Sleeping with giraffes – Zoofari Lodge, Dubbo Zoo

Have you ever dreamed about waking up on an African Safari? It’s now possible right here in Australia! We recently spent a weekend at the amazing Zoofari Lodge – a luxury zoo stay package that you simply have to see to believe!Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo

The Zoofari Lodge at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is an accommodation package which is all about luxury. From the moment we arrived we were treated like zoo-royalty! We checked in to Zoofari Lodge at the main Taronga Western Plains Zoo reception desk. You can arrive early and spend the whole morning at the zoo, because included with your one night Zoofari Lodge stay is two days entry to the zoo, bike hire, plus 10% discount off extra any animal encounters, the souvenir shop and café.

After we checked in, we had a spare hour to enjoy a delicious lunch at the Zoo café (10% off – order the buffalo wings – you wont regret it!) – then we were ready to start our Zoofari Lodge adventure!

In we go! The Zoofari Lodge private electric gates entrance

In we go! The Zoofari Lodge private electric gates entrance

To get to Zoofari Lodge, we needed to exit the main zoo entrance and re-enter the zoo via a private gate a little farther up the road. This first taste of privileged zoo access through Jurassic-Park-type electric gates had the kids bouncing in their seats with anticipation! We drove down a tree-lined private road, passing the Savannah Cabins on one side (another great Taronga Western Plains Zoo accommodation option), and swiping through one more huge electric gate. It had us wondering – just what was in here?!

The Zoofari Lodges come into view

The Zoofari Lodges come into view

Off we went again, down another private road. When we first caught sight of our accommodation for the night we had to catch our breaths – a row of African-style, ultra-smart looking tent-cross-cabin lodges. But it wasn’t just the sight of the luxury lodges that had us excited, but what they were facing. It was quite simply, amazing – an African Savannah, chock-full of exotic animals!

The Animal View Zoofari Lodges

The Animal View Zoofari Lodges

Our Animal-View Zoofari Lodge – The Giraffe Lodge

The Giraffe Lodge

The Giraffe Lodge

We quickly parked the car, eager to get to our lodge and were met by our welcoming hosts. Our bags were wheeled in a cart ahead of us as we walked a down a short path to our accommodation. From the earthen path to the rock-towers scattered along the way, it was clear that we were now entering an African safari!  As we stepped up onto the large deck of our lodge – aptly named the Giraffe Lodge – we gained full appreciation of the Zoofari Lodge view!

The amazing Zoofari Lodge African Savannah view

The amazing Zoofari Lodge African Savannah view

The Animal View Zoofari Lodges directly faced the African Savannah, a very large paddock which seemingly stretched as far as the eye could see. Recessed fencing gave the impression that there was nothing stopping the animals from wandering up onto our veranda!

Giraffes quietly strolled about, or stood laconically munching hay under high thatched-roof poles, a literal stones-throw in front of our safari accommodation. A curious Ostrich did the animal equivalent of drive-by – cruising to check us out.

This never gets old - almost the whole time we were there, so were "our" giraffes!

This never gets old – almost the whole time we were there, so were “our” giraffes!

Groups of Antelopes lay here and there in the grass. Even some red kangaroos were grazing. It’s all so close, you can actually lie in your king-sized bed and watch your own private African animal show – and it’s right there in front of your lodge! Yes, it’s really that amazing.

Zoofari Lodge view - Antelope scattered across the savannah

The Zoofari Lodge View – Antelope scattered across the savannah

Inside Our Zoofari Lodge

The best way to see what a Zoofari Lodge is really like, is to take a walk-through with us! Here is our Zoofari Lodge – just press play on the YouTube video below.

The lodge itself, was pure luxury. African-styled, with beautiful attention to detail, the canvas walls gave it an authentic safari-feel. A king-size bed dominated the room. Strewn with decorative cushions, its screen curtains tied back, safari-style. A fold-out sofa provided a second double bed.

The Zoofari Lodge king-size bed

The Zoofari Lodge king-size bed

The view from the bed - this is truly sleeping with giraffes!

The view from the bed – this is truly sleeping with giraffes!

