanted to bring the infrastructure completely back up to new.
“We started with all the infrastructure such as the expansion of the restaurant, increasing its capacity, basically doubling its sized with deck expansion, coupled with a major upgrade back of house with a new building behind the kitchens with double refrigeration and storage and a complete refit of the kitchen itself.
“Even things like the toilets were stripped down to nothing and all rebuilt, all brand new.”
Running a wildlife park means the maintenance and the rolling program of upgrades never ends.
Sustainability those goals.
“On a good day we generate over 50 per cent of our power,” said Ms Freeman. is one of
“The whole objective is directed towards sustainability so as we progress we are more sustainable; as we upgraded the park we convert things over.”
The croc farm is significantly upgraded with an allweather pathway to improve disabled access.
In the process there have been ongoing upgrades to the crocodile farm as well, not just the tourism side of the business.
Hartley’s has been able to add to its selection of tours, including private tours, thanks to its expanded collection and facilities.
“With the zoo we had a very significant collection of birds of prey. So they weren’t lost to the area, we commissioned a new free flight aviary at Hartley’s for them, so people can now go face to face with owls, kites, kookaburras and various other birds of prey in there.
Hartley’s has introduced night tours for groups (by arrangement) – “we set up a campfire in the Gondwana area, so it’s a lovely experience”.
A private encounter with the (tame) Komodo dragon is coming soon, and visitors can also hang out with the alligators.
“They’re very tame, even the big ones,” assured Ms Freeman. “You can cuddle them like a pet dog. They’re a totally different persona to a saltwater crocodile.”
There’s more things to come, she promises. “We haven’t finished yet!”
A baby alligator: one of the new attractions at the upgraded Hartley’s