Wild Nights at Werribee Zoo
It’s school holidays so it’s okay to stay up a little bit late… and with darkness falling so early it’s possible to have a whole evening of adventure in the dark thanks to Werribee Open Range Zoo’s event Wild Nights.
When: Until Saturday 12 July 2014, from 5.30 – 8.30pm
Where: Werribee Open Range Zoo, K Road WERRIBEE
Cost: Adults: $35, Concession: $28, Child: $7 (Zoo Members Adults: $10, Child: $5). Book tickets now
It might sounds like madness in this weather, but the kids had an absolute blast at Wild Nights! I thought we’d last an hour tops but instead I had to drag them out of there three hours later. We took a friend of Immi’s (8) with us along for the adventure.
At the ticket box we collected our passes for the Serval Under The Stars presentation – make sure you get to the Zoo early enough to get your hands on these tickets as they are limited and it was a definite highlight of the night. The servals aren’t on display at the Zoo so it’s only at special presentations like this that you get to meet them. At the ticket box we also got given a map and suggested itinerary for the evening – which made our visit super easy.
When we arrived there were were some fire entertainers twirling and juggling fire near the main entrance – but the kids were keen to get moving so we only paused to watch for a few minutes before heading into the Meerkat Bistro for some take-away hot chocolates. With our hot chocolates in hand we headed to the first spot highlighted on the map – the Glow Zone and at 6pm there was a 10 minute performance that included some acrobatics and hula-hooping. It was simple stuff but the UV lighting effect held our interest while we finished our drinks.
After that we moved down the path – and I should point out that there are lanterns and fire-pits dotted everywhere to help light the way (and warm frozen parents) but thankfully I had packed torches for each kid and I would highly recommend this. It was dark, even with the lanterns to show us the way. Dark enough that you couldn’t make out faces. I was glad that my kids were older – I noticed families with toddlers and to me that would have been a bit of a nightmare… but then no sane person would go solo to Wild Nights with three toddlers and no other adult; with my gang of school aged kids it worked. There were also people with prams – which was possible, but if you want to see the servals you need to park your pram outside (which might not work with a sleeping baby).
We had a quick peek at the Vervet Monkeys inside their night time living quarters – apparently they go to sleep about 9.30pm, they were pretty chilled just hanging out grooming and probably wondering why people were shining torches on them.
Marshmallow Toasting near the Vervet Monkeys was fun – a little scary at one point when (what seemed like) 15 kids started toasting marshmallows and waving their flaming marshmallows about on long sticks in the dark to try and put them out… but while it was just four of us it was fun. My little gang gorged themselves on marshmallows (the poor guy handing them out had no idea who was who in the dark!) and then we went on to see which animals were awake. The Lions and African Wild Dogs were sleeping but the Hippos were up and moving about quite a bit – one even roared/growled/snorted and gave the kids a surprise.
At this point we had been in the Zoo for over an hour and it was getting close to the Serval Under the Stars presentation – so we went and joined the queue that was forming outside. I think we waited about 5-10 minutes before they opened the doors at 7.05pm. I was glad we had queued as by the time the closed the doors at 7.15pm the place was chockers full. We met Morilli – she was so beautiful and graceful. For about 10 minutes her keeper put her through her paces and had us all captivated. By 7.30pm we’d finished our presentation and were moving onto the next destination on our map – the 7.45pm Fire Show.
More fire acrobatics and clowning about which had all the kids giggling away as well as “oohhhing” and “ahhhing”. This performance was worth sticking around for – and afterwards the performers were happy to pose with their fire with kids for photos.
By now it was 8pm and I was loosing the feeling in my toes – I was ready for the car, but we spied the Secret Garden. Wow, laser light shows have come along way since my clubbing days. We were transfixed and I wished I could have taken a photo that might have worked, but it was too dark for my camera. Anyway once I realised I couldn’t keep tabs on the kids anyway, and they promised to stick together, I went and waited at the fire-pit nearby and let them leap about and squeal in the smoke machine enhanced Secret Garden. By 8.20pm they had had enough and we made our way to the exit. It was after 8.30pm when we got into the car and ready to head home. Thankfully the car park wasn’t busy and so it was a super easy exit.
Final thoughts and tips:
- Rug up with loads of layers, gloves, hats and scarves (in hindsight I would have worn two pairs of socks)
- Take a torch for each kid – I myself managed without, but there were moments where I got the kids to light up a bit of the path to see our way
- Be prepared for the darkness and have a plan in place with your kids if they get separated
- Grab tickets to the Serval Under the Stars presentation and get there 10 minutes early so you get a seat inside at the front
- At some point in the night you will want a hot drink – the only place to purchase one is the Meerkat Bistro at the entrance/exit area
- Probably stand back and wait a few minutes if the Marshmallow Toasting is super busy – and you might want to give this a big miss if you have toddlers
- Don’t expect to see many animals up and about – it’s more about the experience of being out in the dark
- Don’t forget to look up and admire the stars (if it’s a clear night)
- We went on a weekend and it wasn’t hugely crowded (thank goodness). There were plenty of staff around to help and answer questions
- We ate an early dinner at home and packed a few snacks to eat during our visit