Perth Zoo and I go way back. And I mean WAY back. Almost too far back to admit to you, dear KidzaBuzzer. That photo? That photo was taken 30 years ago, when my dad was a keeper at Perth Zoo. Yes! For real! It was in the West Australian – something to do with school holiday activities, I think – and it was (still is, in fact) my proudest moment.
Things were different three decades ago. Occupational health and safety laws were rather more lax in the 80s, and no one blinked an eyelid at a small girl spending her school holidays hanging out with her dad in the bird aviaries.
In retrospect, this position of privilege turned me into a bit of a prat. I thought I was king of the hill. When we went on school excursions I’d stroll past the entry gates, high-fiving the girls on the front desk, with an air of “this is my hood, guys, you better deal with it”.
When my dad brought an echidna into my year-two class, I hung out at the back, casually displaying an air of indifference. The teacher asked if I’d like to come up and pat the echidna, and I clearly remember saying: “Na, I can touch it at home.” Can you imagine?! I would punch me, if I met me.
You can understand why, then, I love the zoo. It’s my happy place, and I love that I was able to take my three kids along on Sunday on a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo. It was like coming full circle, and it was magical, or as magical as a tour can be when you forget to bring the pram and have to carry a two-year-old for two hours straight. My arms hurt.
To begin with, we trialled the zoo’s A to Zoo education programme. Ben went off with the big kids to build a tiger feeder out of boxes (WHICH HE LOVED, because I don’t encourage that sort of behaviour at home) while I stayed with the little ones to sing songs and learn facts and make masks. They were in their element!
From there, we went to a secret outback enclosure, where we got to meet a quokka, the king of the stick insects and – wait for it – an echidna. I behaved myself this time, I promise.
Then, can you BELIEVE, the older kids and parents were allowed to FEED THE ORANG-UTANS. We tried to stay cool about this, me and my fellow mums, but I was stupidly excited. Feeding the orang-utans! Up close and personal! The old orang-utan – the oldest in the WORLD, in fact, at 62 – waved at me. Definitely. You can’t buy an experience like that. Well actually, yes, you can. The zoo offers various close encounter experiences, which are suitable for various ages and various prices. Check out their website. It is TOTALLY worth it.
Our magical day ended on the carousel. With ice cream. Of course it did. Well okay, that’s a lie. Our magical day ended with a small child screaming because he hadn’t had time to see the tigers, and another one still refusing to walk, and a third, slightly older child, trying to detour through the gift shop. But that rather ruins the fairytale ending, doesn’t it?
Perth Zoo’s at 20 Labouchere Rd, South Perth. Whilst they can’t offer a discount in KidzaBuzz you can buy a copy for $25 at the info/membership desk as you enter!