Our year at the zoo…….

For Christmas 2013 we bought ‘zoo passes’ as part of the kids presents.  While the passes were technically for Anto and myself as the kids got free entry, we thought they would enjoy regular trips to the zoo throughout the year.

We happen to live about an 8 minute drive from the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra. I had taken Astrid for a visit when she was 18 months old, along with our Swedish friends, who were visiting Canberra that week and wanted their kids to see some Aussie animals.  Astrid enjoyed that visit to the zoo, but as far as zoos go (and we’ve been to quite a few) it is fairly small and relatively expensive for one off visits.  The annual passes, however, are a really good deal. By the time you make a third visit in a year you’re ahead. Several of our friends also have zoo passes, and given how close it is to home, we figured we would go regularly and get good value out of the pass.

When we bought the passes I had every intention of taking the kids to the zoo every few weeks and at different times of the day to see different animals out and about to see how their behaviour changed throughout the year.  Unfortunately real life got in the way of my grand plans and we didn’t go quite as frequently as I had hoped. The sleeping schedule of a small baby also dictated visit times to a certain extent. We did end up visiting at least 10 times though in the 13 months our pass was valid. Hot tip – the passes are valid until the end of the month you purchase them in, so we deliberately bought ours at the start of January 2014 and were able to use them up until the end of January 2015.

We had a great time in our year of zoo visits, and although the zoo isn’t huge by Australian standards we did enjoy our walk around to see all our ‘friends’ and it was fun to see when new animals had come into the zoo or when exhibits had moved.  After awhile you get to know the hiding and sleeping spots of various animals and it’s easier to find them (even if not to get good photos).

Astrid loved every zoo visit, although half the time the attraction was running around with friends rather than just seeing the animals.  Soren was very little (only 2 months old) when we started our zoo year and mostly slept through visits or hung out in the sling enjoying the sunshine. The last few months of visits he really enjoyed seeing the animals and would sit transfixed in his stroller, refusing to sleep, meaning we had to go during non-sleeping times!

I took my camera to the majority of our zoo visits. Some days the animals (and weather) were cooperative and I got some nice pictures, other days, not so much!  I’ve gone through the 600 odd zoo photos from the year and here are selection that show the animals and the kiddy fun!

The big cats……….

It didn’t seem to matter what the time of day was, the big cats were pretty much always lying around, sleeping or sunning themselves…….. lazy buggers, in my next life I’m coming back as a cat (probably a pampered house cat though).  Sometimes we managed to time our visits for feed time and got to watch them drag their meat around and hide it from their friends.

The monkeys, capuchins and lemurs……

These were always fun to look at. Sometimes hard to spot but endlessly entertaining.  Especially while sitting at the cafe and eating lunch!

The bears…….

The sun bear and the brown bears were often not too hard to spot.  They liked to wander around and play in the water.  Mr Sun bear was often sleeping in hard to spot places though!

The tree dwellers…..

The tree kangaroos, koalas and red pandas were some of our favourites to try and find. The tree kangaroos were usually hanging out in their box or eating, and not hard to find. The koalas were always sleeping……. even when getting sprayed with water on a hot day. The red pandas were more of a challenge, they like to hide way up high in the tree tops and without a really long lens, I didn’t always get great shots. I did get a few sneaky ones in though 🙂  My friend Karin loves the red pandas so we made sure we tracked them down on all our visits.

The otters, meerkats and penguins…….

These are all kiddy favourites!  The penguins have always been one of Astrid’s favourite animals (right up there with the giraffes). We love to watch the penguins swim and play in their little enclosure. They are very friendly and like to entertain all the kids.  Much like the meerkats, who are total show offs and have the kids standing at the glass for ages watching their antics. Often the otters were sleeping but when out eating or having a swim they liked any kid-sized attention, they were a touch on the smelly side though so we preferred to hang out with the penguins and meerkats.

The giraffe, zebras and alpacas……

Astrid has always loved giraffes and zebras and they are a favourite at every zoo.  There is only one resident giraffe at our zoo, but he still gets a visit every time.  The zebras seemed to go AWOL throughout the year, so we aren’t sure what happened to them or when they will be back.  Towards the end of the year an alpaca enclosure appeared, much to Astrid’s excitement. She always wanted to see the alpacas, despite having her own 2 in her yard she can play with whenever she wants!

The kangaroos, emus, wallabies, devils, emus and wombats…….

There is a nice open range area of the zoo with several kangaroos and wallabies, as well as emus and peacocks.  You can walk around and chat to them all and they are pretty friendly…….. except a wallaby who was a bit miffed that Astrid wasn’t going to feed it when it was trying to sniff her – ending in tears and huge face scratches that took months to heal! That was the last time Astrid was game to get quite that close to the wallabies. The zoo staff were apologetic and suspected exactly which wallaby it was.

The Tassie devils are in an enclosed area within the open area of the zoo, and we knew better than to get too close to them.  One day the emu was being particularly friendly with my camera and I got some great shots but I wasn’t very trusting of his ways!


The zoo also has an aquarium. It was closed for renovations for most of the first part of the year, but many of the resident reptiles would come out for a visit and pat with staff.  Once the aquarium reopened we visited on most our trips. Astrid loved the touch pool and Soren was fond of running around the reptile exhibits and getting up close to the snakes and lizards.

A year of kiddy fun

It’s amazing how much the kids grew and changed in our year of zoo fun.  You can tell from all the smiles, and sometimes sleeping babies how much fun we had!

We often met up with my friend Karin and her littlies for our zoo visits, and the kids had a ball together.  Put a bunch of toddlers and babies together with some fresh air and animals to look at and it’s a good way to entertain them for a couple of hours. The promise of lunch or an icecream after a zoo visit always added to the experience too!

Given how much the kids enjoyed the zoo, and how convenient it was for outings and play-dates we would have renewed our membership again this year. However, with Astrid at preschool, and swimming and gymnastics lessons it would have been tough to get good value out of it.  We may get another memberships in a couple of years as it was definitely good value for money given how often we went.  This year we are going to try Questacon and see how often that annual pass gets used!

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