Looking for Dubbo zoo accommodation that’s comfy, unique and above all else, fun? Head to the Zoofari Lodge, where you spend the night glamping with some of Taronga’s most beloved animals.
I wake up shortly before dawn to the chatter of what sounded like thousands of birds.
Rolling out from under the covers, I push past the netted curtains draped around the queen-sized bed.
Jamming my feet into a pair of slippers and pulling on a complimentary bathrobe, I open the door and step outside.
The sun is yet to make an appearance over the horizon, but my fellow animal companions are already awake.
The giraffes moved slowly and gracefully, crossing the plains in front of me, in search of food.
Eland huddled together, drawing warmth from each other in the crisp, early morning air.
In the far distance, I spy an ostrich. A shy creature, I am yet to see it come closer than around 200 metres from where we have spent the night.
As I watch, a Kangaroo bounces out from under a distant tree, completely shattering my African illusion.
This is Australia and I am waking up in the wild at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo.
This guide to staying overnight at Dubbo zoo will cover:
Of course, you don’t need to stay on site at Dubbo zoo to access it. If you’d prefer to just buy a ticket and walk on in, then you’ve a fun day ahead of you.
Dubbo Zoo accommodation: glamping in the ‘wild’ at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
So, did you know you can spend the night at Taronga’s Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo?
Glamping ticks a lot of boxes for sustainable travellers. You’re still in nature, the dwellings are usually eco-friendly.
Options also tend to be a little bit kooky, which is delightful.
Zoos can be a bit hit or miss – they’re either deeply involved in conversation efforts (like Durrell Wildlife Park in Jersey) or… well, their treatment can often not be great.
Taronga fortunately seem to do good work when it comes to conservation, helping sustain many endangered Aussie animals like the cute little Corroboree Frog and one of my favourite birds, the Regent Honeyeater.
Dubbo Zoo has several accommodation options to choose from.
Taronga offers up accommodation in its unique safari lodges, 10 of which are nestled on the edge of a vast savannah. You’ll wake up to see giraffe, ostrich, antelope and zerba hanging around, minding their own business.
The price includes:
- two day zoo entry
- bike hire.
These self-contained cabins look out onto natural grasslands. The perfect Dubbo zoo accommodation for families.
You’re able to choose from a range of packages, with add-ons such as:
- Zoo entry
- bike hire
- dinner and breakfast BBQ hampers
The cabins contain a full kitchen, so it’s also possible to bring what you need and cook or BBQ your own meals.
Alternatively, you can camp out in one of the permanent tents located around a billabong. Listen to lions roar as they settle down for the night.
This experience includes:
- one night’s accommodation
- an Australian barbecue dinner
- continental breakfast
- two day entry to the Zoo.
As I stayed at the Zoofari Lodge, this article will largely cover this experience.
What it’s like to stay at the Zoofari Lodge in Dubbo
I travel from the regional town of Orange to Dubbo, to spend a night in the Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western
We arrive at the zoo at around lunchtime, grabbing our tickets, maps and keys from the front office.
To access Zoofari, you have to travel through a series of gates that are only accessible with a keycard.
We are instructed to stop and wait for each gate to close after entering, to ensure nothing gets into the area, or escapes.
Wouldn’t want a giraffe running wild through the town of Dubbo. That would be quite the sight.
Inside Taronga’s Zoofari Cabins
We are greeted at the gate by a friendly staff member, who leads us to our lodge.
Half cabin, half tent, it’s split into two partitions.
The bathroom is separated by a sliding mirror over the head of the bed and a door.
We are spoiled with the choice of a shower and a bathtub. I resolve to spend a few minutes unwinding in the tub at some point in our trip.
Three quarters of the cabin is divided into the front room, which features a couch that can unfold into a sofa bed, a fridge, a kettle (so I can have my morning cuppa, excellent) and a glass table, which boasts a trio of green apples and a pair of binoculars.
Dead centre there’s a queen sized bed. A luxury.
The bed is draped with a mosquito net – a practical item that gives the entire room a whimsical look. It’s necessary for this part of the state, which can be swarmed by the annoying little buggers at a moment’s notice.
The African Savannah
Best of all, the cabin that we’ve chosen looks out onto a field that is peppered with African animals.
When I step outside the cabin and stare out at the “African Savannah” for the first time, a giraffe looks back at me, holding my gaze as it munches slowly through its evening meal.
The meals inside the Zoofari Lodge
After taking a little time to settle in, we head to the mainstay – the Zoofari Lodge, where we’ll eat dinner tonight and breakfast the next morning.
The evening kicks off with the wine tastings from around this particular region (Orange is famous Australia-wide and possibly beyond for its wine) and… why, Africa, of course!
The accompanying snacks are the real treat – all sorts of delicious breads and cheeses, presented with steaming bowls of crocodile and camel.
