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Taronga Western Plains Zoo Zoofari Lodge

Discussion in 'Australia' started by Hix, 23 Nov 2012.

  1. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    Last weekend I was passing through Dubbo on my way to Bourke, and I decided to stay at Zoofari Lodge in Western Plains Zoo. I was staying on Friday night only and called to book on the Monday - they had only one room left and it wass a Serengeti Room, the larger of the two styles (and more expensive). I booked the and enquired about Saturday night, but Saturday was fully booked.

    I was told to arrive between 1:00 and 3:00pm, as the first tour leaves at 3:30pm. Unfortunately, due to rain and the Blue Mountains being fogged in, I arrived at 3:35. The gate had radioed and let them know I was here so they held the bus for me. I parked my car, grabbed my cameras, and jumped on the bus for the Afternoon Tour.

    There were two tour buses, each with its own guide - mine was named Helen. She is a paid employee of the zoo, has worked as a zookeeper and now works for the Zoofari Lodge. Unlike many other zoo guides I have met over the years, Helen actually knew her stuff.

    The first stop was the African Wild Dogs. The keeper came down to feed the dogs while we were there (this is pre-arranged beforehand) and gave us a talk. Then we went behind the scenes to get a talk about Black Rhinos, their husbandry, and then met Kwanzaa for an enrichment feed. After that we drove back into the zoo (which was now closed) to visit the meerkats who got an enrichment feed of mealworms. Driving back to the Lodge we passed Cuddles the African Elephant in her exhibit, who looked as us expectantly, but then ignored us when she found we had nothing for her.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/african-wild-dog-feeding-299121/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/kwanzaa-gets-enrichment-feed-299124/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/rhino-poaching-notice-299103/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/meerkats-get-some-mealworms-299125/


    Arriving back at the Lodge around 5:00pm I unpacked my car, found my room, and settled down to read the blurb they had left me.

    My room was quite large, bigger than you're average hotel room. As I said, I had a Serengeti Room - it sleeps up to six with a Queensize bed, two singles and double sofabed if needed. The smaller Savanna Rooms sleep 4 - a double bed and two singles. The rooms are canvas walled, but with solid upright supports. The ensuites are mudwalled and quite solid.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/serengeti-room-external-299108/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/serengeti-room-299106/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/serengeti-room-different-angle-299107/

    Gardens and pathways connect the rooms, and I saw a variety of native birds in the gardens. The Lodge area also has private viewing over the African Savanna exhibit.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/pathway-between-lodges-299120/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/private-viewing-african-savanna-299119/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/private-viewing-african-savanna-299139/

    At 6:00 I headed up to the Main Building which houses the restaurant and bar, as they were serving canapes at 6:15. Dinner started at 6:30 and was banquet like, with three different salads (including a very tasty quinoa salad), and dishes of Salmon, Beef, Lamb, Ham and Chicken. I was stuffed by the end. Some of the guests sat on tables by themselves, but I had agreed to be on a large table with other people and we had some very interesting discussions about things that had nothing to do with animals or zoos.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/main-building-zoofari-lodge-299117/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/pangolin-299109/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/swimming-pool-299118/

    After dinner, at 8:00pm, we piled onto the buses once more and ventured into the zoo in the dark. Helen had a couple of torches but we could take our own if we wanted, as long as we didn’t shine the light directly into the animal’s eyes. We were also told we could use the flash on our cameras if we wanted. I had a LED Lenser headlamp which is quite strong (normally) but once we were on the tour I discovered the batteries were running down and it was no good for spotlighting the tops of the trees. I also realised I had left my external flash for the camera at home so I would have to rely on the camera’s built-in flash.

