Have you ever wondered what happens under the cloak of darkness at a zoo? Well, there’s certainly a lot going on until 18 June, with Taronga Zoo coming alive at night with large illuminated animal sculptures. In its centenary year, Taronga Zoo is part of Vivid Sydney for the first time.
Families are often put off by the crowds of Vivid and for little ones in a pram or those in a wheelchair, there tends to be a lot of viewing of other people’s bottoms at that height!
The Vivid precinct at Taronga Zoo may be your answer if you don’t like crowds or if you prefer driving, rather than public transport. Here’s a guide to all you need to know about Vivid at Taronga Zoo.
Vivid at Taronga Zoo is a ticketed event, which limits numbers to 5000 people per night. The advantage to paying for the event is that there are simply less people and that’s particularly helpful for families keeping track of young children. We found it easy to access the installations and a lovely family-friendly atmosphere. The lights are on from 5.30 and the circuit is a reasonable length, making it perfect for little ones or others that just can’t take the grand scale of Vivid in the city.
On arrival we were given very cool glow in the dark maps, which adds a bit of extra fun for the kids – big and small! The circuit around the zoo is one-way so there is no chance of getting lost, but the map does identify what you are looking at when you get to the installations. I wasn’t familiar with pygmy tarsiers or pangolins, so the map is handy for that reason.
Be The Light for The Wild is the name of the zoo’s exhibition, which continues the conservation theme by highlighting ten critically endangered species with a trail of large illuminated sculptures. There are five species native to Australia, like the greater bilby and five on the brink of extinction in Sumatra (an island of Indonesia), such as the tiger.
Information boards at each of the sculptures give a short description of the threat to the animal on display. Did you know Australians use 10 million single use plastic bags every single day? These become a threat to marine life like our beautiful sea turtles.
Kids always love the opportunity to interact and Taronga has recognised this with a few opportunities to get hands on.
The stunning chameleon sculpture is a popular attraction, with kids making its colours change by touching a particular spot.
The large cicadas react to sound, which delights kids and adults alike.
Pram and wheelchair access
If you are familiar with Taronga Zoo you’ll know it is built on a hill and has spectacular views of Sydney. There is ramping throughout the zoo and the trip to the base is a little steep in areas, but it is a relatively easy run down. It’s worth remembering that an easy run down means there is a hill to be tackled on the way back to the top gate! The installation trail turns around at the elephant enclosure and heads back to the main gate. We took the lift from the back of the food court to avoid one major hill.
The section from the giraffes to the corroboree frog is always tough when you’re pushing a pram or wheelchair.
ANZ Blue Pass
One of the highlights for us was the ride on the Sky Safari. This has always been one of our kids’ favourite things to do at the zoo and seeing the city of Sydney in all its Vivid glory, on a clear night, is well worth the trip alone. The Sky Safari also allows visitors the opportunity of seeing the large sculptures from above.
The ANZ Blue Pass is only available to the first 1000 people who book on any night during the festival. The tickets don’t cost any more, they are simply limited which does make sure the wait is not long.
- Book your tickets early if you are keen to ride the Sky Safari (please note, due to the door width not all wheelchairs can be accommodated and prams must be left where you board – check the website for details). Bookings can be made here.
- Parking is available at the zoo. It is a flat rate of $7 after 4pm for parking.
- Get there early and dress warmly. Think beanie, gloves and scarves. It was really chilly the night we visited. The zoo gift shops are open, so if you leave home without a beanie you can always purchase one.
- The food hall is open at the zoo so you can take a break half way around and have dinner or a snack.
- Unisex stand-alone accessible bathrooms and baby change facilities are at the start of the trail before you go through the entrance and then at the bottom of the trail at the food hall.
- We did the Sky Safari at the end of the evening, which was the perfect way to end the night and it didn’t spoil the surprise of any of the animals on the trail.
It’s hard to pick a favourite sculpture. I loved the vibrant blue of the elephant, the bright colours of the crocodile and the magic of the echidna’s tongue poking out in an attempt to catch the ant sculpture.
We love visiting Vivid each year and we think Taronga Zoo is a wonderful addition to this year’s line up!Julie Jones is the creator of Have Wheelchair Will Travel, where she combines her skills as an ex-travel consultant with her life and experiences as a mother to her son BJ, who has cerebral palsy.