The Melbourne Zoo is another one of those touristy things that I’ve been meaning to tick off every weekend ever since I moved to Melbourne.
Embarrassingly, I’m now at the 18th month mark and up until a few week’s ago still hadn’t crossed the Melbourne Zoo threshold. Once I’d even come as close as parking and walking up to the front gate, only to retreat to the shelter of the car – it was an Antarctica-esque day and I had stupidly arrived with no rain coat, open-toed footwear and one poor excuse of an umbrella. I wanted to make sure I got the most of my $31.60 entry fee by not turning back the moment I entered the gates, so reluctantly decided to come back another day.
So there I was, this particular rare sunny Sunday, having the same idea as thousands of other Melburnians, going by the number of cars I was duelling with in the car park (and on the grass* and median strip).
* I followed the lead of hundreds of cars before me and parked outside the designated parking bays making my own U-Park on the grass. Sans any signs alerting me to the fact that I needed to pay for this grass-parking pleasure, I decided to roll the dice and leave my dash empty. I figured that any parking inspector would run out of fine-wielding paper by the time they made their way to my car, with many ticketless, rebel dashes coming before mine. It proved a winner! No fine and free parking at Melbourne Zoo.
Personally welcomed to Melbourne Zoo by King Julian
Handed a map on entry, I quickly devised a navigational plan and headed off in the direction of the lemurs, gorillas and monkeys – although clearly everyone had the same plan because that area was a zoo in itself. I felt wildly out of place with the lack of two screaming kids under the age of six tugging at my legs.
My first stop, the lemurs, was one of the best parts of the day, being personally welcomed to Melbourne Zoo by Madagascar’s King Julian.
Gorillas, tigers and elephants
The gorillas were also equally as fascinating, with two mumma gorillas cradling their baby gorillas and the highly intimidating, super strong-looking daddy gorillas charging about making everyone grateful they were behind thick (I hope) Perspex.
From there, I visited the tiger who insisted on disturbingly pacing his cage, the herd of fascinating elephants with their weird active tusks (seriously, I’ve never sat and intently watched a tusk before and it’s so weird – next time, pay special attention), the cute wombat sleeping under the heat lamp and the butterfly house, which was hands down the most terrifying part of the day. Definitely more terrifying than the reptile house, with its brown snakes, cobras and crocodiles. Why, I cannot explain. All I know is that I could not get out of the enclosed atrium fast enough, knocking over people as I went, terrified of the butterflies the size of saucers flying about and making themselves at home in my hair.
The time when a seagull shat on my head
I had just sat down for lunch at the outdoors take-away plaza when I felt what could have been a water balloon splatter across my head. However, given the lack of water balloons in sight and rather the flock of screeching seagulls flying overhead, I highly doubted that it was water running down the side of my head. I promptly put down my $10 chicken schnitzel burger and made my way to the parents’ room. Lady with bird poo on her head coming through.
After the poo situation was resolved, I enviously watched a few smart people picnicking on the zoo’s grounds and wished I’d been organised enough to bring along a basket of goodies. They all looked so happy with their gloriously-stocked hampers.
Melbourne Zoo is…
On the drive out to Parkville that morning, my big kid of a husband couldn’t contain his excitement about seeing Melbourne Zoo for the first time. Literally, bouncing around in the car like he’d wet his pants. And while my excitement wasn’t at a deranged level like his, I’m happy to admit that I had a terrific day (minus the seagull poo) harnessing my inner child and getting friendly with the lions, tigers and bears.
I also wished I’d been a little more organised and made an effort to attend the various animal’s daily presentations (I got to zero). Especially the skylarking seals. Having seen the seal arena, I feel the show would have been something unexpected, just as the incredibly professional Wild Sea aquarium (which also houses penguins and Port Jackson sharks) blew my mind. It’s amazing!
Opened in 1862, Melbourne Zoo is Australia’s oldest zoo and while it may be historic it’s by no means outdated; rather it’s a fantastic, modern, interactive animal sanctuary, with lots to see and do. Plus, it’s incredibly peaceful to spend an afternoon roaming about the impressively-manicured grounds – you can easily forget you’re only four kilometres from the Melbourne CBD.
Spread out across 22 hectares, Melbourne Zoo is easy to explore in dedicated habitat loops. Make sure you allow plenty of time as it took me four hours to relaxingly amble about making sure I saw all of my zoo favourites, including the meerkats, elephants and orang-utans (who were cleverly trying to figure out how to get an apple out of a cage using sticks as tools).
I can see why it’s such a great family outing, keeping kids thoroughly entertained all day (and did I mention their entry is FREE on weekends). Although my big kid found another way to amuse himself all day, deciding to create an animal bum album. Enjoy…
Melbourne Zoo | Elliott Avenue, Parkville, Victoria
Open daily 9am–5pm
Cost: adult, $31.60; child (4–15) on weekends, school holidays and public holidays, free; child (4–15) Monday–Friday, $15.80; child (0–3) everyday, free; concession and family package deals available