Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is an icon of Australia, there’s no doubt about it.
The zoo first opened its gates in 1916 and celebrated its 100th birthday a handful of weeks ago (Friday the 7th October 2016, to be exact). It’s undoubtedly one of Sydney’s top attractions – in a city that has more than a few manmade and natural features that routinely dazzle the millions of tourists that step on her shores every year (9.2 million in 2016).
So, what’s so great about Sydney’s Taronga Zoo? The breathtaking harbour views certainly help. Yet, the appeal of the zoo goes deeper than that.
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A Zoo That Cares About Conservation
I’m careful about the zoos that I visit when travelling. Taronga take good care of their animals and are involved with many conservation projects, at home and abroad.
Many native Australian animals are at risk or endangered for many reasons. Introduced predators, loss of habit and a changing climate are all factors that are to blame. Can you imagine Australia without its beautifully deadly biodiversity? I certainly cannot!
Taronga are actively involved in the conservation and/or breeding programs of many Australian animals – the Regent Honeyeater, Koalas, the super shy Cassowary and Australia’s beloved Platypus – one of the world’s last remaining Monotremes (egg-laying mammals).
Across the ocean, Taronga funds various conservation efforts, such as the Elephant Transfer Home in Sri Lanka and The Bukit Tigapuluh Ecosystem in Sumatra.
The zoo is also involved in protecting Southeast Asia’s bears and is home to two Sun Bears – Mary and Mr. Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs himself was once a victim of the illegal wildlife trade, which has left scars upon his psyche. He is easily stressed and agitated, but has become noticeably calmer since finding a mate in Mary!
Highlights of Sydney’s Taronga Zoo
The animals, of course!
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo is home to a wide range of animals, from all over the globe. Giraffes, elephants, zebras, snakes, spiders, kangaroos, quokkas, seals, penguins and enough feathered creatures to keep this bird lover in seventh heaven. Estimated time spent in bird enclosures – three of the four hours we spent at the zoo.
You can wander around at your own leisure, or time your visits to specific enclosures to coincide with the Keeper talks. There’s a wide range of these talks available to choose from, every day.
Aside from seeing all of the fauna – feathered, scaly and furry alike, there are a few other attractions that make Sydney’s Taronga Zoo stand out.
Heights don’t faze you, nor do you suffer from terrifying vertigo?
I’m jealous! I can’t do anything involving heights without wetting myself.
You should give the “Wild Ropes” a whirl. Then let me know how you went. Or don’t, because my palms will sweat just hearing about it.
You’ll spend 90 minutes climbing through the trees, spotting local Australian fauna and ogling the Harbour’s famous landmarks, such as the Bridge and Opera House – a sight that never fails to make my heart beat faster.
There’s all sorts of challenges to face, such as flying foxes, aerial rock climbing and even a hover board, which made this feature amusing to watch from a ground level.
There’s two low level and high level courses. You can choose the $35 Adventure Package (not including zoo entry) that allows access to one low and one high level course, or the Ultimate Challenge ($60) if you wish to tackle all four courses.
More information on pricing can be found here.
Roar & Snore
If adventure courses aren’t really your thing and you really want a few extra hours to soak up the views, why not consider spending the night at the zoo?
An overnight visit gives you the chance to get up and close with some of the zoo’s resident animals through small, behind-the-scenes tours. Alongside that, you’ll get fed a buffet dinner, tea, coffee and nibbles and provided with a continental breakfast.
Not to mention the fact that you get to wake up to the sight of dawn breaking over Sydney Harbour, which would hardly be an upsetting experience.
Be sure to get in early. As you can imagine, Roar & Snore is extremely popular and books out well in advance.
Taronga offers “Adult Only” Roar & Snore nights, sans other people’s children. If I were booking, that’s definitely a night that I would clear my schedule for.
If you’re simply at the zoo to get up and close to as many animals as possible (for which I can hardly blame you), your desire would be somewhat satisfied (as it’s never truly satisfied where animals are concerned, is it?) by an Animal Encounter.
Sydney’s Taronga Zoo offer four options for animal encounters at the time of writing – getting up close to a koala or penguin, feeding a giraffe, or holding an owl on your wrist. All of these sound like lovely options.
If you want to go next level, you can opt to become a keeper for the day. You’ll help prepare food, clean the enclosures and feed and meet some of the zoo’s animals.
Getting to the Zoo
Taronga Zoo is perched on the edge of Sydney Harbour, in the suburb of Mosman. You have a few of choices available in accessing the zoo.
First up, you can drive, or catch a bus there. Sydney is not what I’d call a “driveable” city due to its spaghetti streets – yet that’s what everyone ends up doing, due to the lack of reliable public transport.
The city’s pristine coastline is serviced by buses, rather than trains. On the upside, it keeps the shores free of railway tracks. On the downside, they get to be cluttered by roads and traffic instead.
So, my advice is to forget those options. Instead, catch a train or bus to Circular Quay and travel to Taronga Zoo via boat.
Sydney has the most beautiful harbour in the world, in my not so humble opinion. Half the fun of going to the zoo is getting there. It’s the journey, rather than the destination itself, amirite?
Hop on a ferry from Wharf 2 at the Quay, where you can also purchase a zoo ticket (here’s the timetable for the ferries).
Alternatively, you can choose one of the hop on, hop off boat services that combine ticket prices with a tour around the Harbour.
Once you’re there, you’ll take the Safari Cable Car to the zoo entrance, which gives you aerial views of the city skyline and a bird’s eye view of some of the animal’s enclosures – most notably the elephants!
Ticket prices for Zoo entry are $46 dollars for adults, $36 concession and $26 for children. You can save money by booking online in advance.
Have you been to Taronga Zoo? Would it find a place on your Sydney “must-see” list?
All prices are in Australian dollars.