Sleeping with giraffes – Zoofari Lodge, Dubbo Zoo
Have you ever dreamed about waking up on an African Safari? It’s now possible right here in Australia! We recently spent a weekend at the amazing Zoofari Lodge – a luxury zoo stay package that you simply have to see to believe!
The Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is an accommodation package which is all about luxury. From the moment we arrived we were treated like zoo-royalty! We checked in to Zoofari Lodge at the main Taronga Western Plains Zoo reception desk. You can arrive early and spend the whole morning at the zoo, because included with your one night Zoofari Lodge stay is two days entry to the zoo, bike hire, plus 10% discount off extra any animal encounters, the souvenir shop and café.
After we checked in, we had a spare hour to enjoy a delicious lunch at the Zoo café (10% off – order the buffalo wings – you wont regret it!) – then we were ready to start our Zoofari Lodge adventure!
To get to Zoofari Lodge, we needed to exit the main zoo entrance and re-enter the zoo via a private gate a little farther up the road. This first taste of privileged zoo access through Jurassic-Park-type electric gates had the kids bouncing in their seats with anticipation! We drove down a tree-lined private road, passing the Savannah Cabins on one side (another great Taronga Western Plains Zoo accommodation option), and swiping through one more huge electric gate. It had us wondering – just what was in here?!
Off we went again, down another private road. When we first caught sight of our accommodation for the night we had to catch our breaths – a row of African-style, ultra-smart looking tent-cross-cabin lodges. But it wasn’t just the sight of the luxury lodges that had us excited, but what they were facing. It was quite simply, amazing – an African Savannah, chock-full of exotic animals!
Our Animal-View Zoofari Lodge – The Giraffe Lodge
We quickly parked the car, eager to get to our lodge and were met by our welcoming hosts. Our bags were wheeled in a cart ahead of us as we walked a down a short path to our accommodation. From the earthen path to the rock-towers scattered along the way, it was clear that we were now entering an African safari! As we stepped up onto the large deck of our lodge – aptly named the Giraffe Lodge – we gained full appreciation of the Zoofari Lodge view!
The Animal View Zoofari Lodges directly faced the African Savannah, a very large paddock which seemingly stretched as far as the eye could see. Recessed fencing gave the impression that there was nothing stopping the animals from wandering up onto our veranda!
Giraffes quietly strolled about, or stood laconically munching hay under high thatched-roof poles, a literal stones-throw in front of our safari accommodation. A curious Ostrich did the animal equivalent of drive-by – cruising to check us out.
Groups of Antelopes lay here and there in the grass. Even some red kangaroos were grazing. It’s all so close, you can actually lie in your king-sized bed and watch your own private African animal show – and it’s right there in front of your lodge! Yes, it’s really that amazing.
Inside Our Zoofari Lodge
The best way to see what a Zoofari Lodge is really like, is to take a walk-through with us! Here is our Zoofari Lodge – just press play on the YouTube video below.
The lodge itself, was pure luxury. African-styled, with beautiful attention to detail, the canvas walls gave it an authentic safari-feel. A king-size bed dominated the room. Strewn with decorative cushions, its screen curtains tied back, safari-style. A fold-out sofa provided a second double bed.
Little, thoughtful touches were everywhere. A pair of binoculars and hard-covered Africa book lay on a heavy wooden table, ready for animal-spotting. Stylish, lodge-style wooden lamp stands and other African-themed pieces decorated the room – even heavy, polished logs served as bed-side tables. Reverse-cycle air conditioning kept us lovely and cool in the summer heat.
The Zoofari Lodge Ensuite
The lodge ensuite was huge, with an peep-through concertina window to the room, double vanity, luxurious double-shower and huge fluffy towels. There were complimentary toiletries supplied, and we found deluxe bathrobes and slippers in a storage cupboard in the bedroom.
The children were delighted to discover a rolled-towel elephant and tiger-striped rubber-duck sitting on the side of a decadent deep double-bath. No detail was missed.
The Zoofari Lodge Outdoor Deck
The front deck was spacious and attractive, with outdoor furniture, including a long padded lounge running down one side of it. Even though the other cabins were near by, would could have been alone. We didn’t notice our neighbours in the slightest, as the decks were very private.
Zoofari Lodge Guest House
Eventually we did drag ourselves away from our lodge to explore the nearby Zoofari Lodge Guest House. In keeping with the safari theme, this stunning Guest House is an African-styled building containing a bar, lounge, and high-ceiling dining room.
There was a cosy-looking log fire in the lounge, however as it was now mid-summer we appreciated the icy-cool air conditioning! The Guest House staff inside couldn’t do enough for the guests and catered to our every need. We were truly being spoiled, and the children were made to feel very welcomed and fussed over – this was a truly luxurious family getaway.
The Guest House veranda overlooked a beautiful rock-edged saltwater swimming pool. We couldn’t resist the allure of the cool water, and had a very refreshing swim (towels are supplied at the pool) followed by some ice-cold drinks lazing on the wicker lounges. It felt like we had wandered into an Out-Of-Africa movie set!
