So today was a Sunday well spent. My roommate called out from the kitchen, “By the way, I’m leaving for the zoo in 20 minutes”, and that was reason enough for me to get up and get the day started. We headed to Central Station, bought our tickets and rode the train to Circular Quay (pronounced Key for whatever reason). Once there we headed to Wharf 2 and were right on time to board the ferry to the Taronga Zoo. I haven’t spent a lot of time in/on boats or in open water, and man, it showed. The motion of the ocean was really not sitting well with me for getting on and off the ferry. The ferry was rocking, the walkway/ramp was rocking, and it was tough to keep balance. Luckily, that process only lasts minutes so I was cool once the ferry started moving, but I don’t think I can spend a lot of time on the open ocean (hopefully cruises are different?).
After a 15 minute ferry ride we landed at Taronga Park and boarded buses to head to the zoo entrance. For extra $$ you can take a sky ride to the top, but since our tickets allowed bus routes, we just stuck with that. The entrance fee to the zoo is up there, but man, it’s totally worth it. This was definitely the largest zoo I’ve ever been to, we were there for over four hours, and it still felt like we were rushing.
I was disappointed the platypus wasn’t available to see when we were at it’s display, but they massive variety of animals we did see more than made up for it. I saw everything from elephants, lions, mountain goats, chimps, condors, a TON of birds, kangaroos and wallabies, koalas, and some really cool nocturnal animals. My favorite moment of the day however, was going through one of the many “walkabout” trails. I saw an emu inside and decided to go inside, assuming it was a walk through that would go near the emu’s enclosed area. Little did I know, once inside, I was in it’s enclosed area, and it had no problem walking up to Elizabeth and I as if we were its best friends. I can say I was honestly excited, curious, and then suddenly terrified as bird (that was as tall as me), came closer and closer, rather quickly. It came up to a little less that a foot in front of me, and just stared, still coming closer and making a strange, purr-like noise. As I jumped away, it just followed us, until the next group of unsuspecting tourists came in, a father-son team, to which it followed them…into the next exhibit. It was pretty funny, and quite the adrenaline rush, but I’m glad to say I had a close, and rather uncomfortable encounter with an emu today.
Near the bottom of the zoo park there were tons of water tanks with penguins, seals, otters, and Australian pelicans. The leopard seals were fascinating, there were two, who charismatically swam towards audiences both above and under the water. They were so large and graceful. The otters also were quite entertaining. There were about 7 or so in the exhibit, and they playfully swam and teased each other in the water. At one point they all decided to gang up on one that was enjoying a prolonged body rub on a log. They all gathered around in the water beneath him, waiting for him to jump in. then proceeded to chase him through the water and on the land.
Another great exhibit was the Asian elephant. There were two areas where they kept them, and the first we saw kept the zoo’s only male elephant. I noticed that he was alone in the pin, and hovering around a large barn door near the edge of the pin. I figured it must be time to eat, and within minutes, a zookeeper showed up with a box of items and snacks. He seemed really happy to see her, and came to the doorway as she got out a brush. She used both words and her arms to get him to lift his feet, one at a time, so she could brush them off. It was very cute and impressive to see how smart he was, knowing his right from left, and hind to front legs. Every time he did something right, he was given an apple slice, which he picked up with his large trunk and stuffed in his mouth. Then it was time for some tricks. The zookeeper had him pick up items and place them places, he picked a hat up off the floor,and placed it on her head. she toss small tires, which he caught and sometimes placed on his head. It was great to see him enjoying showing off, and he looked really happy, which is always great when you think about the fact that he is living in captivity. But even better, he is part of the zoo’s breeding program, to help the endangered Asian elephant, so really, it’s very positive to see him in an environment where he can be cared for and protected. In fact, many of the animals kept at the Taronga Zoo are there in an effort to save their species.
Anyway, the zoo was great, but we were definitely exhausted by the time we left. On the ferry ride back, the ferry was delayed because all of the docks were taken, so we had a 3-4 minute period where we just sat on the water, right near the Sydney Opera House. Many people took photos, but I kept looking forward; first because the ‘motion of the ocean’ beckoned that I NOT look at or near the water, and second because the huge storm clouds over the city looked amazing. The skyline was a mix of sunset red and an almost steel gray as the massively stacked thick clouds took over. Luckily the rain didn’t start until we were getting off the ferry, to which it down-poured, but fortunately the train station was close. On the trainride back to Central we decided to have dinner at one of the restaurants near our street, to indulge in the local flair. We found a cute little restaurant called Paua with a nice string music CD playing and a decently affordable menu. I had baked mushrooms and they were delicious!
Day well spent.