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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Koalas! Kangaroos! Krazy!

An emu chased me down the sidewalk.

Well, not so much “chased” as followed me down the sidewalk. And this didn’t happen in the middle of Sydney but at Taronga Zoo.

There’s a reason Taronga Zoo is one of the most famous and well-respected zoos in the world – its commitment to natural animal habitats and conservation places it well above most other zoos, and it offers many opportunities to interact with animals and see them as closely as possible.

For instance, the emu, kangaroo and wallaby enclosure. Rather than put the animals behind glass or bars, visitors actually enter an outdoor area where nothing separates the animals from humans. And this means that the creatures (like the aforementioned emu) can wander onto the path and attempt an escape.

There are signs clearly telling visitors to stay on the path but that didn’t stop one mother from saying to her toddler, “Okay, honey, go pet the kangaroo” and watching the child wander up to the animal before a zookeeper noticed and quickly scolded both child and parent. You have to wonder about some people’s parenting skills…

It was fantastic to get so close to the animals. Definitely makes for some stunning photos. Normally I’m not much for taking pictures at a zoo – after all, a gorilla looks the same no matter what country you’re in – but I couldn’t resist those cuddly koalas.

Did you know it’s against the law in New South Wales to hold a koala? You could pay to have your picture taken next to one but you can’t actually hold it.

The highlight of the zoo (besides the native Australian animals) is the giraffe enclosure. This is often the picture you see advertising the zoo – stunning shots of a giraffe in front of the Sydney skyline, Opera House and all. Brilliant.

If you’re coming to Sydney, definitely spend a day (or just a few hours) at Taronga Zoo. Originally I was planning to visit Sydney Wildlife World because that’s what’s advertised in the Sydney map I have and it specializes in Australian animals. But after reading online reviews where people either complained or loved that you could be in-and-out in 45 minutes, and hearing that all of the animals are indoors and behind glass, Wildlife World sounded much less appealing. Taronga Zoo is definitely worth the extra travel time (only 10 minutes ferry ride from Circular Quay) and slightly higher price.

Olga arrived in Sydney today so we took a nice long walk down to The Rocks and midway across Harbour Bridge – fantastic dusk views of Sydney Opera House and downtown – before grabbing dinner. Tomorrow we’re taking the ferry to Manly to see the beach and explore the national park there.

Does anyone have suggestions for an easy day trip from Sydney? I have one day open with no plans until the evening (theatre at 8pm) and was thinking about going somewhere outside of the city. The question is: WHERE?