I am a world traveller & a mom of two, (8 & 6). I love to meet people, and am fascinated that there are 7 billion stories out there to be explored. I think Melbourne is the most happening city to live in with all the fun activities around town.
Published January 11th 2014
Have you been to the Zoo lately?
New and Exciting Things to See at Melbourne Zoo
For a perfect children's day out, nothing beats a visit to Melbourne Zoo at any time of the year, but during school holidays, the added advantage is that children enter for free. Many things in life come with a price, but this luxury is indeed free, at least for children.
The Zoo is large enough that a single visit will not be enough to see all exhibits, especially if there are accompanied children who make regular stops to eat, visit toilet, and need a break. This is all the more reason to make several trips to the Zoo.
The biggest reason however to make frequent and multiple visits to the Zoo is that there are new stars born throughout the course of the year, such as baby elephants, etc., and that the Zoo is always undergoing changes such as new exhibits being planned and opened to public.
The Melbourne Zoo is easily accessible by public transport and by car (there is plenty of parking). It is open all year round and tickets are priced for the whole family, if you are not already a member, in which case, entry is free.
When planning a visit to the zoo on a school/public holiday, keep in mind the queues at the entrance can get quite long. Best way to beat the queue is to purchase tickets online.
Plan your visit ahead of time to make the most of your experience. Don't forget to print a map or pick one up at the entrance. And most importantly, find out where you can eat at the zoo, or pack a picnic.
My children are huge fans of animals for all the general reasons children love them. It was only natural for us to visit during the summer school holidays and instinctively, we wanted to check out the Lemur Island first.
When entering from the main gates located on Elliott Avenue, the Lemur Island is the first exhibit on the left. Inside the Island, the visitor goes inside the enclosure where the lemurs live, therefore utmost care is taken to ensure the safety of both. Air-locked entrance and exit passageways are in place, which cause a bit of a delay. And any food being carried must be hidden from view while inside the enclosure.
The exhibit, in one word, is beautiful. A boardwalk leads visitors through the area providing plenty of information on lemurs, excellent opportunities to take photos, and if you are lucky, you may see the lemurs as well. When we visited, the 9 lemurs currently living in the exhibit were asleep, and we did get to see them, but not in action.
Boardwalk, Nest, Feeding Platform: All Make the Lemur Island a must visit at the Melbourne Zoo
We also had an opportunity to ask questions as the carer was on site. He told us that lemurs live in groups and are matriarchal, therefore the zoo only has male lemurs (as females are quite aggressive and would not be suitable in a zoo environment).
All the lemurs living in the zoo were born in captivity. There are many species of lemurs, and the ones in Melbourne zoo are the ring-tailed lemurs, who are most active in the early morning hours or in the afternoon when the heat has dissipated during summer months.
After taking in the views, we exited through the air-locked passage into another viewing area, where there are more opportunities to spot lemurs. Luckily, it was snack time for some, so we did spot a couple who were walking about.
The children had plenty to keep themselves occupied with, like the many colourful poster displays full of information about the lemurs, their habitats, fun facts, sounds, etc. The lemur resting areas are beautifully crafted, and look like large "nests". Similarly, the feeding spots have been cleverly camouflaged into the natural looking design of the enclosure, which facilitates hanging, climbing, leaping, exploring, etc., for the lemurs. You can also listen to some of the sounds that lemurs make in the following video.
After the Lemur Island, the next destination was the Gorilla Rainforest, and walking to it really feels like being in a forest, with tall bamboo trees and foliage that covers it. The Gorilla enclosure is very large with plenty of room for the family of five Western Lowland Gorilla who live there.
Unfortunately for us again, it was that time of the day when the gorillas were taking a siesta and staying away from the blazing sun so we couldn't spot them in action, but we managed to see one lost in deep meditation.
The Gorillas are in peril in the wild. Many steps are being taken to protect their habitat, which means protecting the species as a whole. Jane Goodall is a world renowned ambassador for the chimpanzees and gorillas and has launched a program "They're Calling on You" to help their plight.
This initiative is a mobile phone recycling program and you can learn more about it in detail here. The short story is that "Coltan" is a metallic ore used in electronic products (such as mobile phones) and mining it has been destroying the natural habitat of gorillas (and causing other problems for the natives as well). By recycling mobile phones, the need to mine coltan is reduced. There is a Gorilla Ranger Station with lots more information about gorilla habitat and what we can do to help.
The exhibit area also has several pillars pertaining to the theme of recycling mobile phones, and there are two beautiful bronze sculptures of a gorilla family: a male, and a female carrying a baby on her back.
Interesting fact: The Gorillas are the only animal featured on the Melbourne Zoo logo.
Trail of the Elephants
Elephants are favourites in our household, so that was the next stop after a well-deserved lunch break for us. We really wanted to see baby Dokkoon (who doesn't have a name yet). The first sight (and smell) of an elephant is overwhelming: it is hard to believe that these gentle giants are endangered in the wild. The elephant family at Melbourne Zoo are Asian elephants.
There are so many vantage points to view the elephants, and we tried to spot as many elephants from these places. The best spot is the living quarters of the elephants, which is a nice place to see them on a hot day as visitors can stay under the shade. There is a beautiful sculpture of an Asian elephant planted in this area as well. But obviously this is not the best spot if the elephants are out and about, hanging out in the award-winning enclosure, foraging and playing, etc.
Trail of Elephants is a perfect place to catch up with your favourite animals
We finally managed to get a glimpse of baby Dokkoon as the herd of elephants walked by where we had been waiting, and the wait was well worth it as the baby, staying close to his mom's side, was absolutely adorable. After saying our goodbyes with a heavy heart and promising to return, we moved on to explore what else we could find.
In 2012, the Melbourne Zoo celebrated its 150th birthday (wow). As part of the celebrations, the Growing Wild Ground Zone exhibit area was opened to public, and this is home to the meerkats, giant Aldabra tortoise and Brush turkeys.
This is an interactive area where children can entertain themselves for hours. After having a good look at the meerkats who are always scurrying around, busy playing around, digging, relaxing, or most importantly, keeping a guard from unknown threats, the children ran off to explore the tunnels and sandy pits made especially for them. The Meerkat exhibit is beautifully designed in sand colours and hues, with curved lanes and tunnels, almost so that you can get a feel of being a meerkat yourself.
Next to the meerkats is the giant Aldabra tortoise enclosure where we spotted two giants. It was late afternoon by the time we reached the tortoises and with plenty of shade and cool breeze, we decided to make this our final spot to play and relax.
My children loved the tortoises and were able to touch them as they come pretty close to you. In addition, there is a playground for children and more sandpits, with baby tortoise sculptures and an egg nest to uncover.
There are replicas of giant tortoise shells and children can crawl into these to turn into a tortoise for a few glorious moments. There is a balance, with a tortoise on one scale, and a place for you to weigh yourself in comparison to the tortoise on the other scale (I didn't dare to find out whether I weigh more or less than the tortoise!).
With plenty of water dispensers to keep hydrated, a clean seating area and toilets only a short walk away, we decided to eat the last of our picnic supplies we had been carrying around and spent about an hour and half here, and decided to give the Brush turkeys a miss till next time. It was when the "Zoo closing" announcement was made that we walked out, tired but excited, with lots of stories to share with friends.