I just watched the sun come up over the savannah with giraffe and zebra roaming free … and I am not in Africa! We spent the night ‘glamping’ at Taronga Western Plains Zoofari Lodge in Dubbo.
I live in Dubbo so you can probably accuse me of being a bit biased, but I can honestly say that staying a night at the Taronga Western Plains Zoofari Lodge is one of the best things you can ever do.
The Zoofari cabins are the most luxurious tents you will ever stay in and each cabin has a front deck that looked out over the savannah, which was filled with giraffe, zebra, eland, ostriches and blackbuck antelope.
The cabins are 5 star and the bathroom was more luxurious than most hotels I have stayed at. The king-size canopy bed was exactly what I would expect to see in an African lodge and even the fold-out was comfortable. And guess what … no TV! It was so nice just having nature to entertain us – the ostriches in particular were so funny. They ran around the perimeter fence checking out all the guests on their decks and if you happen to be eating, they just stood there staring – making you feel bad for eating in front of them!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is over 800 acres and the public can only access a third of that area. We began our stay with an afternoon tour of the zoo in the safari bus, so we got to see many parts of the zoo I never knew existed. They even have a huge pile of animal poo, which they store and use on their gardens … never saw that before.
The first stop was the African hunting dogs. We are zoo friends and I have been to the zoo dozens of times, and all I have ever seen of these dogs is a couple of white ears in the distance. On this trip we actually got to see the pack up close and heard their yelps, which strangely enough sounded like a swarm of bees.
My favourites are the meerkats and we saw them in their new enclosure, and then went on to see the white rhinos – when I discovered they aren’t actually supposed to be white, it’s just a misinterpretation of the word that gave them their name.
The tour took us to the lion’s enclosure where we watched the lioness and her cubs play in the night pens while the lion kept his eye on us from a safe distance. From there we moved on to the hippo enclosure. We knew from experience to stand back when the hippos did a poo – but some of our fellow travellers weren’t so lucky! Hippos use their tails as a propeller to spread their poo, so it’s a good idea to stand back and keep your mouth closed!
The evening tour takes about 1½ hours and you return to the camp in the late afternoon, which gives you plenty of time to take a dip in the pool or have a cold drink on the deck.
The Lodge is an African themed building where everyone meets for dinner. It is a beautiful building with a bar, dining room and a study area with a huge fireplace, perfect for a cold winter night. After the tour, wine tasting and canapés are served and then we move in for dinner, which is served on large bench tables. It was great sitting at these long tables, because you were able to meet people who have travelled from all over Australia to stay at this wonderful attraction.
Dinner was different, with buffalo sausages and crocodile to sample … I left that up to dad to sort out! The food is all laid out on the tables so you can serve yourself and if you run out of anything you just ask for another dish! I highly recommend the chocolate cake dessert, it was so yummy, and I had a second serve.
Watching the sun set over the savannah was unbelievable. I honestly don’t think you would get a better view in Africa and all the people staying in the adjoining cabins seemed to be as spellbound as we were.
We woke up to the sounds of lions roaring in the morning. And then we headed to the bus for our early morning tour, which included feeding the endangered bongo and going straight into the elephant enclosures to watch the bathing and manicure. We were also treated to Gigi the African elephant painting a new masterpiece – it was amazing being right in front of these gorgeous creatures.
If you ever yearned to watch African animals graze on the savannah or wanted to get up close to the lions and elephants but thought a trip to Africa was out of your reach, then you need to stay at the Taronga Western Plains Zoofari Lodge in Dubbo. Animal View Lodges sleep 4 people and Bushland View Lodges sleep 6 people.
The tariff per night includes 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 Souvenir Shop, 10% discount voucher for Bakhita’s Café and 10% discount on additional Animal Encounters.
My tips for the zoo
- Arrive early so you can spend the day enjoying the zoo at your own pace
- Check the feeding times for the exhibits so you can be there to learn more from the zoo keepers
- Hire a bike – it’s the best way to see the zoo
My tips for the Zoofari Lodge
- Make sure you use the binoculars supplied in your room
- Be on time for the tours – don’t make the bus wait for you.
- Watch the sunset from your deck – and the sunrise, too
- Bring a hat and water on the tour – there is water in your cabin
- Bring insect repellent so you can spend as much time as you possibly can admiring the majestic animals roam freely on the savannah … otherwise the mozzies will pick you up and take you away!