After a trip from the sunny Gold Coast to cool Melbourne, I played soccer mum, picking up the iMax and ferrying the work team out to Werribee Open Plains Zoo.
There were six of us, staying in two cabins and ‘glamping’ for a night at the slumber safari.
I implemented an annual offsite in 2014 for work, and took the team to Bali for a spot of team building and serious business planning and sessions away from the day-to-day grind of the office.
This year, we combined with a conference in Melbourne and did our two days business planning prior to heading to Albert Park…. But not before some fun at the zoo!
The girls were happy to be assigned to the Growling Grass Frog cabin, and the boys were right next door. After settling in, having a cold one on the verandah and admiring our view overlooking brolgas, Eastern grey kangaroos and a rhino, we were set for our first activity… a late afternoon wander through the zoo, and bus ride.
Our little tour took us past oryx, camel, kudu, eland, hippo and out towards the home of six Batchelor giraffe at feeding time. What gorgeous and elegant animals they are, and so close! Leroy the rhino wasn’t to impressed with us being in his territory and the zebra turned their gorgeously striped butts to us as we ventured by.
The highlight of the afternoon for me tho was getting up close and personal with the White rhino Kepamba. He’s obviously immune to the awe he induces at around two and a half tonne, and was happy to munch away while we enjoyed taking turns patting his thick, dusty hide. To be so close to one of the Big 5 when they’re becoming so rare, was pretty emotional. The ones I saw in Africa all have their mighty horns cut every two years to keep them far less attractive to the menace of poachers! To see this baby with his horn intact, and being much loved, was incredible.
The next visit had us drop by the lioness who gave us a few growls, just because she could, and we headed back to the Safari grounds for drinks and dinner.
With the theme of being sustainable and Eco-friendly, the Moroccan spread put on for our evening meal was pretty amazing, and all prepared on-site. Bravo to the chefs! None of us went to bed hungry!
An evening stroll through the zoo later saw us wandering through the Aussie section with the dozy koalas and kicking through the shearing shed, before heading back to the hippos by twilight, patting a python and looking in vain for the lovely cheetah.
Roasting marshmallows by the open camp fire finished the evening before we all retired to our comfy beds and rugged up for the night.
Waking to the sound of birdsong isn’t new for me, but to have lions roaring in the distance as well is a little unusual, and completely amazing!
A quick shower in the rustic bathrooms with our resident huntsman spider made me glad we weren’t visiting in the dead of winter when the cold winds would whistle up through the floorboards!
After our hearty brekky and a giggle at our fellow campers, all at breakfast in their onesies, from bub to grandma, we packed up the car and enjoyed our final zoo experience – behind the scenes with the cheetah at last and her keeper. We wandered her grounds, got close up pics (still behind the wire) and watched her morning run for her rabbits foot. Very cool!
We also snagged a quick visit to the serval cats, helping feed them their mealie worms for breakfast, and I couldn’t leave without checking in on the mighty silverbacks.
I’m heading to Uganda with The Hunger Project in two months and have added gorilla trekking on to my experience there. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the interaction we were having with the dad silverback as he wandered down to the glass and promptly turned his back to us, while still managing to interact and watch us as much as we did him. It was pretty special and made me wonder how amazing and awe inspiring it will be when there’s no glass in between, and just jungle!
If you ever do get a chance to head to Werribee, definitely book in for the Slumber Safari. It’s totally worth it.
And if you can help support my fundraising efforts for the fantastic work of The Hunger Project, please head to… http://tinyurl.com/