I have always wanted to go on an African safari. Gallivanting through the Serengeti in a Jeep, wearing khaki of some description and getting up close to roaring lions, striped zebras and majestic elephants in their natural habitat.
But like many of us, the realities of life have meant that this dream has remained just that…a dream. So the closest I've come to an African safari (thus far) has been staying overnight at the Zoofari Lodge.
One of the many African animals we were able to meet up-close
Zoofari Lodge is nestled amongst bushland on the grounds of the Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The place provides guests with a taste of the African safari experience right on our door step.
My partner and I visited the Zoofari Lodge after recommendations from several of my colleagues. Staying at the Zoofari Lodge is a unique holiday experience. It is an ideal getaway for a group of friends, couples, and families.
One of the luxury tents (Source: Zoofari Lodge website)
The accommodation consists of African-style canvas covered luxury tents. There are twelve lodges all up with four people tents and six people tents available. Each tent contains beds, a bathroom with hot water, coffee and tea making facilities, fridge and even a mini bar. The tents also have fans and heated tiles. All bedding, linen and towels are provided. Guests have access to a private viewing area of the zoo's African savannah exhibit.
The package includes canapes, an African style dinner and breakfast. Dinner is complimented with a full bar service. All meals are served at the Main House which features a licensed bar, fire place and a swimming pool.
The Main House (Source: Zoofari Lodge website)
So there is no need to rough it or lug around camping gear or worry about living off canned baked beans.
But the highlight of staying at Zoofari Lodge was undoubtedly the three behind-the-scenes zoo tours included in the experience. Instead of a jeep, the tours were conducted in air conditioned mini coaches. One tour was held in the afternoon, one in the evening (after dinner) and an early morning tour.
The tours gave us an opportunity to get up-close to some of the zoo's African wildlife. And when I say close – I mean close! We were only centimetres away from the animals. We got to watch the zoo keepers feed the animals and were even able to feed some of the animals ourselves.
Our guide showed us how to make a tortoise come out of its shell
The package also includes two day admission to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, two days bicycle hire, and discount vouchers.
The best times to stay at Zoofari Lodge are Spring and Autumn. Zoofari Lodge suggest that families plan their trip during school holidays and couples stay outside school holiday periods.
Since Dubbo is a six hour drive West of Sydney, we felt that trying to fit everything into one weekend was a bit rushed. A long weekend would have allowed us to spend more time exploring the zoo.
Staying at Zoofari Lodge is a little expensive – considering it is an overnight stay in Dubbo. However, the proceeds go back to the running of Taronga Western Plains Zoo. And the behind-the-scenes zoo tours and overall experience make the stay well worth it. It was definitely one of my more memorable holidays.
Where:Taronga Western Plains Zoo - Obley Rd, Dubbo NSW 2830
Cost:Low season off peak rates start from $229 pp twin share (Savannah – Sleeps up to 4 people) / $269pp twin share (Serengeti – Sleeps up to 6 people) / Children from $59 per child (1-3 yo) $155 per child (4-15yo)