Little, thoughtful touches were everywhere. A pair of binoculars and hard-covered Africa book lay on a heavy wooden table, ready for animal-spotting. Stylish, lodge-style wooden lamp stands and other African-themed pieces decorated the room – even heavy, polished logs served as bed-side tables. Reverse-cycle air conditioning kept us lovely and cool in the summer heat.

The Zoofari Lodge Ensuite

The Zoofari Lodge luxurious ensuite

The Zoofari Lodge luxurious ensuite

The lodge ensuite was huge, with an peep-through concertina window to the room, double vanity, luxurious double-shower and huge fluffy towels. There were complimentary toiletries supplied, and we found deluxe bathrobes and slippers in a storage cupboard in the bedroom.

The ensuite features a double-sink vanity

The ensuite features a double-sink vanity

The children were delighted to discover a rolled-towel elephant and tiger-striped rubber-duck sitting on the side of a decadent deep double-bath. No detail was missed.

The double bath featured a rolled towel elephant and tiger-striped duck!

The double bath featured a rolled towel elephant and tiger-striped duck!

The Zoofari Lodge Outdoor Deck

The Zoofari Lodge deck is spacious, with outdoor furniture and a comfy padded lounge

The Zoofari Lodge deck is spacious, with outdoor furniture and a comfy padded lounge

The front deck was spacious and attractive, with outdoor furniture, including a long padded lounge running down one side of it. Even though the other cabins were near by, would could have been alone. We didn’t notice our neighbours in the slightest, as the decks were very private.

A view like no-other - the giraffes spent most of their time right in front of the lodges

A view like no-other – the giraffes spent most of their time right in front of the lodges

The supplied binoculars were put to good use on the deck!

The supplied binoculars were put to good use on the deck!

Zoofari Lodge Guest House

The beautiful Zoofari Lodge swimming pool

The beautiful Zoofari Lodge swimming pool

Eventually we did drag ourselves away from our lodge to explore the nearby Zoofari Lodge Guest House. In keeping with the safari theme, this stunning Guest House is an African-styled building containing a bar, lounge, and high-ceiling dining room.

The Zoofari Lodge Guest House bar and dining area

The Zoofari Lodge Guest House bar and dining area

There was a cosy-looking log fire in the lounge, however as it was now mid-summer we appreciated the icy-cool air conditioning! The Guest House staff inside couldn’t do enough for the guests and catered to our every need. We were truly being spoiled, and the children were made to feel very welcomed and fussed over – this was a truly luxurious family getaway.

The Guest House lounge is a cosy spot with games, newspapers and toys for the children

The Guest House lounge is a cosy spot with games, newspapers and toys for the children

What do you play with in the Guest House? African animal toys of course!

What do you play with in the Guest House? African animal toys of course!

The Guest House veranda overlooked a beautiful rock-edged saltwater swimming pool. We couldn’t resist the allure of the cool water, and had a very refreshing swim (towels are supplied at the pool) followed by some ice-cold drinks lazing on the wicker lounges. It felt like we had wandered into an Out-Of-Africa movie set!

The Zoofari Lodge Guest House veranda is a great place to relax

The Zoofari Lodge Guest House veranda is a great place to relax

A few fellow guests were swapping stories of their day so far. Everyone agreed that the Zoofari Lodge experience so far was outstanding. All were spellbound with their deluxe lodges, and of course that view! The fact you could watch these majestic animals resting, eating, walking and living their lives mere metres from your front deck – even your bed – was such a unique experience.

It didn't take the kids long to settle in at the gorgeous Zoofari Lodge pool

It didn’t take the kids long to settle in at the gorgeous Zoofari Lodge pool

When we returned to our lodge we still had some time until we needed to get ready for dinner, so I made myself a cup of coffee and joined the children on the deck to enjoy watching the giraffes a while. Mind you, it seemed more the other way around sometimes – when we moved about they often turned their heads to look at us! We could have easily spent the whole day animal-watching.

We could have easily spent the whole day animal-watching

We could have easily spent the whole day animal-watching

A late storm provided drama to our ever-changing Zoofari Lodge view

A late storm provided drama to our ever-changing Zoofari Lodge view

The Zoofari Lodge African Banquet Dinner

Heading up to the Zoofari Lodges to the Guest House for dinner

Heading up to the Zoofari Lodges to the Guest House for dinner

We headed back up to the Guest House just in time for cocktail hour. Pre-dinner canapés (crocodile, anyone?!) were laid out, and wine tasting was in full-swing. Then followed the most sumptuous Afrian-inspired banquet dinner, prepared by the exclusive Zoofari Chef.

