The last week I have had the delight of entertaining my cousin’s daughter while her mum is at work. When I lived closer I would take her for a day or two during her summer holidays so her mum didn’t eat up all of her leave or have to pay for babysitters. Now that we live ~8 hours by car and she’s a bit older, it’s easier to have Miss S for a week.
So, this past week we have done a range of activities:
- Mon – saw Moana at the movies and did some baking
- Tue – visited Werribee Open Range Zoo
- Wed – got pedicures, did some screen printing and went to the pool
- Thu – went swimming at the beach and did some light shopping
- Fri – visited Melbourne Sealife Aquarium and went book shopping
- Sat – visited the waterfront and returned home to pack
Firstly, I just want to say that everyone should absolutely go see Moana. It is now my favourite Disney film ever (originally the Little Mermaid, then it became Brave, and now it is Moana). I also follow one of the very talented artists who worked on Moana on Instagram, his name is Brian Kesinger, and you should see his work! Check it out here.
Back to the main point of this post – Werribee Open Range Zoo. I was equally impressed as well as disappointed. I know that sounds like a contradiction, so please hear me out. We’ll start with the bad news first (because I hate ending on that).
There weren’t as many animals as I had expected there to be. I grew up in country NSW, and visited the Dubbo Open Plains Zoo as a child. I remember that zoo being so big that you had the option of driving your car around the zoo, or hiring bikes. We also took two days to see everything.
Werribee just didn’t have the range of animals I expected, and maybe that was on me for anticipating a lot more than they offered. I guess I just expected more with the ‘Open Range’ name.
We also only saw one koala and two emus in the native side of the zoo (not counting the Bandicoot Hideout), and not one single bird in the Parrot Aviary – there could have been more around but maybe they were hiding from the children…
The zoo was clean, well set out, and kids are FREE every weekend and all school holidays. Personally I feel like that’s a strange business strategy, but what the heck do I know about running a zoo?
There is also a free safari tour that was really cool. The tour is run from big buses with no windows(!) and leaves every ten minutes. The safari itself probably goes for about 30 minutes, and on the tour there is literally nothing between you and zebras, ostriches, camels, bison, rhinoceroses, addax, longhorn cattle and przewalski’s horses. You can even see the cheetahs from here, but luckily there is a fence between you and them – and between them and the rest of the animals…
The zookeepers were knowledgeable and kind, and always made time to answer questions and point out interesting facts.
The zoo also has a partnership with communities in Kenya where the local women create jewellery and other items from beads, which the zoo then sells, and the money goes back to the local community. This not only helps the local community by creating a sustainable way of living, but also encourages the communities to not farm non-native animals, which thereby encourage local wildlife to repopulate. You can find out more information about the Beads for Wildlife program here.
Overall we had a lot of fun here. And we definitely made up for the low admission cost in the gift shop afterwards… Maybe they do have a sound strategy here after all…