Have you ever wondered what happens in the cloak of darkness at a zoo? Despite movies like Zoo Keeper I can tell you there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on except between 27 May and 18 June when Taronga Zoo is coming alive at night with large illuminated animal sculptures. The zoo is most definitely lively and well worth the visit. For the first time Taronga Zoo is part of the Vivid Festival, lighting up as part of their Centenary Celebrations. We went along on opening night so we could share with you all the important details about wheelchair access and of course the fun that can be had.
People often say to me that they’d love to go to Vivid but they are put off by the crowds. Even with the wheelchair accessible viewing areas around the harbour there are still large numbers of people to navigate to get to those positions. In a wheelchair, or for little ones in a pram, there tends to be a lot of viewing of other people’s bottoms at that height.
We think that Taronga Zoo may be your answer if you don’t like the crowds or if you prefer driving rather than public transport. Here’s what you need to know about wheelchair access at Taronga Zoo during Vivid.
Vivid at Taronga Zoo is a ticketed event which limits numbers to 5000 people per night. The advantage to paying for the event is that there are simply less people which is particularly helpful for wheelchair users and those with littlies in a pram. We found it easy to access the installations and a lovely family friendly atmosphere. I didn’t hear a crying or whinging child during the night. Being open from 5.30 and a reasonable length circuit means that it is perfect for little ones or others that just can’t take the grand scale of Vivid in the city.
On arrival we were given maps which glow in the dark, adding a bit of additional fun for the kids. The circuit around the zoo is one-way so there is no chance of you getting lost but the map does identify what you are looking at when you get to the installations. I have to say I was not familiar with Pygmy Tarsiers or Pangolin so the map is handy for that reason.
Be The Light for The Wild is the name of the zoo’s exhibition which continues the conservation theme by highlighting ten critically endangered species with a trail of large illuminated sculptures. There are five species native to Australia, like the Greater Bilby and five on the brink of extinction in Sumatra (an island of Indonesia) such as the tiger.
Information boards at each of the sculptures give visitors a short description of the threat to the animal on display. Did you know Australians use 10 million single use plastic bags every single day? These become a threat to our marine life like our beautiful sea turtles.
Kids always love the opportunity to interact and Taronga has recognised this with a few opportunities to make things happen.
The chameleon is a popular attraction with kids making its colours change by touching a particular spot. This is an absolutely stunning sculpture and with the added element of interaction it is sure to be popular with more than our family.
The large cicadas react to sound which delights little ones.
If you are familiar with Taronga Zoo you’ll know it is built on a hill which gives it the most spectacular views of the city of Sydney. There is ramping throughout the zoo and the trip to the base is a little steep in areas but it is a relatively easy run down. It’s worth remembering that an easy run down means there is a hill to be tackled on the way back to the top gate. The installation trail turns around at the elephant enclosure and heads back to the main gate. We took the lift from the back of the food court to avoid one major hill.
From the giraffes to the Corroboree frog is always the killer. Hubby has a bad knee so I pushed BJ this year and made it with just a puff and a pant or two. An electric wheelchair would definitely be the way to go if you have one available.
ANZ BLUE PASS
One of the highlights for us was the ride on the Sky Safari. This has always been one of BJ’s favourite things to do at the zoo and seeing the city of Sydney in all its Vivid glory, on a clear night, is well worth the trip alone. The Sky Safari also allows visitors the opportunity of seeing the large sculptures from above.
The ANZ Blue Pass is only available to the first 1000 people who book on any night during the festival. The tickets don’t cost any more, they are simply limited which does make sure the wait is not long.
I know that some people have epilepsy which is affected by flashing lights. There is one small section of flashing green light at the start of the trail on a ramped section. It cannot be avoided if you have a wheelchair. I have no experience with epilepsy so if you are unsure if this will affect you or your child I suggest contacting the zoo directly to find out more about the lighting.
- Book your tickets early if you are keen to ride the Sky Safari (please note, due to the door width not all wheelchairs can be accommodated – check the website for details). Bookings can be made here.
- Parking is available at the zoo and there was plenty of disabled parking available on the ground floor of the parking station the night we visited. It is a flat rate of $7 after 4pm for parking.
- Get there early and dress warmly. Think beanie, gloves and scarves. It was really chill the night we visited. The zoo gift shops are open so if you leave home without a beanie you can always purchase one.
- The food hall is open at the zoo so you can take a break half way around and have dinner or a snack.
- Unisex stand-alone accessible bathrooms and baby change facilities are at the start of the trail before you go through the entrance and then at the bottom of the trail at the food hall.
- We did the skyrail at the end of the evening which was the perfect way to end the night and it didn’t spoil the surprise of any of the animals on the trail.
- If Vivid at Taronga Zoo runs again next year why not book Roar and Snore during the Vivid season? You get the regular Roar and Snore experience (which is accessible and you can read more here) plus you get to see the sculptures.
It’s hard to pick a favourite sculpture. I loved the vibrant blue of the elephant, the bright colours of the crocodile and the magic of an the echidna’s tongue poking out in an attempt to catch the ant sculpture.
Thanks to Taronga Zoo for hosting us for the evening so we could give you a full run-down on access. As always my opinions are my own and if you’ve been following our website for a while you’ll know that Taronga Zoo is one of our favourite attractions in Sydney.
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