Serendip Sanctuary is a 227-hectare wildlife-protected area in Victoria near the You Yangs and the town of Lara, 22 km north of Geelong and 60 km southwest of Melbourne.
In 1856, the property of Lara, which included the area now occupied by Serendip, was sold by the Crown at auction. Since then, the property has been resold numerous times and used for everything from farming and sheep studs to a health resort for alcoholics (from 1907 to 1930).
It was used as a research station for waterfowl and other native animals by the then Fisheries and Wildlife Department. A bird banding program for ducks conducted by Fisheries and Wildlife was so successful that in 1959, the State repurchased the property to further develop the site as a Wildlife Research Station.
From the 1960s to the early 1990s, a captive breeding program was designed at Serendip to rehabilitate bird species that have become rare or extinct on the Western Plains. These species include the Brolga (Grus rubicundus), Australian Bustard (Ardeotis australis), Magpie Goose and Bush Stone-curlew (also known as Bush Thick-knee). The success of the captive breeding program has received international recognition.
I find many of the animals at Serendip interesting. The Brolgas, also known as Australian Cranes, are beautiful and elegant. The Australian Bustard has a long, thick, fluffy, white neck (see above photo). When disturbed, it will often adopt a cryptic pose with neck erect and bill pointed skywards. The Bush Stone-curlew, a large, ground-dwelling bird endemic to Australia, tend to remain inactive during the day, sheltering amongst tall grass or low shrubs and relying on their cryptic plumage to protect them from predators. When disturbed, they freeze motionless, often in odd-looking postures. I originally thought this was a bird statue put up by the park rangers, until it moved slightly (see photo below).
As a result of the captive breeding program, hundreds of birds were successfully reintroduced to southwestern Victoria and large flocks of Magpie Geese have been subsequently spotted in the region, such as near Port Fairy.
The sanctuary now supports 171 recorded bird species, with many listed as vulnerable or near-vulnerable. Specially-designed viewing areas, bird hides and flight aviaries enable visitors to view at close range, birds preening, feeding, incubating eggs and rearing young.
Serendip also provides habitat for a variety of mammal species including Eastern Grey Kangaroos, Red-necked Wallabies, Swamp Wallabies, Echidnas, a limited number of Koala and the Pademelon, now extinct in the wild in Victoria.
Since 1959, Serendip has recreated a range of habitats which has seen the number of animal species increase from 40 (with few breeding) to over 150 today (with over 60 breeding).
The sanctuary contains many different types of wetland as well as open grassy woodlands of the volcanic Victorian Western Plains. It is home to many plant species as well, such as River Red Gums, tall spikerush, and tussock grass.
In 1987, the government decided to redevelop the property into a Wetlands Education Centre, with the aim of bringing the wetlands and wildlife of the Western Plains to the people. The redevelopments included the construction of an information centre, refurbishment of existing buildings and the display pond, creation of walking trails, building of bird hides and covered walkways, marshland construction and installation of displays and educational material.
Serendip Sanctuary opened to the public in 1991. It is now managed by Parks Victoria and receives support from the Alcoa Landcare Project and Friends groups.
Start your Serendip experience at the Information Centre with a peek down the giant microscope to view the miniscule creatures in the Underwater World.
There are four interconnecting nature trails throughout the Sanctuary, all within 2 km return walk from the Information Centre.
The Wildlife Walk is the most popular trail as it offers close encounters with native wildlife. The walk meanders past Emus and Eastern Grey Kangaroos grazing to viewing areas, hides and flight aviaries perfect for bird watching.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo on the Hop
You may be treated to Brolgas trumpeting, Whistling Kites soaring high overhead, magnificent Yellow-billed Spoonbills wading through the shallow water, or even a glimpse of the well hidden Tawny Frogmouth as it watches you pass by.
Serendip Sanctuary is located at 100 Windermere Road in Lara, off the Princes Highway. It is open from 10am to 4pm every day except for Christmas Day and Good Friday.