Creatures great and small ... and night to recall

JOHN BORTHWICK enjoys a unique sleepover in Sydney's Taronga Zoo

‘Is this a set-up?’ I ask myself. I’ve just checked into my guestroom at Taronga Zoo Sydney’s new Wildlife Retreat and stepped on to the balcony. The view is gob-smacking — a young koala climbing a tree, slow-mo style, just metres away.

I look to see if there’s a zookeeper below urging our favourite national fur baby with “OK, Blinky, you’re almost there. A bit higher till you’re at balcony level”. There is no one, of course, but the koala stops at a fork in the tree that is — by coincidence? — exactly level with my balcony. It props there, possibly exhausted or perhaps eucalyptus-zonked, and will barely move for the next 16 hours. All part of the show it seems at the Wildlife Retreat.

There’s an old Sydney joke that Taronga Zoo’s giraffes have the best view in town as they peer haughtily across the harbour to the Opera House, city and harbour bridge. Guests at the retreat are now heads and shoulders, so to speak, above the giraffes if only for a night.

In late 2019 the non-profit Taronga Conservation Society Australia opened the Wildlife Retreat, offering guests a first-of-its-kind luxury sleepover while surrounded by Australian native wildlife. It’s a premium product with the proceeds supporting Taronga’s conservation and research projects for endangered species both here and abroad.

The four-storey retreat features 62 rooms and a restaurant. At the heart of this exclusive, 1.9ha compound is the Sanctuary, a bushland and waterways zone that’s home to unique critters like bandicoots, platypus, Cape Barren geese, freshwater eels and pademelons.

Read the full story here.


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