In spite of the rain on Saturday Miss S (aged 10) & Master T (aged 8) had a blast at the iconic Australia Zoo, Beerwah, on the Sunshine Coast. Just a one hour drive from Brisbane, it is a full-day outing and we not only went to Australia but spent time in South East Asia and Africa too.
Master T was most focussed on the opportunity to see the four Southern White Rhinoceros (including baby Savannah born at the zoo on April 12), three Rothschild Giraffes and three Plains Zebras in the zoo's brand new 24 acre Africa exhibit. A shuttle transported us past what will become the cheetah run and Madagascar Island, which will exhibit Lemur.
The rain did keep the giraffes inside early in the day but we returned after lunch to see them grazing, however by then the rhino had taken cover, but the shuttle is free (part of the entry fee to the whole zoo) and you can go to Africa as many times as you like (and yes, Savannah was as cute as expected).
The biggest moment for Miss S was feeding Bimbo, a gorgeous little Asian Elephant. Bimbo is the smallest of the three elephants and is Bindi Irwin's favourite.
Children of all ages will enjoy the Wildlife Warrior show in the 5000-seat Crocoseum (being a wet day it was only 1/4 full). The elephants make an appearance, stunning birds fly through the crowd, including rainbow lorikeets, Peppe the Green-winged Macaw, Feathers – a Bush Stone-curlew and, of course, the stars of the show, the snakes and crocodiles. The children were transfixed by the riot of colour as the birds flew in and the spectacle of the croc demonstration, teaching them how to avoid these ancient beasts in the wild.
The entire day is an education, for children and adults alike; you will learn how to avoid attack, how to treat wildlife, and most importantly, how to help prevent further decimation of the endangered wildlife still under attack from humans and habitat destruction.
We rounded out our day at Australia Zoo by seeing the tigers at Tiger Temple (South East Asian exhibit), all the native Australian regulars, and spent a long time at the Asian Small-clawed Otters' exhibit watching them play follow-the-leader in and out of their pool.
Australia Zoo can be an expensive day out; discounted tickets are available through various outlets and the zoo offer a range of family and annual tickets. The Food Frenzy area offers a reasonable selection of takeaways, salad, pizza, ice-cream and café options; for the three of us it cost $30 for a basic take-away lunch. Australia Zoo does, however, welcome guests to take along their picnics and offer shady areas for you to eat. Just watch out for the cheeky birds and lizards, they are very used to humans, especially those with food.
Australia Zoo is an absolute must for families, there is something for everyone, of all ages, and I'd recommend returning every so often. I was last there in 1997 when the Dalai Lama visited and Africa was only a dream then. I can't wait to take to Miss S & Master T back when the cheetahs are racing in their run and we can wander under the trees amongst the Lemur on Madagascar.