Spoiler Alert: While the Taronga Zoo Roar and Snore experience is different every time if you plan to visit read this post after you go-it’s better as a big surprise.
If someone said to you, “Oh, you have to spend the night at the zoo.”
What would you say? I would say, “No I don’t. Why would I do that?”
But then I did it, and so did my son, my husband and our dear friends who came all the way from New York. We spent the night at the zoo.
If you’re like me and you hesitate at the thought of a night in a zoo, let me assure you as a recently reformed zoo slumberer-I was wrong to hesitate.
You have to spend the night at the zoo.
Now, to be fair, the Taronga Zoo isn’t just a zoo. It’s kind of spectacular-not just because it’s nestled into Sydney Harbour, or because you sleep in the tents above in queen sized beds with mattress warmers, but because it is ALL about conservation and the protection of endangered species. Their Roar and Snore program is a jam packed fifteen hours and the money you pay to be their guest goes to their conservation efforts and sustainable practices.
My husband took great photos and I filled in the gaps with other shots from around the web so we can take you on a sort of virtual tour of our experience. I know it’s not the same as being there, but if you enjoy it or learn something crazy like we did, maybe consider a donation to the Taronga Zoo-you can click here to learn how.
Once we crossed the harbour (that’s Australian for harbor), a bus took us to the entrance of the zoo. While we waited for other overnight guests to arrive we were given infrared torches (that’s Australian for flashlight) to familiarize ourselves with the entrance and marshes which included many species of birds and a tree kangaroo with her new Joey.
Some of what we saw in the infrared looks like this in the light of day-
Once the full group assembled we walked down to our campsite with pit stops for stories and safety precautions. We learned of the two alarms at the Taronga Zoo-one for fire and one for escaped animals. As we processed we were about to sleep somewhere with an escaped animal alarm-they stumbled us onto this view. Well played.
They moved us into the large main tent replete with sofas, food, and wine. One of the guides said, “Now we’re just going to get some nibbles and a few drinks into you before we take you on a nighttime safari.” No one will say this to you outside of Australia.
We attacked a cheese platter and sipped Prosecco while they paraded a stick insect, a tree frog, and a Children’s Python by.
The stick insect eats leaves and has evolved to look like one so it can eat them in peace, safe from predators.
They call this snake the Children’s Python after the scientist who discovered it, J.G. Children, not because it’s the perfect python for your kids. However, if you’re in the market for a pet for your children, this is actually a good choice. It’s non-venomous, has soft teeth and is a lot of fun at parties.
This super cute tree frog is also non-venomous.
After dinner, I, along with our son’s thirteen-year-old Godsister, was almost eaten by a brushtail possum on our way to the outdoor bathroom. As we descended some stairs I heard a rustle in the tree next to me. I froze, grabbed the young girl by the shoulders and said, “Don’t move.”
I picked up that trick from Jurassic Park-if there’s a velociraptor in the bushes, you simply do not move. It was just a possum though, not a velociraptor-a BIG possum, but still, not a velociraptor. One of the guides did warn us against the perils of possums, however.
“You have to zip up your tent,” he said, “even if you don’t have food, the possums will come in to eat your toothpaste and your lipstick. If you corner them they can get aggressive. If that happens to you, well-you’re on your own.”
That’s the Aussie way.
The safari began with a visit to the male Asian elephant. He makes a high pitched noise like the sonar on a submarine and has to be kept in his own bachelor pad. His only purpose in life is to impregnate any female elephant he can find who is in season. The mothers and calves stay together in a big group separated from him because he’s so
annoying aggressive. This photograph makes him seem small, I assure you, he is not.
Zebras are particularly awesome in Australia because instead of calling them ZEE-bras, they call them ZEB-ras. Our two favorite facts about the zebra-
1. under their stripes they are brown.
2. whoever has the biggest backside is the leader and winner of all prizes in the zebra world.
Then there’s the salt water croc, found in Northern Australia and by far the most terrifying creature on the planet. The one at the zoo is on the smaller side, but they can grow to be eight hundred million feet long or something horrible like that. They eat sharks and people and antelopes and cars and anything else they want.
To be fair, most reported cases of crocs dining on humans occur because said humans decided to swim, fish, or camp in areas where it is often well known and clearly marked: CROCS LIVE HERE. The upshot-it’s best not to be nonchalant in the environs of an animal who’s been around since the dinosaurs. If it survived whatever happened to cause them to become extinct, it will eat you if it wants to.
The Fennec Fox, however, is the opposite of the saltwater croc in that you want it for a pet. They have great big ears and look like Chihuahuas.
There was a beautiful antelope called a Bongo-only one hundred left in the wild.
The Himalayan Mountain Goats and the big cats were amazing, but not nearly as amazing as they were in the morning.
We were back at our tents by ten pm for tea and dessert. After we cleaned up and climbed into the warm bed, I did that thing I did after I saw Psycho for the first time; I psyched myself out so much, I had to shower with the curtain open for a month. I knew the minute I closed it Anthony Perkins would show up at the door. A silver backed gorilla took the place of Mr. Perkins this time, but I did fall asleep eventually while somewhere in the distance lions roared and chimpanzees screamed like Janet Leigh.
PS-when I scrolled through images of all these animals, there wasn’t one that wasn’t pictured somewhere with David Attenborough.