My last full day in Sydney was another perfect one – warm and sunny, with a light breeze to keep me from sweating to death. I had another big day of walking in store, this time at the Taronga Zoo. I was adamant that I would not leave Australia without seeing a koala and a kangaroo, and since I was in the middle of a major city my best chance at seeing either was going to be at a zoo.
Taronga Zoo is across the Harbour from Sydney and can be reached by a 12 minute ferry ride. I caught the first Taronga Zoo Ferry of the morning and once again grabbed a spot on deck to enjoy the views of Circular Quay, the Opera House, and the Bridge as we pulled out. We were next to the much larger Manly Ferry (which I had been on the previous day) which was filled with people heading to the beach for the day.
When I got off the ferry I had a choice of catching a bus to the upper entrance of the zoo or walking down the street to the lower entrance. Since the majority of the people got on the bus I chose to go to the lower entrance to avoid the crowds. I was second in line for tickets.
Upon entering the park, I seemingly had it to myself for about 30 minutes. I was able to casually wander and see animals like the red panda, otters, and seals before I saw a single other visitor. The animals were out and active at almost every exhibit. Most of the animals on site are from warm climates and seemed happy in the warm late summer heat.
One of my favorite exhibits was the Asian Elephants. They have had a successful breeding program, and watching one of the young elephants blow bubbles and splash in the waterfall was pretty fun.
There were several other young animals throughout the park. Two baby gorillas entertained the crowd while one of their keepers told stories of their personalities and antics.
The chimpanzee kids were also a hoot. One guy kept playing with the human kids peeking through a small tube window.
And yes, I got to see a koala!
My favorite feature of the zoo wasn’t the animals, but the terrain and views. The zoo is built into the hillside above Sydney Harbour so while zigzagging through the trails and exhibits you get a constant view of the city and Harbour. I think the giraffes had the best view!
I took my time and visited every exhibit. By 2:30 (five hours after opening) I was done, and I hopped back on one of the regularly-running ferries back to Circular Quay. I hadn’t been too close to the Opera House yet so I decided to walk around it. I was fascinated by the tiles of the roof when I saw them in detail.
I finished up my day by picking up some souvenirs at the Rocks, then walked back to Darling Harbour for dinner. Once again I was exhausted after a day of walking in the hot Australian sun and collapsed in bed at an embarrassingly early hour.
I didn’t expect to enjoy my first trip to Australia so much. Since the primary reason for my visit was work I didn’t really plan ahead or think too much about the free time I built into the weekend. Playing it by ear and exploring the friendly and beautiful area around Sydney Harbour was definitely the right call for my first visit, and I recommend it to anyone. Now that I’ve had a taste of the country I really want to go back for a personal vacation and see more of it!