We believe Taronga Zoo is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Sydney but its location on a hill does mean there are some challenges regarding ease of access is you are using a manual wheelchair. We were zoo friends for many years and visited each school holidays so we know our way around the zoo and have learnt a few tips and tricks which makes a visit easier.
Recently the kids and I had a lovely day at Taronga Zoo to check out the new attractions including the Squirrel Monkeys, the baby Pygmy Hippo and the Taronga Centenary Theatre. We love an excuse to return to the zoo and BJ is always thrilled to see the staff who he’s come to know. One of the ladies on the skyrail always greets him warmly commenting, “We’ve not seen you for a while!”
TARONGA ZOO’S CENTENARY THEATRE
Taronga Zoo is dedicated to spreading a strong conservation message in a variety of ways. The new Taronga Centenary Theatre provides another medium for the zoo to spread the word about caring for animals in a fun way. The Theatre is a 5 metre high by 25 metre wide 270 degree screen which allows visitors to become immersed in a movie with a conservation or wildlife theme. The current film is Wild Squad Adventures, a short twelve-minute film about a young girl who discovers a secret Head Quarters hidden beneath the zoo.
The Theatre is wheelchair accessible with ramp access to the theatre and space for a wheelchair at the end of the aisle. Entry to the theatre is free with general admission to the zoo and we think it’s a lovely addition. We all enjoyed the experience and the large screen had BJ thoroughly entranced.
Bean bags are available closer to the screen for those able to transfer.
One of the best photo opportunities at the zoo is available from the top of the ramp at the Theatre. That’s where I took the photo at the top of this blog.
The Squirrel Monkey walk through enclosure opened earlier this year and the monkeys are still getting used to people visiting their home. At the moment wheelchairs are not able to enter the enclosure for the safety of the monkeys. We were advised it may take some time for them to get used to wheelchairs. As AJ and I learnt in Adelaide, Squirrel Monkeys are extremely curious and had no boundaries when AJ was sitting in a wheelchair (you can read about our Squirrel Monkey encounter here) so we understand.
We left BJ’s wheelchair outside and I assisted him to walk through but he seemed happier watching from his wheelchair at the window.
If you are able to do the Squirrel Monkey walk through, small groups are escorted through between 10am and 1pm (correct at time of writing). Always check the Taronga Zoo website for the times for keeper talks and shows.
LEMUR FOREST ADVENTURE
While the Squirrel Monkeys are an excitable bunch, the Lemurs are a chilled group.
They’re all very zen-like, sunning themselves or snoozing in a group, seemingly unfazed by visitors, including wheelchair users.
Wheelchair access to the Lemur walk through is via the playground entrance (see photo below).
Small groups are escorted through the Lemur enclosure between 10am and 1pm (correct at time of writing). Check Taronga Zoo’s website for show times and keeper talks.
The seal show has always been one of BJ’s favourites . A strong conservation message around sustainable seafood and taking care of your garbage is intertwined into a charming show which introduces the audience to the many seals who call Taronga Zoo home.
Wheelchair seating is at the top of the amphitheatre. It’s a very popular attraction so get in early but keep in mind there’s no shade so it’s a hot wait in summer.
We love the Bird Show, not only for the show itself but also for the spectacular views of Sydney Harbour. Once again, the show is educational and offers some audience participation. Wheelchair seating is at the top of the amphitheatre but is also popular with families with prams so arrive at least 20 minutes prior to the show. It’s a good spot to stop for lunch if you take your own picnic.
If arriving at the zoo by ferry the Skyrail provides a functional and easy way to get to the top of the zoo to work your way back down. If you asked BJ, he’d tell you it’s a fun attraction at the zoo which should be ridden at least twice on every trip to the zoo. His enthusiasm for the experience never wanes.
The skyrail has weight limitations so cannot accommodate electric wheelchairs. We take BJ’s manual chair on the skyrail and we can all fit in the cabin with him. The skyrail is a great ride for kids but it offers great views of Sydney Harbour and the elephant enclosure. The skyrail is included with your entry into the zoo. We ask for a round trip ride so we don’t need to get off at the base of the zoo. My tip for the skyrail is to ride it earlier in the day if it is a windy day. It has to close if the winds get too strong.
We follow Taronga Zoo on Facebook so we never miss the news on births at the zoo. It’s been wonderful over the years getting to know the new arrivals and seeing them grow up. AJ still remembers the birth of the elephant calfs and has taken a keen interest in their growth. We were thrilled to see the baby Pygmy Hippo on our most recent visit. He, or she, was yet to be named.
Check the Taronga Zoo website for detailed information about accessibility. You can even download an accessibility map prior to arrival so you can plan your day.
To see everything you’ll need a full day at Taronga so arrive early. You’ll also see the animals at their most active.
Undercover accessible secure parking is available (paid) in the Taronga Zoo car park and there’s limited street parking (requires a push up hill).
Companion card is accepted.
Consider booking an animal encounter. The giraffe feeding is one of our favourites and is wheelchair accessible with the feeding happening from a platform. Encounters are limited so enquire at the gift shop on arrival or pre-book in advance.
Accessible stand-alone bathrooms are located at several locations around the zoo including near the entrance, below the giraffe enclosure, at the food court and more. See the Taronga Zoo accessibility map for further details.
We often take our lunch to the zoo to save money and treat the kids to something from the café in the afternoon. If you’d like to take the day off lunch duty, the zoo’s food court offers a range of food options including hot meals, salads, wraps and sandwiches.
Lifts link many levels of the zoo making access easier. If you have a power chair I recommend using this for the day because there’s one hill (from the chimpanzees to the entrance of the zoo) which is unavoidable and it’s quite a workout. I push BJ up it in his manual chair but he’s only 55kgs and it still leaves me huffing and puffing.
ROAR AND SNORE
One of my favourite travel experiences we’ve had in the last few years is glamping at Taronga Zoo’s Roar and Snore.
This is an accessible experience and we highly recommend it. You can read all about our stay and what was included here.
VIVID AT TARONGA ZOO
During the Vivid Festival Taronga Zoo lights up in the evenings with large animal light installations. It’s a wonderful family friendly way to enjoy the light festival without the overwhelming crowds in the city.
You can read more about our experience at Vivid at Taronga Zoo 2016 here.
DREAMNIGHT AT TARONGA ZOO
Last year we attended our first Dreamnight at Taronga Zoo and it was a magical evening. Dreamnight is a global charitable initiative in which zoos, aquariums and museums throughout the world partner with organisations that care for children. Organisations like Starlight Foundation, Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott receive tickets to allocate to families who use their services. Make enquiries early if you are interested in the event which happens in early December.
There’s an opportunity to see the animals, do art and craft, meet & greet characters and so much more.
If you’re lucky you’ll get to watch the sunset over Sydney Harbour with the giraffes.
You can read more about our time at Dreamnight here.
The lions and tigers are having a holiday while their enclosures have a makeover. I can’t wait to see this new area and to welcome them back. That’s where we head first when we get to the zoo. Seeing them prowling up close is quite something.
We were provided with a pass for our visit but our many visits over the years should speak volumes. We love the zoo.