A few fellow guests were swapping stories of their day so far. Everyone agreed that the Zoofari Lodge experience so far was outstanding. All were spellbound with their deluxe lodges, and of course that view! The fact you could watch these majestic animals resting, eating, walking and living their lives mere metres from your front deck – even your bed – was such a unique experience.
When we returned to our lodge we still had some time until we needed to get ready for dinner, so I made myself a cup of coffee and joined the children on the deck to enjoy watching the giraffes a while. Mind you, it seemed more the other way around sometimes – when we moved about they often turned their heads to look at us! We could have easily spent the whole day animal-watching.
The Zoofari Lodge African Banquet Dinner
We headed back up to the Guest House just in time for cocktail hour. Pre-dinner canapés (crocodile, anyone?!) were laid out, and wine tasting was in full-swing. Then followed the most sumptuous Afrian-inspired banquet dinner, prepared by the exclusive Zoofari Chef.
Platter after platter of indulgent fare was set before us Each dish was deliciously sauced, sautéed and spiced – chicken, lamb, fish, vegetables, breads, salads and more. What a feast! The thoughtful staff kept the kids entertained with cocktail-animal African toys. Dessert was a melt-in-your-mouth selection – I stayed on-theme with a scrumptious African-styled syrup cake – yum! There were kid-friendly choices too, and both girls tucked into bowls of ice-cream.
Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Zoo Tours
With your Zoofari Zoo Lodge stay you also get two amazing behind-the-scenes zoo tours accompanied by a Zoofari Guide, and including some terrific animal encounters. Here is a video of just some of the tour highlights we experienced – press play on the YouTube video below to see Lemurs, Elephants and more!
TheTwilight Zoo Tour
As if we hadn’t been entertained enough, after dinner we heaved ourselves out of our chairs (probably about a kilo heavier than when we sat down!) for a special behind-the-scenes Twilight Tour of the zoo.
Can you imagine how exciting it is to cruise around a huge zoo in the dark, discovering African animals by torch-light? This tour is pure kid-heaven. We climbed aboard the swish new purpose-built Safari tour bus – and didn’t the kids love that bus – with open sides for great views of all the animals as we cruised by.
As the sun went down, we stopped along the way to personally feed a Bongo (a type of African deer) – what a treat! Then we moved on to visit Cuddles, the last African Elephant in Australia. The guide threw her a treat bucket which she happily emptied, and then threw it right back at us! If you look closely you can see the flying bucket in this photograph below.
Time to feed the Hippos! Off we went in the bus again to watch our tour guide-come-zoo-keeper toss cabbages to Happy the Hippo and his wife (she’s definitely the boss in that household!).
Last stop was the show-stopper – it was quite dark when our guide led the way by torch-light to reveal an amazing White Rhino at very close-quarters – he was fed just a mere metre away from us! We were all quite in awe of him.
The Twilight Tour was an extra-special look at the zoo and its rare and fascinating inhabitants that the general public don’t get to see – and it’s all included in the Zoofari Lodge experience. We felt very privileged.
Finally we all headed back to our lodges to snuggle down for the night, excited to the point of exhaustion. The kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow, and the last sound I remember hearing as I drifted off to sleep was the throaty roar of a near-by lion….
The Morning Zoo Tour
It was still dark when we arose for our next exclusive Zoofari Lodge adventure – our sunrise Morning Tour! I’d never seen the children so motivated to get up before sunrise. After last night’s Twilight Tour, we knew to expect amazing things – and we weren’t disappointed!
We all eagerly climbed aboard our now-familiar safari bus and drove just a few metres – before we pulled over again! We looked at each other in surprise, and then it was revealed – we were going to meet the very giraffes we had been watching from our lodges!
A big bucket of carrots was produced, and our tour guide called out to the giraffes. Over they mosy-ed, ever-so casually whilst the children (okay, and the adults too!) were jumping out of their skins to feed them.
Finally everyone, adults and children alike, all had a turn feeding the giraffes. What a thrill! These long, blue-tongued fellows knew the drill, and politely removed every carrot offered to them by the eager guests. We all had three or four turns feeding them each, which was ample for some wonderful family photographs.
Everyone was terribly excited to have such a long, relaxed opportunity to interact with these tall, elegant creatures. Where else could you do that? These Zoofari Lodge Tours was so much better than any extra Animal Encounter tours we had paid for at other zoos – and they were all included in our Zoofari Lodge stay.
When we ran out of carrots, we farewelled our giraffes and all climbed back into the safari bus for our next animal-experience. This time it was watching the black rhino be fed. It’s truly humbling to be so close to these magnificent, endangered creatures. Taronga Western Plains Zoo does so much to help support endangered rhino populations all around the world.
Next stop – we were allowed in to a private area to watch the Ring Tailed Lemur families – including tiny little babies clinging to their mother’s backs – be fed banana pieces right in front of us. It was almost cuteness-overload!
