Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Zoofari

After all that talk on blogging, promotion and keeping a distance, I figure it's time to rebel against myself and share my recent weekend away to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. I'd set up the projector if I had a theatre, but looking at the photos will have to do instead.

Dubbo is a place I'd never thought of as a weekend getaway. Close to being smack bang in the middle of New South Wales, the city houses Australia's second most famous zoo after Taronga. The main difference being the abundance of African animals, living in something close to their natural habitat.

We went all out and decided to travel by plane, a Qantas 36-seater each way. While we watched the land below transition from populated to green to a dry and dusty brown, the air hostess booked a cab to pick us up from the airport. Once we arrived we were treated to an hour and a half wait before check in, but this was easily filled with a very welcome cold beer and food.

Our lodge was somewhere between a tent and a motel room, a four star tent if you will (if it had air conditioning I would have given it a five). Strong waterproof fabric made up the walls, stretched tight around a thick steel frame, over a tiled floor. We were told that the tiles could be heated during winter, but the hot air was heat enough.

It wasn't long before we went on our first behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. The thunderstorm that had threatened us on arrival promptly broke and rained down around our mini-bus, muddying the red earth as we made our way to see the African elephants. They stood politely in huge steel cages, waiting for our eager hands to give them bread, oblivious to the setting's resemblance to the movie Jurassic Park.

Other animal highlights included the wild African dogs, whose voices reminded me of evil children in Aphex Twin video clips; the Siamang monkeys that performed a complicated dance accompanied by the booming from their throat sacs; and the lions in their night pen. But my absolute favourite animal of the trip was the baby Bongo, the sweetest deer-like creature on this earth. And yes, there really is an animal called the Bongo.

After a three course dinner at the beautifully air-conditioned Main House, we settled in for an early sleep, followed by an early rise (not my best time of day, but still worth it). Sunrise over the Savannah and hand feeding of the giraffes was followed up with a buffet breakfast to provide us with energy for the hot day ahead.

Neither of us had a driving license so we couldn't use the zebra striped electric carts, instead settling for bicycles for our own day tour of the zoo. Riding around the six kilometre circuit was made easier with rest pauses in the shade and capped off nicely with more beer and food.

After doing battle with rhinoceros statues, racing Galapagos tortoises, and more rest pauses and beer, we bid farewell to the city we never saw and flew back to Sydney.

Zoofari. Not quite a zoo, not quite a safari, but a perfect combination of the two.

5 comments:

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

Nice pictures.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

'm noticing a similarity between that pic of the Galapagos tortoise and you resting in the shade. Coincidence? I think not.

How'd you get into the turtle suit?

Health Bites said...

What a great account! Thanks matey, I was too lazy and obviously not a "writer" LOL. I want to go back!

Daniel Hatadi said...

Cheers guys.

Stephen, well spotted. If you turn the tortoise over, you'll see the exact same image of an 80s boombox.

anne frasier said...

oooh, that was fun! thanks!