Insiders’ Secrets – Karen James

15 February 2016

Karen James, Insider Secrets

Karen James, Insiders’ Secrets. Image credit: Taronga Western Plains Zoo

Go wild at the zoo: The Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is the best place to work and an inspiring place to visit with hundreds of amazing animals to see and plenty of fun ways to get around. You can ride a bike, drive an electric cart or a car, or walk the 6km circuit.

Catch a keeper talk: There are 10 daily talks by keepers and my favourite (apart from the meerkats of course) is the Galapagos tortoise. I’m so proud of our breeding program and that visitors can see tiny tortoises right through to 100-year-old specimens.

Meet a meerkat: Giving people the chance to connect with my favourite animal is the best part of my day. There’s nothing better than having a meerkat doing sentry duty on your shoulder. We run meerkat encounters three days a week in a new space which just opened.

Waking up in the wild: The best way to experience the zoo is to stay the night. We have three options available, from camping right through to luxury lodges with views of the savannah.

Fresh and local: Dubbo Farmers Market (the first and third Saturday of every month) is where I stock up on local produce and kick start the day with my favourite coffee and a chat with friends over breakfast. As well as seasonal fresh produce, there’s bread, a selection of local pork, beef and lamb, olive oils, preserves, jams, marinades, honey, wine, nuts and so much more.

Kayaking on the Macquarie River: I love an early morning paddle on the river where, if you’re up early enough, you might be lucky to spot a platypus.

On the water: I like to kayak along the Macquarie River on the weekends. It’s quite and relaxing. You can also try stand-up paddle boarding too with Adventure Watersports.

Another world: Old Dubbo Gaol is well worth a visit to see what prison life was like in the 1800s. It’s a fun thing to do as they have theatrical performances and guided tours. If you’re brave, you can go on a night tour to see if there are any ghosts about.

Sparkling stalactites: The amazing Wellington Caves and Phosphate Mine are just an hour’s drive from Dubbo but you’ll feel like you’re in a prehistoric world. As well as the limestone caves, there‘s an incredible collection of mega fauna fossil bones and other fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Period, two million years ago.

Picnic time: Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is a great place for a picnic and the kids will love looking at the fish in the ponds. It’s a pretty interesting spot with four distinctive gardens, including a traditional Japanese Garden, the Sensory Gardens designed to engage visitors through the senses, the Biodiversity Garden which showcases plant species of the Dubbo region, and Oasis Valley which exhibits dry rainforest species.

A touch of culture: I enjoy the ever changing exhibitions at Western Plains Cultural Centre. It’s also a great place for a coffee.