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.