An African safari in Australia? Yes, you read correctly. Located around 40 minutes from the Melbourne CDB lies the Werribee Open Range Zoo. It is just one of many things to do in Werribee. The zoo is set on 225 hectares and impeccably themed. You could be mistaken for thinking you’d stepped into the African Savannah. We set off keen to see some of the wildlife.
Plan your visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo
Get up close to African wildlife
Collect a zoo map upon entry. This will allow you to visit all of the animals during the most exciting times of the day. Additionally, it will also help you to plan when you’ll take your safari ride.
You can watch animals such as the hippos being fed and in the warmer months the Hippo Beach area also doubles as a splash park. Giving the animals choice to do as they please is a fundamental belief of Werribee Open Range Zoo. Subsequently, this means that some days you’ll get a good view of the animals, and other days they may choose to have a break. We loved this philosophy and that the viewing areas gave us a great vantage point whilst allowing the animals space.
Bring your own food & drink or eat on site
You can bring your own food into Werribee Zoo. The zoo also has picnic and barbeque areas. Additionally there are several cafes and a restaurant if you prefer to eat on site.
What to wear when visiting Werribee Zoo
There is limited shelter at Werribee Park Zoo. Accordingly make sure that you wear sunscreen and a hat. In the winter months an umbrella and wet weather clothes are recommended. Hippo Beach becomes a splash pad in the summer months, so pack your bathers. There is also a sandpit and playground, so wear clothes that are suitable for play. Comfortable walking shoes are also a must.
Facilities for families
Werribee park zoo is punctuated with play spaces, such as Hippo Beach. It is designed with families in mind so baby change rooms can be found in multiple locations around the park. Notably Hippo Beach and the Safari Station.
A fantastic feature of the lion exhibit is a jeep that has been partially wedged into the plexiglass viewing window. It is a great spot to view the lions, take a snap and if you’re brave get up close to the lions. Visit first thing in the morning on a week day to enjoy the lions lounging on the bonnet of the jeep. They’re most active and up close when the crowds are low.
There are plenty of opportunities for young children to explore, including a play ground. The wide well paved paths also mean that when little ones tire, you can keep exploring whilst they have a nap in their pram.
Werribee Open Range Zoo - Safari
The Werribee safari tour cannot be missed. It is your opportunity to enter the exhibit and enjoy a face to face safari experience. Werribee Zoo is unique in that it is the only open plain zoo in Melbourne.
Your journey will commence at the aptly named ‘Safari Station’. Here you’ll hop aboard your open air bus. We found great seats up the front, although they all looked rather good.
The safari lasts for 40 minutes. It takes a meandering path through several spacious open air exhibits. There are a mix of species in each area, selected from those that would usually co-habitate in the wild. This allows the animals to interact and be stimulated in way more similar to the wild rather than with human introduced toys or objects.
There’s a strict ‘animals have right of way rule’, so don’t be suprised if you have to stop several times for a flapping ostrich or herd of antelope. I mean it wouldn’t be a trip to Ireland without stopping for some sheep on a laneway anymore than it’d be a safari without stopping for the wildlife, right?!
The safari bus will slow down when approaching the wildlife. There’s plenty of opportunities to take great photos. The only rule is no touching if the animals come close. Humans are way too germy!
See African wildlife in a natural savannah setting
Towards the end of the trip we came upon the zoo’s three resident rhinos having a bask in the sun. It was a great reminder of my time in Nepal when I came face to face with one in an open backed jeep. Luckily, these guys were far more sedate and the safari bus a little more robust than my last experience! Rhinos are just one of the threatened species that the zoo house. They work tirelessly to build numbers of this species in the wild. Every time you visit Werribee Open Range Zoo, you contribute to this project
Werribee Zoo Special Events
Werribee Open Range Zoo isn’t just a zoo. It is an immersive experience. Throughout the year they host a number of events such as Story Telling Sundays and Wild Nights.
The Zoo is centred on an African Village. On quieter days it is a great spot for a picnic and a play. During the weekends and especially during special events it comes alive. The local African community are heavily involved in the zoo and many are employed to provide entertainment and education on their cultures.
African drumming is a favourite pass time on the main stage. Often stalls selling African wares are set up and the Ethopian coffee hut is always popular. Every thing is hands on, with plenty of equipment and resources for visitors to join in. It really feels like you are in an African Village.
Special events centre around the school holidays and change throughout the year. Check the zoo’s website for upcoming events and plan your visit accordingly.
Our final reasons you'll love Werribee Zoo
Werribee Zoo is a gorgeous interactive safari park. It’s not just the themed signage and clever use of vehicles as viewing platforms, its the open picnic spaces, the common village areas and the sheer number of staff that are available to talk to you or get you involved in an activity.
Werribee Zoo is a happy place for its staff, animals and visitors. It’s a place you want to come back to because it is ever changing with a large range of special events that are held throughout the year.
It can sometimes be easy to overlook, but there is just so much to do in Werribee. Every animal encounter a little different than the last time. Consequently it’s a place you can visit over and over again!