Your guide plucks something white and sugary-looking off a leaf and explains how lerp insects exude this sweet substance, used by Aboriginal people as a bush snack. He asks if anyone wants a taste and your kids eagerly dive forward. As they eat the bush tucker, you marvel how far this is from the processed food they demand at home. Next, they breathe in the scent of the fruit-salad bush, the leaves of which can be used for perfume. This park is a wonderful showcase for the diversity and special characteristics of desert flora and fauna.
■ The ranger talks and tours – if possible call ahead to find out the schedule for the day.
■ The Nature Theatre presentations, held twice daily, where free-flying birds of prey come in for a feed and demonstrate their natural survival skills. You might even see one of them crack open an emu egg with a stick and drink the contents!
■ Tasting food on the Aboriginal bush foods talk.
■ The nocturnal mammal house where you can see unusual animals such as the bilby and quoll.
■ The early-morning guided birdwatching tours. The tours operate twice a week and binoculars are provided.
■ The Changing Heart movie, which screens on the hour and explains desert evolution.
One of the animals you can see in Alice Springs Desert Park is the mala. This is a small, rabbit-sized wallaby with very shaggy fur. Mala were virtually extinct in mainland Australia, but a successful breeding program is being undertaken here.
■ Allow at least three hours for your visit.
■ The park is divided into different regions so you actually walk through and experience woodland habitat, sand country and a desert river region.
■ Birds and some mammals of the regions are displayed either in walk-through aviaries or behind large windows.
■ Park maps in Chinese, Japanese, French, German and Italian can be downloaded from the website.
■ Audio guides are available in English, Japanese, French and German.
■ There is an air-conditioned cafe in the courtyard.
■ Make sure you carry water, but if you need an extra drink, there are coin-operated drink machines and water drinking fountains around the park.
■ There is a picnic area with barbecues.
■ Strollers can be borrowed (no cost) from the main courtyard area.
■ Nocturnal spotlighting tours (extra cost) are offered every weeknight, sometimes followed by a barbecue dinner.