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Taronga Zoo Sydney

The Taronga Zoo in Sydneys celebrates 100 years in 2016
Sydney's Taronga Zoo is located high on a hill on the north side of Sydney Harbour just a 12 minute ferry ride from the city. Not only is it an excellent wildlife park but the views of the city and its iconic opera house and bridge are fantastic.

Sydney’s Taronga Zoo does some incredible work with conservation and this year for their 100th birthday celebration they’ve really amped it up.  Although we were only in Sydney for a short visit this time I knew we had to spend a day at the zoo.

Getting to Taronga Zoo Sydney

We caught the Taronga Zoo 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.

Looking back at the Opera House and city from Taronga Zoo in Sydney

The crossing only takes 12 minutes and costs $5.74 each way on Sydney ferries.

Read our post with tips on getting around in Sydney efficiently & cost effectively

This year is a major milestone for Sydney’s Taronga Zoo.  It’s celebrating a century since it opened it’s 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 it’s 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.

Elephants at Taronga Zoo in Sdyney

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 advance knowledge can come in useful.  You can only buy tickets onsite from the main entry 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 9.30am.  Buying your tickets in advance can also save you a few dollars whether you do it from the zoo website directly or through one of the third party ‘zoo and transport’ options.

Standard entry purchased on site is $46 for adults and $26 for a child with various family, concession and annual pass options available.

Incredible views, and saved the legs a bit with the gondala within Sdyneys Taronga Zoo
The giraffe's at Sydney zoo have a multi million dollar city view

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, accessible toilets and parents rooms were also available in 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 choice 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.

Sun Bears

These small bears are one of the five species of bear from Asia and one of the animals that are being helped by with this years 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.

Mary the femal sun bear at Taronga Zoo in Sydney

Meerkats

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 a pup not a kitten – almost as entertaining as watching them play.

Meerkat at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia
Meerkat babies (called pups) provided so much entertainment at Taronga Zoo Sydney

Lemurs and the Fennec Fox

A whole lot more cuteness at 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 walk through 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 kids 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.

The lemur exhibit at Taronga Zoo in Sydney is excellent
Fennec fox are the worlds smallest fox and this one was just so adorable at Taronga zoo Sydney

Free Flight Bird Show

Among Australia’s cuddly looking marsupials and more intimidating biting and stinging wildlife, the vast array of bird life 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  off 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 amphitheater and it’s worth going even if you aren’t that into birds just to sit down and enjoy the view for a while.

Free flight bird show at Taronga Zoo in Sydney. All the keeper talks and shows during the day are included in your entry ticket.

In conclusion

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.

You can pin these images, or any others on the page, to Pinterest.

A baby chimp at Taronga Zoo in Sydney
One of the Asian elephants at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney

If you have any questions please ask in the comment section below.  What are your favourite zoo’s or wildlife parks around the world?

18 Comments

  • We visited the zoo several years ago and I agree with you about the views – stunningly beautiful indeed. The fact that they have the conservation program is all the more reason to visit. Such an important cause. Great information about planning a visit! Thanks for sharing!

  • I love how accessible the zoo is from the rest of Sydney’s attractions – and that you can see the Opera House in the background! It’s great to hear that the animals are well looked after and that their is strong focus on conservation – you read so many horror stories these days that its always important (for me at least) to check these things before visiting.

  • Its always good to hear when animals are treated right and living in open spaces. I also love that its wheelchair accessible! I haven’t been in any zoo that had a cable car, its great to know that they’ve made the extra effort so all their visitors can enjoy it.

  • Sydney is an amazing city, and it’s great to see that this zoo puts great importance on the welfare of its animals. As I haven’t been to this place yet, you bet that I’ll be keeping it in mind for the future!

  • I love exploring zoos too, especially if they have a good conservation program. My favorites are almost always the big predators, unless there are gorillas. They are so fun to interact with. The zoo in Sydney sounds lovely – high on a hill overlooking the harbour! Love!

    • Hi Tara, I think I prefer other zoos for the big cats, Auckland Zoo have a fabulous selection of the large and mid sized predators. I loved some of the more endangered examples like the sun bear in Sydney though, they had a wonderful enclosure and I don’t recall seeing them in other places.

  • Wow, a century of being open, thats fantastic! I love places that try to conserve animal species. Never heard of a sun bear before, so I’m glad I read this post! This is going in my Aussie planning 😀

  • Great post and photos. Do the animals really have a great view of the Sydney Harbour 😀 Looks like they got a better view than most hotels in the area.

  • I love visiting zoos, any zoo for that matter. All it has to have is just a handful of animals, but if you throw in an amazing view like the one you get at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, then I definitely want to visit. Also, because they are involved in conservation and animal welfare is important to the organization this makes visiting even more worthwhile.

    • Thanks guys, we always enjoy an opportunity to see the wildlife and while Taronga isn’t heavily skewed to Australian natives there are a good selection to see that you often won’t get in zoo’s elsewhere

  • What a great shot of the giraffe and the bridge! We are pretty spoiled since we have one of the best zoos in the world in my hometown of Omaha, NE so we don’t typically go to zoos elsewhere. But what a great activity to do with a family

  • We visited the zoo several years ago and I agree with you about the views – stunning. The fact that they have the conservation program is all the more reason to visit. Such an important cause. Great information about planning a visit!

  • Love that Toronga Zoo has such a strong focus on conservation and animal welfare. I’m hanging out to do the overnight glamping experience there where you get to wake up and go on a private tour the next morning as they feed the animals breakfast 🙂

    • We’d love to do that too Meg, we’ve done a few behind the scenes experiences at other top zoo’s and they have all be worthwhile so must try one here in Australia. I believe Dubbo does something similar and we haven’t been there yet.

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