Combine lions and the thought of sleeping in a tent and you’d probably imagine you’re on safari. While that remains a travel dream, this was a little more achievable.
Roar and snore at Sydney’s Taronga Zoo came as a surprise to me. Not just because I didn’t know where I was headed when told to pack my bags for the night, but also because of the quality of the next 15 or so hours.
Arriving at the zoo around 6:45pm, you’re met by three guides who act as your hosts for the evening. We were immediately told how lucky we were with only 15 others joining us for the night (there can be up to 40) and indeed we were. I think everyone had a tent in the front row facing this view:
Phenomenal, yes? Talk about special.
The evening was a surprise as I was celebrating my birthday, and what a surprise it was. Taken to our “camp” site, we immediately declared it glamping over camping, given our tent had a double bed and electric blankets. Oh, and did I mention the view?!
Shortly after arrival we were called to the main common area for drinks and nibbles. This was wonderful. Not only was there a wide array of food and beverages (everything from carrot sticks – thank you – to cheese and biscuits, fruit, nuts and chips), as we were eating our hosts brought around some of the animals for us to meet.
I faced a fear and got up close and personal with a snake (and this friendly lizard!) after a glass of wine, and of course, after properly washing my hands!
We were served dinner (roast with vegetables) and then set out on a night tour of the zoo. I didn’t take photos here as the flash would hurt many of the animals eyes and having been surprised by the night I only had my iPhone for a camera.
However, what was so special about this tour (and our behind-the-scenes tours the next day) was just how knowledgable our hosts were. They answered every question asked and we learnt a lot. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn just how well cared for these animals are. All are given enrichment in order to fulfill their lives, use muscles that would be utilized it the wild and, ultimately, be happy in what is their home.
After a few hours exploring the zoo, we were exhausted and were led back to our camp. Dessert followed, though I skipped this having more than filled up on the wonderful and healthy food earlier in the evening.
Sent to bed with full bellies, we were warned of an early start. Around 6:50 am the next morning, we set off on three behind-the-scenes tours, meeting several keepers and getting very involved. Inside the bear enclosure type involved. This is where we met Mr Hobbs.
Mr Hobbs, a gorgeous sun bear, was rescued from the restaurant trade in Cambodia. Make up your own mind about zoos, but trust me, this is a step up.
Ok, so obviously we couldn’t be in Mr Hobbs’ enclosure when he was there, but our job was pretty important. Each day, Mr Hobbs is provided with enrichment to his life. So, how do you enrich a bear’s life? By making him forage.
We spent part of the morning hiding eggs in trees, spreading honey under logs and, quite interestingly, spraying different scents around the enclosure.
We were then led outside the enclosure while Mr Hobbs was let back in. It was pretty special watching him discover our treats!
Our experience ended here, but we went on to enjoy several hours at the zoo in the daylight. Roar and Snore was a wonderful experience, and with the entire ticket price being donated to animal conservation, well worth the price tag.
The Healthy Globetrotter