Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Let's Go to The Zoo

The common responses we got were either “When at the giraffes, the view of the city is amazing” or “Take the ferry. You’ll get to see the city from a different perspective.” Not quite the response I was expecting. No mention of animals, just views. Which got me thinking, is it worth the trip (and not to mention $$) to visit the zoo then or should we ditch the zoo and make other plans? By the time I got round to making the decision, it was too late to make other plans. To the zoo we are going.

There are several ways to get to the zoo – by land or sea. Not wanting to disregard one of the common advises received, we made our way to Circular Quay to catch the ferry. There are several ferry services that ply the same route (public & private owned). Just choose one that fits your timing/budget and you are on your way. Upon arrival at Circular Quay Wharf 6, we purchased the Taronga Zoo Combo Pass ($55 per person, valued at $84) from Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper. With this pass, we were entitled to
  • Entry to Taronga Zoo
  • 24 Hour Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper Pass (this allowed us to get on and off the Eco Hopper as many times as we like at the different stops).
The first ferry out was scheduled to leave in 15 minutes and the next would only leave after 1 hour. Thus we made up our minds to have breakfast on the zoo compounds instead of at the quay. Due to the “early departure”, there were not many passengers on this first trip. Most of us opted to sit on the upper deck - to soak in the view of the city (and hopefully some Vitamin D from the sunshine). 12 minutes later, we arrived at Taronga Zoo Wharf. 

Early view of the ferry ride.
Our early arrival meant  we had to make our way to the main entrance since the entrance closest to the wharf opens only later. With the option to take the Sky Safari cable car (price included in our ticket) or a free shuttle bus, we chose Sky Safari - hoping to get a bird’s eye view of Sydney city without having to hire a helicopter. And though we did get the bird’s eye view, it is probably a bird that flew below the cable lines of the ride. Somehow I do not recall the views from my other cable car rides blocked by cable lines but it’s OK, the best view is at the giraffes remember?

Walking to the gates, I remembered that zoo map I printed the day before is on my dining table at home! This did not prove to be much of a problem as free maps are available from the information counter. Children are also entitled to activity sheets – perhaps to keep them occupied in between animals. Lockers are also available for rent, although I am not sure what type of items visitors would bring along on a zoo trip only to find out that they are not needed after all. Anyways with map in hand and a sense of adventure, we are ready to begin our exploration of the zoo!

Wanting to make the most of ticket price (and also this could be our one and only trip), I declared to  Mr. H, 

"Be prepared! We will not leave until we explore all trails (all 9 of them), visit every animal enclosure (some of them are on the main path, off the trails), listen to all keeper talks and watch all shows."

Mr. H looked at me then turned to walk towards the alligators. OK good, he got the message.

Alligator does not only begin with the letter A (the first of 26 alphabets), they are also the first exhibit of the zoo from the main entrance. They are then followed by koalas, frogs and Reptile World (Trail #1). We however made our way towards Taronga Food Market – fill up our empty stomachs first and cover trails later. Walking quickly along the path, we reached the giraffe enclosure.. Lo and behold! The view that greeted us – the backdrop of the city, the harbour, the zoo surroundings etc..  words could not do justice to describe the beauty of it. Even the pictures we took with our phone cameras cannot really capture the moment - having to fight with others for the view didn't help either. I must agree though, I will be joining the long line of people recommending this not to be missed view when visiting the zoo!

Lucky owners - prime property with a view
The rumblings in our tummy not so subtly reminded us of our empty stomachs. We continued our way to the food market. Although the place open for business at 11am, there was a stall for us to buy coffee and light snacks.

We had our breakfast with a good view of the elephants (strikes that off the list). In between the munching, slurping and appreciating the baby elephant’s cuteness, we planned to do the Seal Walk (Trail #5), listen to Seal Keeper’s talk and watch the Seal Show. Alas due to timings and locations (zoo authorities should plan this better), we had to ditch the talk but caught the show and did walk instead.

The Seal show is not only entertaining, it is educational as well. Somehow, the concept and the way the show is delivered is different from what I am used to. We are not only entertained by the tricks performed by the seal, at the same time we are educated on how we can each do our part to help maintain the marine's ecosystem for future generations (humans and sea animals). After this, I definitely will keep a look out for the MSC-certified seafood logo when buying fish. 

By stroke of luck, we also caught the QBE Bird Show. Despite being late, we got good "standing seats" behind the hedges of the show area. Again, an entertaining yet educational segment. We were introduced to different types of birds, their lifestyles and how they are currently threatened in our world. The hosts also share on what each of us can do to help save the environment and make it safe to for the birds e.g. picking up litter and throwing it in the trash.

Taronga Zoo does emphasis on conservation and this can be seen clearly from both shows. I am confident that all their other shows carry the same message as well.

Although there were many animals at the Zoo, my favourite would of course have to be the koalas. Looking all fluffy and moving slowly (if they are moving at all) between the tree branches, they look adorable! Koala encounters are also available for a fee. Here, you get the chance to be up, close and personal with a koala and take home a picture for remembrance. Do sign up early if you decide to do this as tickets are limited and can sell out.

A total of 6 hours were spent walking along trails & paths, watching the animal shows and meal breaks in between. It was time well spent. The zoo is not only a place to learn about the animals, habitats and conservation efforts, it is also a great place to spend time with family and friends. There are numerous play areas for children (doubles as good photo taking opportunities), picnic areas & gardens to enjoy your meal especially when the restaurants/ cafes are full and quiet areas for you to sit and reflect. Ooo.. keep an eye out for some free-roaming animals (mainly birds) and remember, do not feed them. 

The visit to the zoo would not be complete without a quick stop at the Zoo shop and its delightful array of souveniers. Quite a number of things caught our eye and in the end, we settled on a family of owls. They were too cute to resist!

First house decor in Sydney

We boarded the 3:45pm ferry towards the Circular Quay and took the longer route because our 24 hour pass entitles us so. Again, we took the upper deck to take advantage of the views. It tends to get cold, my tip is to bring along a light jacket for a more comfortable ride. Also, if planning to wear a hat/cap, make sure it is tight enough so it would not fly off your head. 

The ferry ride took us to Watsons Bay and Manly with several stops in between. If it had been earlier in the day, we could actually disembark and explore these little towns (each had its own specialty and different activities) and take the next ferry back. 

Sail boat between Watsons Bay and Manly
However not only it was getting late, we were knackered from the zoo and had a dinner appointment to go to. Also, the storm gates were gonna break open any moment and we didn't the possibility of being late because of the weather. 

Overall, I had a great day. Taronga Zoo is not only entertaining for children, also for adults without children! Definitely worth a second (or third or more) visit.

For zoo map, tips and information on making the best of your visit to Taronga Zoo, go to

For Sydney Harbour Eco Hopper (the ferry service we used), go to

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