    First stop was Cuddles the African Elephant. This time Helen had a white container with fruit and nuts in it, and holes in the side of the container. She threw it in and Cuddles picked it up and gave it a few shakes to get the treats out. When she had finished we headed for the Hippos. Happy the Hippo came out of the water at our arrival, as he knew Helen would be throwing in some hay. While he ate Helen told us how Happy had once broken her arm. Then we visited the Sumatran Tigers, although only the female, Indah, was moving around. She came up to the wire to be fed a few titbits of meat before retiring back into the middle of her cage.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/cuddles-gets-enrichment-feed-299101/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/happy-gets-feed-299102/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/indah-299129/

    We arrived back at the lodge around 9:30-ish and after putting my cameras away I went up to the main building to grab a drink, and possibly socialise. There was only two other people there apart from Helen and the girl behind the bar, and we chatted for about 20 minutes before deciding to call it quits for the night. And although I don’t normally drink, I decided to have an ‘Elephant Mudbath’ because I liked the ingredients – Baileys, Kahlua, Cream, Milk and Chocolate Sauce, with grated chocolate on top. Very, very nice!

    The morning tour left at 7:00am the following morning. First stop was the male giraffes just down the road – and we had carrots to feed them. Everybody enjoyed the feeding, especially the young kids! This was followed by a visit to the White Rhinos, the Lions (who both ignored us), and the Cheetahs. We met Sally, who is a normal cheetah, and Kyan who is a King Cheetah. Apparently a breeding a few years back produced a litter of four, two of which were Kings. The two Kings are not displayed to the public, but there are plenty of normals that are. We stopped in at the Bongos and fed one of the females, and then popped in to the Asian Elephant House to see ‘Burma’ and ‘Gigi’ getting their morning feed. And on the way back to the Lodge we passed Cuddles being walked through the zoo by two of her keepers.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/feeding-giraffes-299111/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/giraffe-feeding-299131/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/white-rhino-299114/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/lions-299112/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/bongo-feeding-299113/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/bongo-299132/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/sally-299133/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/kyan-king-cheetah-299134/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/asian-elephants-burma-gigi-299115/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/cuddles-her-morning-walk-299135/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/cuddles-morning-walk-299116/

    Arriving back at the Lodge at 9:00 we headed up to the Main Building for a big breakfast (eggs, bacon, pancakes, toast, cereal etc.) before going back to our rooms to collect our belongings – checkout is at 10:00. I spent a little time taking photos of some birds – a pair of Babblers were building a nest – and of a Bearded Dragon I spotted, before leaving and driving into the zoo.

    http://www.zoochat.com/82/babbler-nest-zoofari-lodge-area-299136/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/babbler-collecting-nesting-material-299138/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/eastern-bearded-dragon-zoofari-lodge-area-299137/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/yellow-throated-miner-299141/
    http://www.zoochat.com/82/superb-blue-wren-299142/

    Overall, I enjoyed my time at Zoofari Lodge. The cost of a Savanna Room starts at $229 per person per night and a Serengeti Room starts at $269 per person per night, twin share. The single supplement on my Serengeti Room brought the price up to $319, but I was told if I was staying on the Saturday night instead it would have cost me $449. Prices are higher during peak period too.

    What did I get for that? Included in the price was the following:
    • One nights accommodation in the Zoofari Lodge;
    • Banquet Dinner and Canapes;
    • Breakfast;
    • Three separate tours, when the zoo is closed and no other visitors around, and often to behind-the-scenes off-display areas;
    • Two days entry to the zoo (a $92 value per adult);
    • Two days bicycle hire;
    • 10% discount in the Zoo Cafe;
    • 10% discount in the Souvenir Shop.

    Was it worth it? For me, definitely! But one night was enough. Non-zoo people would probably enjoy a second or third night because of the tours; although the tours weren’t a big highlight for me, they certainly were for everyone else.

    Thoroughly recommended.

    Zoofari Lodge | Accommodation in Dubbo | Zoo packages | Zoo based accommodation | Zoo accommodation

    :p

    Hix
     

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  2. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    How much did it cost for one night, and what was included?
     
  3. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

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    starts at 229 me thinks on special includes accommodation, canapes, dinner and breakfast and three guided tours in this case with the wonderful miss Helen as well as bike hire for the two days. Nanoboy, if your interested in coming up let me know. Oh Lodge also has a pool which is a must in a dubbo summer.
     
  4. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    I'll put those details in when I complete the post later tonight, but I'm at work now and too busy. But it cost me $319 for the Friday night. The Elephant Mudbath was another $14. Photos are in the Western plains Zoo gallery.

