Werribee Open Range Zoo: An African Adventure

We had the pleasure of staying in Melbourne for Christmas last year (still not quite used to saying that this early in 2016) and part of our trip involved a trip to Werribee Open Range Zoo, located 35km outside the city centre.

It’s quite similar in a way to a zoo we visited in the Czech Republic, in that it has a safari-like area that lets you experience the animals in a more natural environment, or at least as natural as Victoria can be to the African savannah.

It was a sweltering hot day when we visited and the queue for the safari was really long, around an hour’s wait in the sunshine and inside a jam-packed waiting area. We had travelled with Sinéad’s cousins and their kids who were little troopers, despite the heat.

When we got our seats on the bus there was great excitement as we drove out through the security gate and into the open paddock. It wasn’t quite Jurassic Park excitement but there was definitely something cool about venturing out beyond the fence.

We have a fantastic zoo back home in Dublin which we’ve been too many times and of course I’m an avid viewer of nature documentaries so none of the animals were new but there’s always that buzz of seeing these beautiful creatures in the flesh that I don’t think I’ll ever tire of.

The safari trip was great fun and our driver did a fantastic job of narrating for us along the way, stopping for a closer look at whichever animals were nearest the safari bus/train thingy. I think the fact that it was in Australia and it was a boiling hot day, it really felt like we were actually in Africa at times. The dry grass and dusty roads as well as a really cool African village mock-up which is similar to the real one in Africa where they have a conservation project, made you feel like you were on a real safari trip.

The African theme is prevalent throughout the entire park and I think the designers of Werribee have done an amazing job on capturing that safari feel. From the moment you arrive at the front gate and at every enclosure, there’s great attention to detail to engross you in the safari spirit. The ticket office for instance isn’t just a boring old office with windows, it’s a huge old safari bus complete with roof rack full of dusty old suitcases and luggage.  In front of that, there’s some African animals sculptures for the kids to climb all over.  At every single enclosure there’s design elements everywhere, little details and grander set pieces that I thought were just fantastic.

After our safari adventure we continued on foot and explored the rest of the park where more traditional enclosures gave a glimpse into the African plains and jungles. There were lions, cheetahs, gorillas, meerkats (LOVE THEM!) and vervet monkeys. The lion enclosure was brilliantly designed with an old safari jeep jutting out into the glass of the exhibit where you could sit in the front seat and look out at the lions. I was really impressed with the hippo enclosure too, the main viewing part of which was an old river boat with views from near enough the water’s edge.

The whole park is just brilliantly designed and a great example of a zoo going above and beyond in order to transport you to an exotic place. Like many modern zoos they have numerous conservation projects all over the world and the huge open areas help towards alleviating the view that zoos are cruel and the animals are locked up in tiny enclosures.

I was very impressed with Werribee I must say. I know I keep going on about it but the design of the park is just brilliant and if you’re in the Melbourne area I’d highly recommend a visit.

Check out their website to find out more about Werribee, the experiences they offer and their conservation and research efforts.

And now for the usual photos to give a visual reference of the experience.

The ticket office is designed after an old school safari bus.
There are African design elements everywhere you look.
“What have they got in there? King Kong?”
It was certainly a busy day for the staff at the Safari ride area.
Mmmmmm bison steak….I mean ooh look at the majestic creature.
Built in back scratchers, very handy that.
“Oi mate, what are you lookin at?!”
No safari real or otherwise is complete without some zebra.
We only passed by this mock-up African village on the tour, would love to have explored it up close.
The dragon tree is quite aptly named.
“You’ve got some neck mate!”
Something about this shot just reminded me of some kind of surreal modern art piece. Shall we start the bidding at….ooooh $3 million?
“Oh crap! I left the iron on!!”
One of the tour bus/train thingamajigs approaches some giraffes.
Was so weary of these guys spitting at us as we drove past.
Cute little Galago-like sculpture.
This little Vervet Monkey was happy sitting in front of the glass as visitors snapped away at their cameras.
Yaaay Meerkats!
The kick-ass lion enclosure complete with safari jeep viewing window, such great design work!
The deadliest animal in Africa is not to be trifled with.
The “Kubu Queen” is the main low level viewing area for the hippos and another brilliant piece of enclosure design.
On board the Kubu Queen, it really feels like you’re on a river boat that’s run aground in a hippo watering hole.
Some more neat design touches on board the boat.
The hippos spent there time cooling off in the water before returning to the sandy banks to sun themselves. It’s a tough old life being a hippo.
This African village catering area was closed by the time we arrived but I just loved the colourful style of it. Those hammocks in the background were super comfy too.
I love spotting native wildlife loose amongst the exotic species whilst visiting a zoo. This little rabbit was munching on the nice grasses on the edge of the hippo pond.
That gorgeous deep ochre colour so synonymous with Africa inside this visitors area.
A hippo skull revealing just why you don’t want to get up close and personal with one of these giants.
Some more beautiful African artwork on display.


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