We're going to the zoo

My first touristy expedition alone was to the highly recommended Taronga Zoo.  The zoo is accessible by car, but since it is on the other side of the harbour, for me the way to travel was by ferry.  Sydney is a spectacularly beautiful city and it was a wonderful way to start my trip, gliding across the sparkling waters from Circular Quay, past the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge.  It's only a 15 minute journey too, so not unbearable for those who dislike boats or get seasick.  Just as rewarding as the boat ride is riding the cable cars over the zoo to the main entrance, commanding a breathtaking view of Sydney to the south, and the animals underneath.

I'm often conflicted when it comes to zoos.  Obviously it's not ideal to keep animals contained in such a restrictive manner as this, and I've certainly seen places where the exhibit is just not sufficient for the wellbeing of the creature/s withing (the lone polar bear pacing up and down his small, dry area at Vienna Zoo was heartbreaking).  However, there is something so hugely enjoyable about seeing so many exotic creatures up close, especially for an animal lover like myself who gets excited just seeing a dog while walking through the park.  Taronga Zoo is an excellent example of its type, as the animals have spacious exhibits, are largely suited to the climate of Sydney, and best of all, are in the majority indigenous to Australia anyway.

Short-nosed echidna; big lazy wombat sleeping on his back
Some Australian animals can be found fairly easily in the wild: kangaroos for example still exist in huge numbers, particularly in the deserts and national parks.  However the past few centuries of colonisation have had a catastrophic effect on the Australian ecosystem, as the introduction of non-native animals and plants have caused many species to become endangered, or even extinct.  At Taronga Zoo there is a Tasmanian Devil exhibit, although unfortunately they were too shy to come out while I was there, which is also a breeding programme.  Devils are seriously endangered though so the zoo is your best bet of seeing them, same with many of the other indigenous creatures, like koalas (which you can actually get close to here).

Taronga Zoo isn't just a showcase of native animals, there are the African safari classics.  The lions were looking incredibly photogenic and regal when I visited them, although unfortunately the Siberian tiger was curled up on his shelf fast asleep (a real shame since tigers are my absolute favourite).  The giraffes seemed in good spirits, but not nearly so much as the elephants.  The youngest baby kept spraying himself in the face with muddy water and generally having fun splashing about, and I fell in love and wanted to steal him and raise him as my own.  Maybe that's a bit of a strong reaction but baby elephants are just too precious.

The real highlight, though, was the free flight bird show that runs twice a day.  In this you get to watch beautiful parakeets and galas fly overhead, see a buzzard break an egg with a rock, have an owl swoop just over your head, all while sitting in the sunshine with the most phenomenal views ahead of you.  Now that's something London Zoo just can't match.

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