Adelaide Zoo’s newest attraction isn’t furry, feathery or scaly but it’s sure to make the whole family go wild.
And the winner of most popular attraction at the Adelaide Zoo goes to…
If you answered the pandas, Wang Wang and Fu Ni, you’d be half right. While the gorgeous, monochromatic bamboo-munchers certainly know how to pull a crowd, recently their popularity has been surpassed by the zoo’s latest and greatest attraction – and it’s not an animal at all.
Nature’s Playground – a new multi-purpose space is now the place to be at the zoo – whether you’re aged one or are well into your mature years.
Spanning almost an entire corner section of the zoo, just left of the main entrance, the space is hustling and bustling as kids (and some adults) climb rope ladders, jump on ground-level trampolines, slide down the slippery dips, splash in the water or run under the mist-sprinklers, roll around in the sand or walk on the aerial bridge which has views across to Adelaide Oval.
Built to offer a natural play experience for people of all abilities, there really is something for everyone – even if you just want to chill out under the shade with a coffee before exploring the zoo’s expansive grounds – all eight hectares of it.
Luckily the Wisteria Restaurant and cafe is right next to the play space and they make good coffee. The cappuccino even comes with a chocolate-powder panda face on it. Tick!
A few practicalities for parents. There are excellent toilet and baby change facilities right next to the play space and a large undercover, seated area if you’ve brought your own snacks. Tick tick!
But be warned, there is a downside to this amazing space – trying to get the kids to leave so you can actually go and see the animals who live at the zoo, which is why most people go there to begin with.
Admittedly, we didn’t get around to seeing that many of them - there are 2500 animals and 250 species after all - but we did visit a few favourites. And a cute little quokka called Lara was there to greet us as we entered the zoo, with the help of a keeper of course.
As I mentioned earlier, a big drawcard for the zoo are still Wang Wang and Fu Ni – but check out the signs on the enclosure as to who is who as the pair had pulled a house-swap the day we were there! Zoo keepers are hopeful they’ll hear the pitter-patter of baby panda feet in the future, as the pandas are the only breeding pair in Australia.
If you’re strolling through the wetlands aviary, keep an eye out for the echidna as it forages in the scrub – or just watch for the birds as they scurry away as there’s sure to be an echidna close by. Stroll up the boardwalk through the South East Asia habitat and you’ll come across the white-cheeked gibbons as they dangle and swing through the trees with great ease and the siamang family which hangs out on the island below.
The golden lion-tamarins are a hoot to watch as they play chasey and wrestle with each other, or you can see them scamper their own aerial walkway called Tamarins on the Run. If you’re on the grassy area next to the rotunda, you’ll get a great view. This is also a super spot to sit and suck on an iceblock on a warm day!
The giraffes are as tall and elegant as usual – although the cheeky meerkats who live right next door are more likely to steal the attention of onlookers, and all the photos too! The heritage Elephant House, which was built in 1900, has been repurposed into a part-museum, part-interactive display area showing old photos, animals skeletons and pelts.
A few more of our favourites were the hippos, pelicans, the flamingo, lions and otters just to name a few. While we didn’t quite make it to the children’s zoo or farmyard area, they’re both on our list for next time.
We just had to have one more visit to the playground for one last slide down the slippery dip before heading home.
For more information about the zoo, opening times, prices and Nature's Playground, visit Adelaide Zoo.