    :p

    Hix
     
  5. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I enjoyed the first half of the review and look forward to the rest.

    Hmmm. Is that even possible to do?:)

    Question: why does Dubbo only have the one African elephant? Are they planning to get more, or are they getting out of the African elephant business?
     
  6. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    Getting out of it. Australia is now focussing on Asians.

    :p

    Hix
     
  7. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Too true.

    They are also trying to focus on Asian elephants. :D
     
  8. PAT

    PAT Well-Known Member

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    I'm pretty sure this is the last African elephant in Australia. There were two at Dubbo until a couple of years ago.
     
  9. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    There were three at Dubbo until a couple of years ago. And they now advertise Cuddles as the only African Elephant in Australia. To prevent her from being lonely they have a couple of camels living in her enclosure with her as playmates.

    :p

    Hix
     
  10. PAT

    PAT Well-Known Member

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    How long ago were there three? I went in 2010 and there were only two at the time. To this day they are still they only Africans that I've seen because all of the zoos in Europe that I went to only had Asians as well.
     
  11. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

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    Five were originally brought over. Bulls Congo and David? Cheri, Yum Yum and cuddles. Cheri passed away first. not sure when then Yum Yum, leaving cuddles. and the two Asians.
     
  12. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Did you get to feed the tiger yourself with the to gs or did the keeper do the feeding?

    How did you feed the bongo? It looks like you are quite high up and could fall over if you were leaning over. Did you feed/pay the rhino?

    Was there any I interaction with smaller animals like parrots, possums, snakes etc? I am trying to compare it with Werribee Slumber Safari.
     
  13. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Double post.
     
    Last edited: 25 Nov 2012
  14. Steve Robinson

    Steve Robinson Well-Known Member

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    A late starter for the post of the year award!!
     
  15. Gajah69

    Gajah69 Well-Known Member

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    Hix,
    really glad that you enjoyed your visit to TWPZ. Just so surprised that you can't sex a bongo. Maybe you were just too excited to see the stars of the zoo,the elephants. I understand.
    Cheers
     
  16. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    @Gajah69: I thought Helen had said it was a female, I never bothered to look closely. Was looking for birds.

    @Nanoboy: the bongo was fed carrots through the fence, didn't have to lean over and meant the little tykes got a chance to feed too.

    We only fed the Bongos and Giraffes. All other off display animals had a low fence that we were not permitted to cross. Understandable when you consider there were a dozen or more people, including small children of 4 and 5 years.

    There weren't any other animal interactions that I know of - they might have brought something out in the hour before I arrived, but I doubt it. However, I think a resident parrot or python would make a nice interaction with guests while waiting for dinner. Or even a dingo or roo. They are clearing a firebreak behind the lodge and will probably have some landscaping - maybe some roos and emus would be good in there.

    :p

    Hix
     
  17. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

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    For the hands on with smaller animals you would need to do a roar and snore over at the education centre. Roar and Snore will stop operating in March for the opening of a brand new site called Billabong camp.
     
  18. Monty

    Monty Well-Known Member

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    I had better hurry up then. I have been meaning to take the kids and do the roar and snore for years.
     
  19. nanoboy

    nanoboy Well-Known Member

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    Excellent stuff. It sounds like much of a muchness compared to Werribee. There, you get to feed/pat a rhino or feed the giraffe, do a bus tour of the compound, do some hands-on stuff with smaller critters like possums and sugar gliders, as well as breakfast and dinner.

    Between you and I, I think that all these slumber safaris are way way over priced for what you get. The prices you quoted for Dubbo are per person per night, which are similar to Werribee: $600 per couple, $790 per lodge (with a surcharge for Saturday nights) [according to their website]. For that price, it is far cheaper to stay at the Werribee Mansion (~$300 per room per night) and pay for bolted on behind the scenes encounters. Shhhhh!
     
  20. Jarkari

    Jarkari Well-Known Member

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    It's a pretty good one and at about half the cost of lodge i think better suited to kids. The night tour is a big walk so has a minimum age of five. Im doing it five.nights a week at the moment and it never gets old for me.