Saturday, July 16, 2016

Taronga Zoo

After a week of being in Australia, I decided it was time to see some animals. 

Fun, or not so fun, fact about Sydney: they don't let you touch/hold koalas in the city. It's against the law. It, and I quote, "stresses them out." The silver lining is that you can hold them in other cities (Brisbane, Adelaide, etc.)., and I have lots of animal quality time set up in those cities after I finish working.

....but that's not for a whole 'nother month. 

So, on Saturday morning, I decided to catch the ferry to Taronga Zoo - the closest zoo to the city. For those wondering, this is not Steve Irwin's zoo. That zoo is actually in Brisbane, and Jeff and I have plans to go there one of the weekends he's in town. But in all honesty I'll probably be walking around trying to take pictures with Bindi rather than animals... #iwanttohugher

I was told it's a beautiful zoo (as in a common wedding venue), the ferry ride gave great views of the city, and that the "giraffe encounter" was a great experience (I'll explain later). Good enough for me! I hopped over to Circular Quay, grabbed some coffee, and jumped on the ferry. 

I will note that as we approached the zoo, several of us thought it looked quite similar to those poor folk who took the ferry to Jurassic Park. Separate island...lots of trees...gondalas - one guy even started humming the theme song. 

But alas, there were no dinosaurs in sight, and after about a 15-minute boat ride - we made it!

I bought my entry ticket at the wharf, so once I got off the ferry I got in line to take a gondola ride up to the top of the park! The park is basically on the side of a big hill, so this way you just work your way down the zoo back to the ferry.

I looked behind me on the ride and this was my view. Not too shabby :)

Immediately after making it to the top, I went to book my "giraffe encounter." The zoo has a couple of "animal encounters" that let you go one by one into the animals habitat, hang out with them, and a photographer takes your picture with them. For the giraffe one, you walk in with a handful of carrots. Apparently the giraffes get all up in your personal space with their long black tongues and it's a grand ole time. 

Unfortunately for me, it's such a grand ole time that it was sold out when I got there. Wamp wamp. It turns out the only encounters still open were the koalas and the owls. I heard the koala encounter was nothing special since you can't touch or hold them, so basically you just take a picture standing next to the tree they're in. BUT - I had come all that way and birds freak me out (no way I was holding an owl), so I just decided to do the koala one. (Kristie - we may have to attempt the giraffe encounter when you get here!)

Not gonna lie - I was pretty bummed. BUT, I decided to not let it ruin my day, and just prayed that God would give me a good picture with a koala. 

No seriously. I really prayed that.

 In the meantime, I wandered around the beautiful grounds of the park. This zoo is b.e.a.u.tiful. You feel like you're in paradise the majority of the time. Plus, it has a "wild ropes" obstacle course so many times people are climbing ropes above your head like a buncha human monkeys :)

And then every now and then you'll turn a corner and see a glimpse of the city through the trees. Which still, after a week, makes me smile at the sight. :)

 After about 45-minutes of looking at animals, it was time for my koala encounter.You go in by groups (so if you came with 4 people, you could go in with four people), but as it was just me in my group, I got to do a solo. 

As I was walking in, I heard the keepers talking about how she (koala) was being really shy today and I thought 'great - this is going to be a bust.' So I went in, took the picture next to the tree, and then a keeper asked if I wanted a couple of pictures on my phone. So I said sure, gave her my phone, and resumed my position by the tree.

After a few seconds I begin to hear sniffing, and then feel a claw on my head. The keeper slightly panics, but luckily still keeps taking shots, because I have a nice little picture progression of how I met my sweet koala friend named Wattle. 

Starting top left, clockwise: 1) normal, 2) intrigued, 3) reaching, 4) petting, 5) sniffing, 6) a koala thumbs up and a smile. She likes me!

When the keeper gives me my phone back, I turn around and try to get some shots myself. Well, thanks to Pantene Pro-V, Wattle was quite intrigued and shimmied down her tree to get a closer look. And by closer I mean she had both her hands on my forearms and I got quite some close-ups of Wattle girl. 

"You come here to me"

"Gimme that phone"

Both hands on my arms (told you she got close...)

Then her keepers chastised her. This is her reprimanded pose.

And her "I will rise above this" pose. She was quite the prima donna. 

So at this point, I'm on cloud nine. The keepers said they've never see a koala latch to a visitor, and while it's illegal for me to touch her, the law doesn't say she can't touch me :) 

When I turned to leave (had to let the next group get a turn), I hear the keepers laugh so I quickly turned around. Sweet Wattle girl was following me!

Isn't she just the sweetest? I still am excited to hold a koala, but for an encounter that wasn't supposed to be all that great - mine turned out pretty fantastic. I love that God doesn't have to prioritize prayers. Because of all the prayers prayed that day, I just have a feeling cute koala pictures wouldn't have made the top ten. But He still made it happen. :)

At this point, I didn't really care what else happened. Looking at animals behind a railing just didn't quite have the same experience. :) Before the seal show, I decided to grab lunch at a restaurant called "The View," and when I got there I quickly understood why....

Hellooooo Sydney.

Also notable: in Texas, our zoos serve hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken tenders. In Australian zoos, your only options are grilled fish, fried fish, and squid. :)

The seal show was pretty amazing. Seals "walking" on dry land just makes me laugh. The Taronga Zoo is a rehabilitation zoo (think Finding Dory for those of you that have seen it), so all of the seals were rescued from beaches and "in rehab" here. So the show allowed you to see newbies in training all the way to the most experienced/healthy seal.

I looked around for a bit more, and tried not to buy a thousand stuffed animals for my niece and nephew. And in all honesty, I really wanted to buy myself a stuffed koala and name her Wattle... #kidatheart

One more shot with the view before I headed home... with a selfie stick.

Oh and then I was leaving and saw a giant stuffed koala and naturally had a random human take a picture of me on it. Though now that I look at it, this koala is quite creepy looking.

Ferry ride home! I have about ten thousand different pictures of this skyline on my phone. It just doesn't get old. 

And then - like any normal person would do - I treated myself to a job well done. I'm so glad ice cream doesn't have calories over here....


And that was my trip to Taronga Zoo! I miss Wattle already. 

Have a great weekend!

Until next time,


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