2 April 2014
Australia is among the best places in the world to see incredible animals. Each state has a wildly diverse, vibrant and important wildlife ecosystem. In New South Wales, places like Taronga Zoo combine Sydney’s stunning cityscape, with wildlife found in Australia and the rest of the world. But did you know there’s another Taronga Zoo? I had no idea. Thanks to the Best Job in the World, I found out, and it’s amazing!
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located in Dubbo, in the heart of NSW. I headed to the zoo to see John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) help kick off the launch of the new Zoofari Lodges. To my surprise, John was an ardent animal fan and a patron of the Taronga Foundation. Surrounded on stage by stuffed toy lemurs, he spoke about how intrigued he was by animals, and why it was important to take time out to connect with nature.
The Zoofari Lodges are nothing short of amazing. Zebras, water buffalo, kangaroos and giraffes can be seen directly from your front verandah. You can even slide your double-doors all the way open to see the animals from your bed! Luxury amenities combined with a safari camping experience are what the Zoofari Lodges are all about.
The following morning, the sunrise safari bus picked me up at 6.30am to greet the giraffes with some carrots as the sun came up. They knew it was snack time and sheepishly drew near to check out my offerings with their 50cm-long blue tongues. After the giraffes finished their treats, we drove to see the elephants during their morning bath time. It was incredible to witness them actively thinking; their level of intelligence and interaction with the zookeepers is amazing and you can feel their individual wisdom. The only African elephant in Australia, Cuddles, for example, displays a maturity in her 44-year-old personality. Although you see their playfulness, it’s impossible not to recognise their power.
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo grounds are a massive expanse that lend to exploring. Visitors can roam the six kilometre circuit by car, bike, electric cart or on foot. As you travel through the zoo, each new animal and environment you come across becomes an exciting new discovery. Between waking up to the sounds of nature; feeding giraffes, tigers and bongos; and watching cheetahs, rhinos and hippos come out for meal time; there’s a sense of closeness you achieve in Dubbo that seems unmatched by any other zoo.
It’s incredibly easy to get enveloped in the world of Taronga Western Plains Zoo, but the city of Dubbo itself has an interesting history. The town was founded by a Belgian man who set up a storefront to service miners at the beginning of the gold rush in the late 1840s. The Old Dubbo Gaol was founded in 1859, creating a long and wild history of prisoners and their tales. The jail tour I went on involved being arrested, attempting escape, and being locked in solitary confinement with a stranger within the first 10 minutes! I had no idea what was happening, but it was a great experience. The real stories to come out of the jail are fascinating; I dare you to visit on any Friday the 13th for their ‘Fright Night’.
I highly recommend you check out the city, it’s history, and the magnificent animals that call it home.