Even children who are fussy-eaters will find something delicious during the African Banquet!

Even children who are fussy-eaters will find something delicious during the African Banquet!

Platter after platter of indulgent fare was set before us  Each dish was deliciously sauced, sautéed and spiced – chicken, lamb, fish, vegetables, breads, salads and more. What a feast! The thoughtful staff kept the kids entertained with cocktail-animal African toys. Dessert was a melt-in-your-mouth selection – I stayed on-theme with a scrumptious African-styled syrup cake – yum! There were kid-friendly choices too, and both girls tucked into bowls of ice-cream.

Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Zoo Tours

With your Zoofari Zoo Lodge stay you also get two amazing behind-the-scenes zoo tours accompanied by a Zoofari Guide, and including some terrific animal encounters. Here is a video of just some of the tour highlights we experienced – press play on the YouTube video below to see Lemurs, Elephants and more!

TheTwilight Zoo Tour

The African Safari bus is the perfect way to see the Western Plains Zoo animals

The African Safari bus is the perfect way to see the Western Plains Zoo animals

As if we hadn’t been entertained enough, after dinner we heaved ourselves out of our chairs (probably about a kilo heavier than when we sat down!) for a special behind-the-scenes Twilight Tour of the zoo.

The Safari bus was ultra-modern and comfortable with open-sides for uninterrupted views

The Safari bus was ultra-modern and comfortable with open-sides for uninterrupted views

Can you imagine how exciting it is to cruise around a huge zoo in the dark, discovering African animals by torch-light? This tour is pure kid-heaven. We climbed aboard the swish new purpose-built Safari tour bus – and didn’t the kids love that bus – with open sides for great views of all the animals as we cruised by.

Samantha was over-the-moon at feeding a very polite African Bongo!

Samantha was over-the-moon at feeding a very polite African Bongo!

As the sun went down, we stopped along the way to personally feed a Bongo (a type of African deer) – what a treat! Then we moved on to visit Cuddles, the last African Elephant in Australia. The guide threw her a treat bucket which she happily emptied, and then threw it right back at us! If you look closely you can see the flying bucket in this photograph below.

Cuddles the elephant thought it was hilarious to throw her treats container back at us!

Cuddles the elephant thought it was hilarious to throw her treats container back at us!

Time to feed the Hippos! Off we went in the bus again to watch our tour guide-come-zoo-keeper toss cabbages to Happy the Hippo and his wife (she’s definitely the boss in that household!).

Watching the Hippos emerge from their lagoon was something special

Watching the Hippos emerge from their lagoon was something special

Last stop was the show-stopper – it was quite dark when our guide led the way by torch-light to reveal an amazing White Rhino at very close-quarters – he was fed just a mere metre away from us! We were all quite in awe of him.

This white rhino was fed right in front of us

This white rhino was fed right in front of us

The Twilight Tour was an extra-special look at the zoo and its rare and fascinating inhabitants that the general public don’t get to see – and it’s all included in the Zoofari Lodge experience. We felt very privileged.

Finally we all headed back to our lodges to snuggle down for the night, excited to the point of exhaustion. The kids were asleep before their heads hit the pillow, and the last sound I remember hearing as I drifted off to sleep was the throaty roar of a near-by lion….

The Morning Zoo Tour

Sunset on the African Savanna

Morning breaks over the African Savannah at Zoofari Lodge

It was still dark when we arose for our next exclusive Zoofari Lodge adventure – our sunrise Morning Tour! I’d never seen the children so motivated to get up before sunrise. After last night’s Twilight Tour, we knew to expect amazing things – and we weren’t disappointed!

All aboard! The kids were eager to start the Morning Zoo Tour!

All aboard! The kids were eager to start the Morning Zoo Tour!

Setting off into the sunrise - this is the stuff special childhood memories are made of

Setting off into the sunrise – this is the stuff special childhood memories are made of

We all eagerly climbed aboard our now-familiar safari bus and drove just a few metres – before we pulled over again! We looked at each other in surprise, and then it was revealed – we were going to meet the very giraffes we had been watching from our lodges!

Meeting the Zoofari Lodge giraffes at sunrise was an incredible experience

Meeting the Zoofari Lodge giraffes at sunrise was an incredible experience

A big bucket of carrots was produced, and our tour guide called out to the giraffes. Over they mosy-ed, ever-so casually whilst the children (okay, and the adults too!) were jumping out of their skins to feed them.

Memories for a lifetime - meeting the giraffes close-up was such a thrill!

Memories for a lifetime – meeting the giraffes close-up was such a thrill!

Finally everyone, adults and children alike, all had a turn feeding the giraffes. What a thrill! These long, blue-tongued fellows knew the drill, and politely removed every carrot offered to them by the eager guests. We all had three or four turns feeding them each, which was ample for some wonderful family photographs.

 I loved feeding the giraffes!

I loved feeding the giraffes!

Everyone was terribly excited to have such a long, relaxed opportunity to interact with these tall, elegant creatures. Where else could you do that? These Zoofari Lodge Tours was so much better than any extra Animal Encounter tours we had paid for at other zoos – and they were all included in our Zoofari Lodge stay.

When we ran out of carrots, we farewelled our giraffes and all climbed back into the safari bus for our next animal-experience. This time it was watching the black rhino be fed. It’s truly humbling to be so close to these magnificent, endangered creatures. Taronga Western Plains Zoo does so much to help support endangered rhino populations all around the world.

Grubs up! A black rhino being fed breakfast

Grubs up! A black rhino being fed breakfast

Next stop – we were allowed in to a private area to watch the Ring Tailed Lemur families – including tiny little babies clinging to their mother’s backs – be fed banana pieces right in front of us. It was almost cuteness-overload!

Mum, they're right there! - the kids loved seeing the Lemur babies

Mum, they’re right there! – the kids loved seeing the Lemur babies

Our last stop on our sunrise tour was one of the most memorable – the elephant house! Here we were allowed to watch these giant, gentle ladies patiently devouring their breakfasts after their morning baths. Here again we found Cuddles the elephant from the Twilight Tour, and her knowledgeable keeper Jackie told us a little more of her story. The last of her kind in Australia, Cuddles had outlived her fellow African Elephant mates, and was now supplied with two pet camels to keep her company throughout the day, so that she wasn’t lonely.

Jackie the elephant keeper told us all about her charges

Jackie the elephant keeper told us all about her charges

The children loved being given the opportunity to ask Jackie questions about elephants – to them, she was an elephant God! Samantha, my youngest, wanted to know – do elephants really like peanuts? (Yes, apparently they do!) Meanwhile, another zoo keeper strolled in eating a banana and casually threw half of it in to one of the breakfasting elephants who just as casually scooped it up and stuffed it into her mouth! This was a zoo experience like no-other. As we left the Elephant House, it was just in time to see Cuddle’s pair of camel pets being led to their day paddock to join her.

Of all the different things we learned about these beautiful animals over our stay, one thing was very clear – the animals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo were cared for, and cared about – very much. The tour guides and keepers all spoke with genuine affection about their animal charges.

It was lovely to see the close relationships the zoo keepers had formed with the animals

It was lovely to see the close relationships the zoo keepers had formed with the animals

Whilst expressing concern for the future of their breeds in general, the keepers all spoke hopefully of how animal population endangerment was being addressed – and how the zoo planned to help strengthen endangered populations into the future. It was really quite something to listen to them speak. Taronga Western Plains Zoo is making a real difference to many endangered animal populations around the world.

Zoofari Lodge Breakfast

After the Morning Tour it was time for breakfast at the Zoofari Lodge Guest House. Another delectable buffet and hot cooked meal awaited, which took us some time to polish off. There were plenty of choices to keep both children and adults happy.

Breakfast was another delicious affair at the Guest House with family-friendly food choices

Breakfast was another delicious affair at the Guest House with family-friendly food choices

The Zoofari Lodge version of poached eggs - decadently delicious!

The Zoofari Lodge version of poached eggs – decadently delicious!

After breakfast it was time to check out of Zoofari Lodge, however not the zoo – the Zoofari Lodge package also includes two full days admission. We bade goodbye to the lovely Zoofari Lodge staff and headed off to explore the zoo for the day.

Another day to wander the zoo at will

Exploring Taronga Western Plains Zoo

The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is very large, modern and professionally run. A zoo this size with a 6km loop road has an abundance of wildlife on offer – and many ways to get around the zoo to see it!

Zoo visitors can choose to drive using their own car, hire a bicycle or an electric cart. We opted for the car which did the job well, with wide roads and easy parking everywhere. However I must admit, I felt a little sorry we hadn’t chosen the cart option when we saw some families zooming around in them – they looked like fun!

Because a lot of the fencing is recessed, it feels like you are in the same paddock as the animals

Because a lot of the fencing is recessed, it feels like you are in the same paddock as the animals

We spent the day driving around the loop road, stopping off to visit the different animal areas. We saw so much – zebras, lions, cheetahs, tigers, and even a wee baby elephant (if you get the chance, be sure to visit the zoo soon, while Sabai the baby elephant is still tiny and hilarious)!

Sabai the new baby elephant is absolutely adorable!

Sabai the new baby elephant is absolutely adorable!

The best thing about the Taronga Western Plains Zoo is seeing the quality of life of the animals who live there. Plenty of room to move and well fed, our self-guided day at the zoo confirmed to us that this zoo is full of happy animals.

The lions at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo

As the day drew to a close, we were sad to leave. Zoofari Lodge had been unlike any accommodation we had every experienced before – unique, luxurious, exciting – a real African adventure!

The zoo itself was a great example of how to do a zoo right, and thanks to the fabulous Zoofari Lodge behind-the-scenes tours, both children had even decided to become Zoo Keepers! As for me, and I was already mentally planning a return trip.

What an incredible time we had on our Zoofari Lodge stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo!

Stop Press – new attraction!

The exciting new Savannah Safari tour is now open! Photo source - Western Plains Zoo

The exciting new Savannah Safari tour is now open! Photo source – Western Plains Zoo

Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo has a brand new attraction – the exciting new Savannah Safari tour is now open! Climb aboard the Savannah Safari truck and experience a unique guided tour amongst African animals. Just like a safari! Only $10 per adult and $5 per child (in addition to Zoo admission). You can find out more about the Savannah Safari at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo website here.

Zoofari Lodge – what’s included?

– Two day admission to Taronga Western Plains Zoo

– One night accommodation at Zoofari Lodge

– Exclusive behind the scenes tours with a Zoofari Guide

– African style canapés, banquet dinner and dessert

– Buffet breakfast

– Standard bicycle hire for two days

– 10% discount at the Zoo’s Souvenir Shop

– 10% discount voucher for Bakhita’s Café

– 10% discount on additional Animal Encounters

Zoofari Lodge essential info

Zoofari Lodge is 15 luxurious African-style lodges with exclusive access to the Zoofari Lodge Guest House, offering guests lounges, verandah, catered fine dining and a salt-water swimming pool

Animal View Lodges sleep up to four people, with a king split bed and sofa bed.
Rates start from *$309 per adult / *$49 per child – check current rates at the official zoo website

Bushland View Lodges sleep up to six people with a queen bed, two singles and a sofa bed.
Rates start from *$269 per adult / *$49 per child – check current rates at the official zoo website

Both Animal and Bushland View Lodge accommodation include a private ensuite, coffee and tea facilities with mini-bar, a fridge and a shaded veranda with outdoor furniture. All bedding, linen and towels are provided. 

Zoofari Lodge location

Address: Obley Road, Dubbo, NSW 2830
Find it on Google Maps here
Phone:
(02) 6881 1400
Email: wpz@zoo.nsw.gov.au
Website: Taronga Western Plains Zoo official website.

*All prices are correct as at March 2017 – please check the official zoo website for current rates

The Let’s Go Mum! family were hosted guests of Zoofari Lodge. All opinions are our own.

zoofari-lodge-taronga 600x800-002

Have you ever visited the Taronga Western Plains Zoo? What do you think about staying inside the Dubbo Zoo? Comment below…



About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
Shares