Friday, January 18, 2008

Christmas at the Zoo!

For Christmas 2007, a bunch of family members decided that getting together on Christmas Day was not going to be doable without truck loads of stress, so we’d hang out after Christmas. And, instead of doing the usual showing up at someone’s place with some food and an esky full of cold drinks [alcoholic or otherwise], we’d congregate somewhere public where cleaning up meant dumping all empties into the closest garbage bin. It started off as a combined Christmas present for my sister and her family, and my family. A day at the Zoo! I mentioned it to a cousin, she mentioned it to someone else and the next thing we knew, we’d set a date for five related but different families to “de-chill” after the Christmas rush.

We brought our own supplies. We paid our own way. We showed up in our own good time.

And we had a lovely day.

One of Sydney’s main tourist attractions is the Taronga Zoo, but it’s not the only zoo in town. Aside from the new establishment at Darling Harbour, which I’ve yet to visit, and the great aquariums [one at Darling Harbour and one at Manly], there is also Symbio Zoo at Helensburg.
Approximately an hour’s drive south of the city [and half that from where I live], Symbio’s really is a wonderful place to spend the day. If you want somewhere to take the whole family, see some animals, have fun and not break the already exhausted budget, Symbio Zoo is the place to go. Smaller than Taronga Zoo, yes. Fewer exotic animals? Also a yes. A good range of Australian animals? A big yes! And easy to view with areas that allow visual access and almost touching access [if you really want to be stupid]. Plus they have shows and feeding sessions throughout the day - all similar to Taronga, just on a smaller scale.

But the animals here aren’t the only attraction. Symbio also has spacious and shady picnic areas dotted around the landscape. You can set up under a tree next to the dingo enclosure, close to the wandering wild birds in the wetland area or by the pool.

The zoo opens at 9.30am, so my bit of the family arrived at 9.35 in order to claim some good space. I opted for the dingoes. They were yawning, well-fed puppies and there was a big fence between them and my preferred picnic table. The rest of our growing group opted for the pool. Seeing the practicality of that option [kids + hot day = need to get wet], I acquiesced. We claimed two tables by the pool under a massive shade tree and then trotted off to mingle with the animals.

The stand-out part of the whole day as far as I was concerned was being able to pat the dingo pups who were taken for a walk by their minder to visit with the visitors and watching another minder head off to the covered amphitheatre, koala on hip, for the cuddly koala show.
The kids loved the free-range kangaroo enclosure where everybody gets to walk around the cage and hand-feed the little beasties. There were joeys in and out of their mothers’ pouches. Grey roos, red roos and possibly a few wallabies [Really, apart from size, they all look the same to me. Reds are big. Greys are middlin’ and wallabies are usually smallish].

The lone camel was amusing as it alternately pooped, ate its poop and then started again. As was the lost joey taking a rest on the shady side of the Bald Eagle cage that ignored everybody except those offering tidbits of the zoo’s kangaroo feed mix. It looked like a bag of dried grass to me, but obviously there was something special about the mix as all the kangaroos loved it. The lyrebird is an interesting, if rather camera-shy character. It displayed its magnificent tail non-stop and as soon as anyone came near with a camera, turned around to display its back end as well. I, naturally, took a snap of that and was granted a few seconds to get a shot of the prettier side too. There’s a bird who knows how to manipulate the paparazzi!

I got some great pics with lots of close ups. The cassowary shown is one of my favourites. These birds are dangerous, but when my daughter told this one to be still so I could get a photo it froze as if in shock at being ordered around. As soon as I get around to it, I’ll upload them to my Flickr account. I’m pretty sure I opened up an account a few months ago...

In the meantime, check out the zoo’s website and plan a visit soon. Go early. It did get crowded. And if it’s a hot day, grab those tables by the pool – perfect spot to eat, drink, watch the kids swimming and share Christmas horror stories!

No comments: