Sunday, April 06, 2014
Slumber Safari, Werribee Open Range Zoo.
Last Friday, on our second last day in Melbourne, we went to Werribee Open Range Zoo for their brilliant Slumber Safari, which I read about in Peppermint a few issues back. I booked this trip 6 months ago, an anniversary present to Martin who was still recovering from surgery at the time. Now here we were again, a week after my own surgery and our last little trip before his second surgery—the fifth in his lifetime—on the 1st April.
When I went through these photos I was left with 400 final, edited shots. There were so many photos I loved of our stay that I found it almost impossible to choose which ones to post here. It was as amazing as it looks; guinea fowl and bunnies and kangaroos roaming freely, exotic plants scattered throughout the lush green zoo grounds and of course the wide expanse of the savannah, with all the animals grazing and wandering gracefully through it. I felt as if I was in some other place, and it was easy to forget the Melbourne CBD was just 45 minutes away.
I haven't visited a zoo since I was a child, but I was always saddened by animals locked in cages with not much more. Here they are free in their large enclosures, with the keepers and rangers trying to make their life as close as possible to what it would be in the wild, never forcing them to do something they don't want to do, never treating them simply as performance pieces.
We were blessed to have the sun come out, after the previous day's rainy weather and the gloomy grey skies that very morning. At sunset we saw zebras galloping through the savannah from atop our safari lodges; we visited the southern white rhino Kapamba and gave him a pat, the skin on his back tough from layers of dried mud, but the skin in the folds of his legs like a soft leather. We visited the gorillas, the father Motaba and his two sons, one of which was cheeky and swung all his weight into the glass where the children were watching.
In the evening, when the zoo was closed to the public, we strolled through the grounds with torches. We touched a Madagascan boa constrictor and even then felt all its strength underneath its cold, shiny skin. We sat on the tree stumps by the fire, roasting marshmallows, having scones & jam and hot chocolates. I looked upwards to the stars, brighter here without the pollution of lights from the city.
In their night dens, the lions were roaring as the sun went down and during sunrise the next day; even all the way from our lodges we could hear them, the sound strange and awe-inspiring. We visited them during their breakfast, seeing them pounce to get their ribs, fascinated at how large they were in real life.
We loved this place. My only wish was that we could have stayed a little longer, exploring everything a little slower and taking it in all the more. If we hadn't a plane to catch that Saturday evening, we certainly would have. If you ever get a chance to go, do so.
Edit: I wanted to write a note here to say a special thanks to our safari guides Brooke & Rhonda who were not only incredibly informative about all the animals, but had a great sense of humour and made an effort to talk to us & share stories with everyone at the slumber camp. Our stay truly wouldn't have been the same without them.