Trip Report: A Weekend in Dubbo (and at Taronga Western Plains Zoo)
Welcome to May! The weather is getting cooler and we are all settled into the New Year. It’s going so fast, but at the same time events from earlier this year seem like they were forever ago, for example our last holiday! So last weekend we headed over to Dubbo for a classic family holiday. We met up at a ridiculously early AM hour at the appointed starting point and road tripped over.
The point of our trip was to visit Taronga Western Plains Zoo (the whole trip was inspired by some effective movie advertising!). It took us around 6 hours to get there, travelling through the Blue Mountains and a breakfast stop in Mudgee. We arrived in Dubbo at around 10.30am (you can do the math to figure out how early we left!) and we were lucky enough to be able to check in early so we could store all the food we bought in the fridges. We booked two “cabins” at Dubbo Midstate Caravan Park. We booked a Superior Villa and Shearer’s Cabin, which both sleep 5 each. The Superior Villa had a very clean, modern apartment-like interior with a caravan park cabin exterior. It even had a coffee machine! The other cabin we stayed in was the Shearer’s Cabin, in comparison to the Villa this was less impressive and we joked that this cabin was the servant’s quarters but in reality it wasn’t too bad. It was very basic, with a small bathroom, two tiny bedrooms and a sitting area/kitchen. It met all our needs- was clean, had areas for us to hang out in and had a kitchen so we were pretty happy. Plus the cost per person was super cheap. The only blimp was that the DVD player in both rooms didn’t work and the staff didn’t know how they worked so our planned movie night ended up being a night of watching the movies on TV.
After unloading all our stuff, we headed to the zoo, which was only 10 minutes from our accommodation. We had pre booked our tickets so when we arrived we just added on the giraffe feeding experience (Giraffes in Focus, $7) and a behind the scenes safari tour (Wild Africa Encounter, $29) for the next day. The zoo pass gives you two days entry, so on Saturday we decided to explore at our own pace (plus we had missed the times for the two experiences we wanted to do). The zoo has a 6km circuit which you can drive, walk or cycle. I had planned on walking thinking it would be more fun (and incidental exercise!) but we ended up driving and stopping at each central area and then walking the little paths. And I am glad we did! Despite driving around the circuit instead of walking, we were all exhausted by the end of the day and had throbbing feet. The enclosures are quite large and many of the animals are only accessible by foot or bike so there was still a bit of walking involved. The zoo houses a lot of big, majestic animals including rhinos, giraffes, lions and tigers. It was pretty awe inspiring to see these large creatures walking around just metres in front of us. In particular it was such an amazing sight to see the giraffes, these gigantic creatures walking around and eating in front of us. Aside from the giraffes, the other highlight of our day was watching the meerkats. They are such fun to observe, watching them play with other and run to the glass in curiosity. The Gibbons also provided much entertainment, with many zoo guests sitting around their enclosure and watching them play and swing amongst the ropes and trees. One of the last areas of the zoos lets you get up close and personal with some animals, this one is filled with Australian animals such as kangaroos and emus. However, if you have been to Featherdale Wildlife Park you may find this a bit disappointing as the animals are much more timid than the ones at Featherdale and instead of coming up to humans they mostly want to avoid us and hang out in their rest areas where people are not allowed.
|The curious and playful meerkats|
The next morning we cooked up a big breakfast (wins of having a kitchen in our accommodation and an Aldi down the road) before heading to the zoo again. We wanted to get in early so that we would be first in line for the Giraffe Encounter so were at the giraffes enclosure by 9.30am for the 10.10am booking. The time passed quickly because the Giraffes were quite active at this time, aware that feeding time was nearing. In fact, as soon as the ranger pulled up outside the encounter, they were all already assembled around the feeding platform. The ranger and volunteers explained how to interact with the giraffes and how to feed them to ensure a good photo. Being such eager beavers, we were first up to feed the giraffes. You get to go up in groups, and feed the giraffes one by one so the rest of your group can take pictures of you. You are given a set number of carrots each to feed the giraffes, and it goes so quickly because the giraffes are all keen to be picked for a snack. The whole experience goes for only a few minutes but as quick as it was, it was a great experience being able to interact one on one with such amazing animals.
|Feeding some giraffes!|
Being first for the giraffe encounter meant that we had time to walk to the meeting spot for our African encounter tour, which began at 10.45am. This group tour takes us to the parts of the zoo that are not open to viewing by the public. We didn’t see as many animals during the tour as we imagined but we did get to see some of the cheetahs that were not in the public viewing area, they more active than the ones we saw the day before in the zoo and we were much closer to them so that was definitely a highlight. Another highlight was driving through the zoo’s savannah area and having the giraffes just casually hanging just outside our van. We also got an exclusive peek at a one week rhino with his mum.
|One of the Cheetahs not on display|
The end of the tour also marked the end of our trip to Dubbo and we made our way back home (with a stop at Outside the Square Café in Mudgee for a late lunch and dessert stop). Even though the drive was long, we all enjoyed our time in Dubbo and I would recommend it as a good weekend getaway from Sydney.