Taronga Zoo Sydney, like its counterpart Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, does some incredible work with conservation and following the 100th birthday celebration they’ve really amped it up. Although we only had limited days in Sydney on this visit I knew we had to spend one of them at the zoo.
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Getting to Taronga Zoo Sydney
We caught the Taronga Zoo Sydney ferry from Circular Quay in the city and got that spectacular view of Sydney City from the water. It really is a beautiful city with the sun reflecting off the harbour.
The crossing only takes 12 minutes and costs $5.74 each way on Sydney ferries.
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This year is a major milestone for Sydney’s Taronga Zoo. It’s celebrating a century since it opened its doors for the first time in October 1916. We’d heard the zoo had a great position and was worth visiting for the views alone, that seemed a bit far fetched but being set high on a hill it really did have a stellar position over the harbour and looking out on several Sydney icons including both the Sydney Opera House (opened 1958) and the harbour bridge (opened 1923).
We love to include wildlife parks and experiences in our travels but we’re selective with the parks we choose to visit. We prefer to skip those that don’t have animal welfare and protection at the top of their list of priorities.
Taronga Zoo is a non-profit organisation so it’s not driven to create rewards for its shareholders, it’s also a substantial contributor to conservation efforts each year both in its financial support and actions. Animal enclosures and treatment are in line with top world standards and just talking to a couple of staff members around the zoo during the day they clearly care about the animals.
Taronga Zoo’s conservation programme
This year the zoo is on track to raise $1 million to kick off a long term programme for the conservation of 10 critically endangered species. Half are native to Australia, the other half are international projects.
The native conservation efforts include the Corroboree Frog, Regent Honeyeater, Platypus, Greater Bilby and Marine Turtle. The International projects focus on the Asian Elephant, Sumatran Rhino, Sun Bear, Pangolin and Sumatran Tiger.
Planning your day at Taronga Zoo Sydney
Most visitors to Sydney arrive at the zoo by ferry which means you need to make your way to the entry which is at the top of the hill. This is where some knowledge in advance can come in useful. You can only buy tickets on-site from the main entrance at the top and you can’t use the cable car up the hill unless you already have your ticket.
It seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity but it’s how it works. We didn’t know this in advance so had to take the bus (which conveniently meets the ferry but it’s an extra cost). A better option would have been to pre-purchase tickets online and ride up on the cable car from the ferry for a spectacular view of the harbour, city and zoo to start your day.
The zoo and cable car both open at 9.30 am. Standard entry tickets for Taronga Zoo Sydney purchased at the gate are $49 for adults and $29 for a child with various family, concession and annual pass options available.
Either way, you need to begin exploring the zoo from the top and if you want to see everything this makes sense anyway as you’ll want to follow the established routes through the various zones without overlapping too much. Seeing it all is going to involve a lot of walking even if you use the cable car to return to the top when you want to. In order to be at shows and food/facilities zones it’s likely you’ll want to use the included cable car rides at least once.
On the issue of mobility, the zoo has wide smooth paths for access with pushchairs or wheelchairs. From what I saw although the entire zoo is built on a hill all areas were wheelchair accessible. Low gradient ramps and lifts were provided in some parts, and accessible toilets and parents’ rooms were also available at several sites around the zoo.
The cable car will take a standard size wheelchair (not full-size mobility scooters) and the zoo has manual all-terrain wheelchairs available for free subject to some conditions. There is also free entry to the zoo for essential carers of visitors with a disability.
There are several options for buying lunch, drinks and snacks at the zoo. We found the food a little better than at some tourist activities but still very restricted for anyone with dietary limitations. There was a salad and fruit salad option but healthier choices were very highly-priced for what they were. There’s the option for families to bring a picnic and several areas were available to sit and relax.
Let’s meet some of Taronga Zoo’s Animals
Everyone has their favourites and Taronga Zoo Sydney will have plenty to keep most entertained including some less common examples. As you wander around there are trails or precincts that group similar animals together, for example, the Australian walkabout, the African safari, the rainforest trail, reptiles and the kids’ area.
Keep hold of the map they give you at the entrance, it not only helps you find your way around and shows you the shortcuts but also has a list of times for the shows and talks.
These small bears are one of the five species of bear from Asia and one of the animals that are being helped by the conservation programme. Taronga zoo has already done some good work on that with a pair in residence. Mr Hobbs was rescued from the restaurant trade in Cambodia while his ‘partner’ Mary was born in captivity in Australia, this picture is Mary, you can tell them apart by their markings, Mary looks like she’s wearing a necklace while Mr Hobbs has the bow tie.
Personally, I think these tiny animals have some of the biggest personalities in the zoo. The enclosures have a good number of residents and fun interactive spaces for them to play. The meerkats had the baby meerkats out on display with them while we were there and they were extra cute with their clumsy inquisitive ways.
Incidentally, you can get some great debate going with children on why a baby meerkat is a pup, not a kitten – almost as entertaining as watching them play.
Lemurs and the Fennec Fox
A whole lot more cuteness in these two displays. The Madagascan lemurs have found a world-class home in Sydney at the lemur forest enclosure. You may have to queue for a little while if it’s busy but there’s a walkthrough path where you can get inside the enclosure and see these gorgeous animals much closer without barriers.
This display was new in 2014 and together with the adjacent kid’s activity playground, it’s very popular. To recreate the threatened habitat and make the new residents feel at home 5000 Madagascan trees and plants were incorporated into the area.
The Fennec fox was much more sedate but was the first one I’ve seen and so adorable. They are native to the Sahara in north Africa but the zoo sourced a pair, one from Germany and the other from Poland and have since bred 3 kits as part of their very successful conservation and breeding programme.
Free Flight Bird Show
Among Australia’s cuddly-looking marsupials and more intimidating biting and stinging wildlife, the vast array of birdlife is often overlooked. Australia has over 800 bird species many of them unique and beautiful.
The bird show is a chance to see a few of the locals plus a huge Andean Condor from South America in flight, the narrative, learning and laughs are enough to keep the audience, including children, engaged until the end. The show is held twice a day in the amphitheatre and it’s worth going even if you aren’t that into birds just to sit down and enjoy the view for a while.
We’d definitely recommend a visit to the zoo while in Sydney, it’s an opportunity to get up close to a variety of Australian wildlife and also a good range of less common international species.
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If you have any questions please ask in the comment section below. What are your favourite zoos or wildlife parks around the world?