I’ve seen the sign to Symbio Wildlife Park many times when driving to the South Coast but we have never stopped. Last weekend we did and we were delighted to find a small zoo with a big heart.
Walking into Symbio we were immediately impressed by the animal enclosures which were fitted with glass panels which allow easy viewing for children in prams, young children and BJ in his wheelchair. The top area of the park is paved and the rest of the park is a combination of grass and compacted gravel (we didn’t find it difficult with BJ’s wheelchair but if you are self propelling in a manual chair I think you may need a bit of a push up some of the inclines).
The tiger enclosure is one of the loveliest I have seen at a zoo. The floor to ceiling glass gives visitors an unobstructed view of the two resident tigers, Cinta and Jalur. They are siblings originally from Auckland Zoo. We listened to the keeper talk and I couldn’t help chuckling as she kept referring to them as “these little guys”. Watching Cinta and Jalur stride in to find the food which had been left for them they seemed anything but “little guys.” BJ enjoyed watching from behind the safety of the glass. Very wise given that they can run at 60 kms an hour and compress bones with their 30, 9cm long canine teeth. Keeper talks at zoos allow for education regarding deforestation and the fact that this is leaving these beautiful animals critically endangered. If our children continue to hear this message I can only hope that it will bring about change in the future.
Symbio understands people want to get up close to animals to observe their behaviours. People crowded around the windows when the Cotton Top Tamrin Monkeys were fed. The bowl was placed on a ledge at the window and it was fascinating watching the monkeys come down one by one to eat. They proved to be just as fussy as we humans picking through the overflowing bowl to get to their favourite fruits.
A CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE ANIMAL KIND
We take advantage of animal encounters as often as we can. We have done lion feeding at Dubbo Zoo, Giraffe feeding at Taronga Zoo and the dolphin experience at Sea World to name a few. There is something magical about interacting with an animal rather than just looking on. BJ is not fond of furry animals so he took part in a Happy Snap experience with a python and an alligator at Symbio (there is an additional charge).
Unlike some of the adults having photos taken, BJ was keen to touch the python. We were a little concerned that with his uncontrolled movements he might squeeze it but it all went well. We are happy it did, both for the Python’s sake and Hubby and BJ.
AJ is more into the cute and cuddly animals and she booked in for two experiences, the Meerkat encounter and the Little Monkey’s encounter. She was ecstatic with both but the Meerkats were her favourite, as Ryan the keeper predicted. There are three Meerkats, Kapuki (the only girl and newest Meerkat on the block), Lone Wolf and Alexander. Kapuki is a girl with attitude and her newness does not faze her in the least. She certainly wasn’t going to be a push over and took prime position on AJ’s head and shoulder to show the boys who is boss. AJ fed the Meerkats a mixture of peas, beans, apple and carrot, Ryan was lovely with AJ and gave her lots of information about the Meerkats and made sure we had time to get good photos from outside the enclosure.
We were envious watching AJ feeding the Cotton Top Tamarin monkeys. She needed to put shoe covers on and wear gloves to help protect the monkeys from any bacteria. She had the undivided attention of the 5 boy Tamarins who were eager to eat the mixture of sultanas and mealworms that were for lunch. Martiza the keeper who went in with AJ advised her to feed the monkeys one piece of food at a time and to keep the rest in her other hand to avoid them running off with the lot. AJ said while she was feeding one of the boys that another was trying to get the food in her other hand by lifting up her index finger with his to get to it. Now we know where the saying “cheeky monkey” comes from. It was a wonderfully unique experience for AJ and she hasn’t stopped talking about it.
Like Ryan the keeper who did the Meerkat experience, Maritza was enthusiastic and passionate about her job. She wasn’t trying to “wind up” the experience as we have often had happen before, she was happy to answer our questions and was encouraging AJ to go into a career with animals in the future.
Symbio has lovely grounds so either take advantage of food from the cafe or pack your own picnic and make a day of your visit.
Although we have fed Kangaroos many times we enjoyed purchasing food from the shop and spending time with them at Symbio. The wildlife park also has other Australian animals such as Tasmanian Devils, an Emu, wombat and an Echidna. There are crocodiles, reptiles, Red Pandas and more.
Symbio is currently upgrading and expanding the range of animals on display which will be exciting to see in the future.
Disabled parking is available near the entrance to the zoo. A new disabled toilet facility is planned for the upgrade and it is hoped it will be completed in the New Year. This will be a stand-alone unisex facility. The current disabled toilet is in the men’s toilet. The men’s toilet consists of a single stall, therefore you will be the only person in there.
Print out the times for the keeper presentation, animal feed times and photo opportunities from the Symbio website. This allows you to plan your day and not miss out on any of the experiences.
Consider taking advantage of the Happy Snaps (alligator and snake photo opportunity are wheelchair accessible, we managed to get into the Koala enclosure with BJ’s wheelchair but there is sand on the ground and one step up to pat the Koala). Please note due to the limitations of the animal enclosures the experiences AJ did are not wheelchair accessible.
Symbio Wildlife Park accepts the Australian Companion Card. Please check their website for admission charges
We would like to thank Symbio Wildlife Park for supplying complimentary admission and happy snaps tickets for our day. AJ’s Meerkat and Little Monkey’s encounters were paid for by our family.