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Published July 7th 2014
Sleep with an animal
Source: Herald Sun - Kitui, the 19-year-old lion at Mansfield Zoo.
How about sleeping with an animal or at least in close vicinity to one or more? Zoos offer you that unrivalled experience.
Camping experiences range from the high end up market glamping to a chance to pitch your tent in the grounds of a relaxed country zoo.
They vary a bit in price but even some of the more expensive ones are usually worth it for a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary.
Roar 'n' snore is at the Melboune Zoo. I've done it with my family and it is quite a lot of fun especially sleeping in a tent and listening to the roar of the lions in the same vicinity. Thankfully they are well fed and safely behind escape-proof fences.
It is both eerie and exciting having the grounds almost to yourself. If you don't count the hundreds of animals that are locked in there with you. A lot of animals are nocturnal so you really get to see another side of zoo life that most people never experience. Guests have dinner usually a BBQ (where there is wine and beer for the mums and dads) and then sleep in the old Historic Elephant Exhibit that has been turned into a camping area.
We helped set up the tents when we went. The camp hosts are usually young zoo guides, heaps of fun and good with kids. There is a night tour to visit some of the nocturnal animals. In the morning a new set of sounds awake you including the calls of gibbons and birds. After breakfast from the zoo bakery you have a chance to meet some of the keepers and experience life behind the scenes.
Everything is provided including tents and mattresses as well as dinner, supper (hot chocolate and dessert) and breakfast. You also have free entry to the zoo the next day if you are not too tired.
There is a lot entailed and this is not a cheap option for a family so perhaps it might be better as a one-on-one experience such as father and son or mother and teenage daughter or whatever special combination of people would benefit from some special time spent together.
At $300 for adults and $145 for a child the price is up there with the greats. But I think if I was a tourist coming to Melbourne this might be a good option as you need to pay for accommodation in any case and this is a special and memorable experience.
You also get a lot for your money. This is very much like an African wildlife park with safari like tours through the savanah where you can can spot elephants, giraffes, hippopotami and other creatures. You get to stay in lodge stye accommodation with private bathrooms, fans and electric blankets. You even have your own balcony, overlooking the Werribee River and the African style savannah so this is glamping rather than camping.
There are also only a few tents so you feel very special and unique.
But there are still the realities of camping with a great campfire and the chance to toast marshmallows. With the Slumber Safari you also get to go behind the scenes with animals such as cheetahs and hippos.
There are drinks and dinner at sunset, a sumptuous dinner and night time activities including a night walk and a delicious supper of scones, jam and cream.
In the morning you can watch the animals out on the savannah eat their breakfast as you enjoy a buffet breakfast served in the Safari Dining Hut.
While kids obviously love this there are also adult-only camps once a month.
The price also gets you two days of zoo entry.
As mentioned $300 per adult, $145 per child. Minimum fee per lodge is $590. (Please note there is a $100 surcharge for Saturday night.) 10% off Thursdays & Fridays during winter.
For those who live in Melbourne and just want to experience the zoo at night, without sleeping there, then I recommend the Wild Nights that are held in winter as being a cheaper option that also offers the zoo after dark and some of the same activities.
Source: Facebook Mansfield Zoo
Mansfield Zoo, Victoria
A cheaper option is Mansfield Zoo. This isn't your fancy big city zoo experience. They don't supply your food. You cook for yourself or meander off to a local restaurant. You bring your own camping gear, but if the weather is warm you might prefer to hire one of their swags at $10 each and sleep under the stars.
These swags look like great fun. But not for those under 8.. Source Mansfield Zoo
This is a small and casual zoo and they don't have more than 25 people camping on any given night. Pitch the tent where you like. Prices are very reasonable compared to the city zoos at $65 for an adult and $45 for a child. There are also family rates available at $205 for two adults and two children up to and including those 15 years of age. Remember this includes two days of zoo entry.
Source: Facebook Mansfield Zoo
One of the sweet things about this zoo is that some animals have free rein so are just as likely to be poking their snouts or beaks into your tent.
You can hand feed the gentle deer and chat to the kangaroos and peacocks who all wander around freely.
There is lion feeding at 5pm which is a must. Djuma and Matimba, are apparently brothers and the only white lions in Victoria.
Children get to hand feed the animals although, quite wisely, this does not include the lions.
'Sleep-overs' are available from September to May each year. For booking details click here.