For the record, croc tastes like fishy chicken.
After the vino and snacks, we sit down for dinner.
It’s a buffet, with a decent spread. We choose from salad, goat meat, cous cous, lamb and barramundi (a type of white fish), with delicious damper (an Australian rendition of soda bread) on the side.
The food is served up in bowls along the table, that are passed around, from person to person.
There were two possible downsides to this scenario.
If you are sat at the end of the table, half the plates end up being cold, or practically empty by the time they reach the end.
The other is that because you’re all sat at the same table, you’re forced to chat with everyone else.
This of course is lovely when you’re in the right frame of mind (unless you hate all social interactions). If you’re tired and don’t fancy making small talk with strangers, it can be a bit of a struggle.
The food is good. Dessert in particular, is delicious.
The night time tour
We gather after dinner for a night time tour of some of the zoo’s most beloved animals.
The tour kicks off with an introduction to ‘Cuddles’, a longtime resident of the zoo (since 1977, in fact) and the only Western African Elephant in Australasia.
What a beautiful creature she is, ambling over towards us in the dark, lured in by the promise of delicious treats.
Cuddles has never been bred and had seen the demise of the other members of her herd (most unsettling for her was the death of her good friend Yum Yum in 2010).
She now spends her days in the company of the zoo’s other “Golden Girls” – Asian Elephants Gigi and Burma, who we are to meet the next morning.
From there, we move onto one of the zoo’s White Rhinos, a species which is severely threatened in the wild, due to poaching.
We get a good look at ‘Lazarus’ the Lion and end with a visit to the resident Hippos.
‘Niall’ is happy to see us and came out for some grub. ‘Happy’, in direct contradiction to his name, simply snorts and disappeared back under the water.
The tour concludes at 930pm. I’m sleepy from the sun, food and wine.
We collapse into bed and I sleep a deep and easy sleep, until the early hours of the morning, when I’m roused from my sleep by the area’s local birds, just in time to watch the sunrise.
Breakfast time for the zoo’s inhabitants
We meet at 7am (so early!) for our last activity of the day – feeding the animals breakfast!
First up on the agenda are our neighbours, the giraffes.
We each get to slip a piece of carrot to the two that choose to amble on over.
The giraffes eagerly slurp the carrots out of our hands, which is nice until the keeper Naomi tells us they regularly stick their tongues up their own noses.
Thank goodness for hand sanitiser.
We then pay a visit to an Eastern Bongo – a type of antelope.
As one of the males eagerly eats up our carrots, Naomi notes that there are only 200-odd left in the wild, making them critically endangered.
From there it’s onto an equally endangered creature, thanks to poaching in its home continent of Africa – the Black Rhino.
We met ‘Chikundo’ – briefly, as he loses interest in us fairly quickly.
Taronga is taking part in an international breeding program for the Rhinos, with the first second-generation calf born at the zoo in 2010.
Last but not least is a close encounter with the zoo’s aforementioned “Golden Girls” – ‘Gigi’, ‘Burma’ and ‘Cuddles’, during their morning baths.
After a rundown on the animals from the keeper’s, Gigi blows us kisses and Cuddles waves goodbye with her trunk.
AND WE DRIVE PAST THE ELEPHANT ENCLOSURE AND GET A GLIMPSE OF THE THEN NEW BABY ELEPHANT BEFORE HE IS PUT OUT ON DISPLAY WITH THE OTHER ELEPHANTS!
And then it’s over. We gather our bags and with one last look around the Zoofari Lodge, depart.
It isn’t with heavy hearts however, as we still have the rest of Taronga Western Plains Zoo to explore – by bike, nonetheless!
Is staying at the Zoofari Lodge worth it?
In a word, yes.
All in all, you get pretty good value from spending the night at the Zoofari Lodge.
Here are the two options and prices for this Dubbo zoo accommodation.
The Animal View Lodge is $876.00 for two adults.
The Bushland View Lodge is $756.00 for two adults.
It seems a lot, but then again, you also get:
- two day zoo admission
- bike hire (or electric safari hire if you select the ‘Premium Package’
- two behind the scene tours
- African style canapés, banquet dinner and dessert
- buffet breakfast
- all drinks included, excluding premium range, cocktails and minibar
Personally, if I were staying overnight at Dubbo zoo, I’d shell out for the Zoofari Lodge. The cabins are comfy, chic and hey – you can’t beat the views!
Plus, you can say you’ve tried glamping at Dubbo zoo. Street cred to you, my friend.
Are you a fan of glamping? Have you spent the night sleeping in any Dubbo zoo accommodation yourself?
Please note, this experience takes place on the lands of the Wiradjuri people. We acknowledge them as Traditional Owners and pay our respects to Elders, past and present.