A night at the zoo

Holiday with Kids - - Dubbo, Nsw -

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.

Go­ing be­hind-the-scenes

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.

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