Let me start by saying I’m not really a fan of zoos.
As you can imagine, my vegetarian self is rather against the containment of animals, especially when it’s for the sole purpose of entertaining humans.
But I’d heard only good things about Taronga Zoo, and as I’m a few weeks away from leaving Sydney for an indefinite amount of time, I feel as though I can’t leave and confidently say I’ve done the city without a visit to Taronga.
So one sunny summer Sunday, I finally paid it a visit.
Now you may know that I prefer to travel on a tight budget, but there are always going to be travel experiences that are worth splurging on. The question is whether the zoo is one of those.
The reason I haven’t been to Taronga Zoo before now is because the entry price is about $46 AUD for an adult. Ridiculous! And if you’re a student visiting from another country and think you can get a concession ticket – joke’s on you. We stood behind some German girls who presented their student cards, only to be told that it had to be an Australian student card to be eligible for the concession price.
Don’t get the zoo plus ferry ticket unless you’ll only be in Sydney for a few days. It’s usually cheaper to get the public transport ticket separately.
For visitors staying a week or two, a MyMulti ticket will give you unlimited public transport for 7 or 14 days. And if you’ll be staying a month or more, best to get an Opal Card (for use on public transport in Sydney) and travel on a Sunday when transport costs are capped at $2.50 for the entire day.
Buy your ticket for the zoo either online or directly from the ticket seller within the ferry terminal at Circular Quay. This way there’ll be no queueing when you arrive at the zoo, and you’ve taken advantage of the cheap public transport fares.
One of the most spectacular things about the zoo is the ferry ride from Circular Quay. If you’ve seen the photos from my Sydney Harbour coastal walk, you’ll know the full potential of views offered by being anywhere in the harbour’s general vicinity. Keep your camera handy as soon as the ferry departs, you’ll get some seriously awesome views of the Opera House on one side and the Harbour Bridge on the other.
When you jump off at the ferry terminal you’ll realise that the zoo entrance is right at the bottom of a rather large hill, but luckily there is a gondola/cable car to take you to the top. This is included in the ticket that you have so cleverly purchased beforehand, so head straight there! This will take you directly above many of the animals as you ascent.
Be sure to grab a zoo map once you jump off at the top entrance. You’ll never find your way around without it.
Walking through the zoo
Walking through took a long while. It’s big. Very big. You’re going to need an absolute minimum of three hours to walk through at a reasonable pace, and if you want to see it in detail (or if you’re travelling with kids) I’d put aside an entire day.
Now I’m not sure why but I was under the impression that Taronga Zoo would mostly consist of Australian animals, but this is not the case. It’s probably about 25% Australian animals. The international selection is very good though.
The zoo is made up of themed ‘walks’ including Reptiles, Big Cats, Birds, Australian Wildlife, Orangutans, and Seals. A number of talks and shows are also scheduled throughout the day at various enclosures, refer to your map for times.
Taronga has many conservation and breeding programs for endangered species. They also rescue injured wildlife, treat them at an on-site veterinary hospital, and rehabilitate them for release back into the wild or keep them in the zoo if release is not possible. Hearing the story of how Bondi the seal was found injured on Bondi beach and then rehabilitated by the zoo was a touching story. Oh, the feels!
This is a great thing that they’re doing and I was super pleased to know that the whole zoo isn’t just put together for tourists. Though I was a little… uhh… lets say affronted, that there were donation boxes placed at almost every major exhibit. It was as if they were saying the $46 I’d just paid for the entry fee wasn’t enough. I mean sure, I want to help the animals, but if that’s not included it in the admission price then what the hell did I just pay for?
Now I will admit, I usually avoid places that contain so many young children. It’s not that I don’t like kids, but when I’m trying to do something meaningful and all I can hear is one hundred toddlers screaming in my sensitive ears, I get a little annoyed. And if I can’t walk along a footpath that was narrow enough without the swarm of prams blocking the way, I get pretty frustrated. No offense, parents! It’s probably just me.
Taronga was busy, and yeah there were a lot of kids, but most of the pathways were fairly wide and the zoo had obviously anticipated the amount of families that would be visiting on a sunny weekend day. There was ‘pram parking’ in all of the popular spots where shows would be, and the foot traffic moved along fairly quickly in most places. Kudos to Taronga for making families and backpackers play together nicely!
You can take food and drink into the zoo, so if you don’t want to pay tourist prices for food – bring your own lunch. We took in a water bottle, some bread rolls and dip, and sat at one of the many park benches to stop and eat.
So, is Taronga Zoo worth the admission price?
In my opinion – it’s a good zoo, and maybe a little better than others I’ve been to. Whether it’s worth the cost depends on your situation, so ask yourself the following questions:
Have you been to Australia before? No? Then sure, the zoo is worth a visit. You’ll get to see plenty of Australian animals and learn all about them at the same time. If you’re Australian or if you’ve seen Australian animals before, then you probably don’t need to feel as though Taronga is a must.
Will you be seeing Australian animals anywhere else? If no, then definitely head to the zoo – this might be your only chance to see them. If yes, then you might not need to do the zoo as well as whatever else you’re doing. It depends on how interested you are in seeing the animals in captivity.
Are you travelling with kids? I can guarantee that they will love it. All of the kids we walked by were having a ball (except for that one that was having a tantrum… but that ratio is still about 1 in 1000).
Have you frequented zoos in the past? If not, then you’ll probably have a great time! But if you’ve done a few in the past then you might not be all that impressed.
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