A night at the zoo
to rival its big city cousin, with experiences designed to get you cosily close to the animals – including the five-star Zoofari Lodge. We arrive at the zoo bright and early and spend the morning meeting the inhabitants. After getting up close with Galapagos tortoises, big cats and zebra, we are hot, tired and ready for a lie down. Our 2pm check-in couldn’t have arrived at a better time. We are allocated an Animal View Lodge, right on the edge of the African savannah. It looks enough like a tent that my daughter gleefully proclaims, “We’re camping!” Meanwhile I switch on the air conditioning – with a joy almost equal to hers – and relax in cool comfort.
Giraffes wander nearby to nibble at some hay, ostriches casually amble past and water buffalo roam in the distance. We are invited to join the rest of the group at the central guest house, and it takes a substantial effort to tear ourselves away from both the view and our luxurious lodge. We sip on cool cocktails and try local wines until our African buffet is served for dinner. After watching a spectacular sunset over the western plains, we prepare ourselves for the first tour of our stay.
The Zoofari bus leaves at 8pm sharp and we are taken to meet the very hungry hippos, a white rhino and the eastern bongo, of which there are estimated to be less than 200 left in the wild. The red-striped herbivore is keen to munch on the carrots we offer. In case you’re wondering, it’s quite the gooey experience.
When the tour is finished, we spend a peaceful night in our lodge, punctuated with the occasional call of the wild. All is still until dawn, when my slumber is disturbed by the sun piercing through the curtains. With the rest of the family still fast asleep, I quietly move to the balcony and sit in silence watching the sunrise as it illuminates animals foraging for breakfast. Cockatoos and kangaroos graze alongside the water buffalo, and the odd bush bunny bounces through the grass.
On the morning tour agenda is a visit to some highly endangered animals: the somewhat cranky black rhino and the Madagascar lemurs. The adorable and cheeky meerkats get a visit too, as do the Asian elephants who are in the middle of their morning beauty routine.
The highlight of our morning tour is hand-feeding the giraffes. Seeing their giant heads descending towards us, with long blue tongues poking out in search of a carrot, is an exhilarating experience for our daughter and one I wish we could repeat over and over.
But our stomachs are grumbling and breakfast calls, so it’s back to the lodge we go for a hearty buffet breakfast that satisfies our empty bellies, and one last look at the giraffes as we check out of the lodge.
But I know we will be back, when the wild calls again.