Our last stop on our sunrise tour was one of the most memorable – the elephant house! Here we were allowed to watch these giant, gentle ladies patiently devouring their breakfasts after their morning baths. Here again we found Cuddles the elephant from the Twilight Tour, and her knowledgeable keeper Jackie told us a little more of her story. The last of her kind in Australia, Cuddles had outlived her fellow African Elephant mates, and was now supplied with two pet camels to keep her company throughout the day, so that she wasn’t lonely.
The children loved being given the opportunity to ask Jackie questions about elephants – to them, she was an elephant God! Samantha, my youngest, wanted to know – do elephants really like peanuts? (Yes, apparently they do!) Meanwhile, another zoo keeper strolled in eating a banana and casually threw half of it in to one of the breakfasting elephants who just as casually scooped it up and stuffed it into her mouth! This was a zoo experience like no-other. As we left the Elephant House, it was just in time to see Cuddle’s pair of camel pets being led to their day paddock to join her.
Of all the different things we learned about these beautiful animals over our stay, one thing was very clear – the animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo were cared for, and cared about – very much. The tour guides and keepers all spoke with genuine affection about their animal charges.
Whilst expressing concern for the future of their breeds in general, the keepers all spoke hopefully of how animal population endangerment was being addressed – and how the zoo planned to help strengthen endangered populations into the future. It was really quite something to listen to them speak. Taronga Western Plains Zoo is making a real difference to many endangered animal populations around the world.
Zoofari Lodge Breakfast
After the Morning Tour it was time for breakfast at the Zoofari Lodge Guest House. Another delectable buffet and hot cooked meal awaited, which took us some time to polish off. There were plenty of choices to keep both children and adults happy.
After breakfast it was time to check out of Zoofari Lodge, however not the zoo – the Zoofari Lodge package also includes two full days admission. We bade goodbye to the lovely Zoofari Lodge staff and headed off to explore the zoo for the day.
Another day to wander the zoo at will
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is very large, modern and professionally run. A zoo this size with a 6km loop road has an abundance of wildlife on offer – and many ways to get around the zoo to see it!
Zoo visitors can choose to drive using their own car, hire a bicycle or an electric cart. We opted for the car which did the job well, with wide roads and easy parking everywhere. However I must admit, I felt a little sorry we hadn’t chosen the cart option when we saw some families zooming around in them – they looked like fun!
We spent the day driving around the loop road, stopping off to visit the different animal areas. We saw so much – zebras, lions, cheetahs, tigers, and even a wee baby elephant (if you get the chance, be sure to visit the zoo soon, while Sabai the baby elephant is still tiny and hilarious)!
The best thing about the Taronga Western Plains Zoo is seeing the quality of life of the animals who live there. Plenty of room to move and well fed, our self-guided day at the zoo confirmed to us that this zoo is full of happy animals.
As the day drew to a close, we were sad to leave. Zoofari Lodge had been unlike any accommodation we had every experienced before – unique, luxurious, exciting – a real African adventure!
The zoo itself was a great example of how to do a zoo right, and thanks to the fabulous Zoofari Lodge behind-the-scenes tours, both children had even decided to become Zoo Keepers! As for me, and I was already mentally planning a return trip.
What an incredible time we had on our Zoofari Lodge stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo!
Stop Press – new attraction!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo has a brand new attraction – the exciting new Savannah Safari tour is now open! Climb aboard the Savannah Safari truck and experience a unique guided tour amongst African animals. Just like a safari! Only $10 per adult and $5 per child (in addition to Zoo admission). You can find out more about the Savannah Safari at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo website here.
Zoofari Lodge – what’s included?
– Two day admission to Taronga Western Plains Zoo
– One night accommodation at Zoofari Lodge
– Exclusive behind the scenes tours with a Zoofari Guide
– African style canapés, banquet dinner and dessert
– Buffet breakfast
– Standard bicycle hire for two days
– 10% discount at the Zoo’s Souvenir Shop
– 10% discount voucher for Bakhita’s Café
– 10% discount on additional Animal Encounters
Zoofari Lodge essential info
Zoofari Lodge is 15 luxurious African-style lodges with exclusive access to the Zoofari Lodge Guest House, offering guests lounges, verandah, catered fine dining and a salt-water swimming pool
Animal View Lodges sleep up to four people, with a king split bed and sofa bed.
Rates start from *$309 per adult / *$49 per child – check current rates at the official zoo website
Bushland View Lodges sleep up to six people with a queen bed, two singles and a sofa bed.
Rates start from *$269 per adult / *$49 per child – check current rates at the official zoo website
Both Animal and Bushland View Lodge accommodation include a private ensuite, coffee and tea facilities with mini-bar, a fridge and a shaded veranda with outdoor furniture. All bedding, linen and towels are provided.
Zoofari Lodge location
*All prices are correct as at March 2017 – please check the official zoo website for current rates
The Let’s Go Mum! family were hosted guests of Zoofari Lodge. All opinions are our own.
Have you ever visited the Taronga Western Plains Zoo? What do you think about staying inside the Dubbo Zoo? Comment below…