Last year I made a commitment to give experience-based gifts and it’s something my family has really grown to love. But buying experiences en-masse as Christmas presents was always going to be a challenge, so for the kids I needed to find something that was easy to organise, could happen in January and – most challenging of all – was something all three would enjoy.
Where we went
I booked us all on a Safari Night at Auckland Zoo, which included sleeping over in the Old Elephant House.
What we did
I opted for the ‘Public’ Safari night for adults and kids because I didn’t want to miss out on all the fun! The Zoo also runs a Kids Only Safari Night which is perfect for older kids.
How it went
We arrived at 4.30pm, dropped our bags and headed out for a walk. It had been ages since my kids had been to the Zoo so excitement was high. After a quick stroll around the rainforest section we headed to Te Wao Nui so Miss 8 could see the birds.
At 6pm we headed back to the Elephant house to set up our beds. The sleeping arrangements are pretty communal – we grabbed a mattress each and made a space on the floor ours. We chose to sleep in Burma’s old bedroom.
Dinner was served – and while it was a simple meal of sausages, potato salad, coleslaw and green salad it was very tasty and plentiful. I was glad to see they used reusable plates rather than disposable, but then this is an organisation that takes environmental issues very seriously. After dinner our chaperones kept us all entertained with quizzes while our dinner settled.
Then Dave, our guide for the night, arrived. Full of fun and quick one liners he was an immediate hit with the kids. He gave us a tour through the area where all the animal food is stored which was both entertaining and informative. Turned out the jars of Five Spice aren’t for eating, they’re for creating new and interesting smells in the animal’s enclosures, and Lion Raisins aren’t actually for the Lions…..
With our torches covered in red cellophane, we were off on our night walk. Dave has worked at the Zoo forever and what he doesn’t know about the place isn’t worth knowing. He had us all completely enthralled with his knowledge, memories and humour as he walked backwards the whole way round the Zoo so it was easy for all of us to hear what he had to say.
Even the animals seem to love him – the Hippos performed on command to give us all a breath-taking view of their open mouths, while the Cheetah calmly strolled up and sat down right in front of us for the perfect view.
By 10pm the kids were flagging so we headed back to the Old Elephant House for hot chocolate and a biscuit before lights out at 10.30pm.
We were up bright and early the next morning for a quick breakfast of cereal and toast, and a walk out to see the Monkeys and Tortoises before it was time to pack up and reluctantly head home, with the kids begging me for another trip to the Zoo soon.
What I’d recommend
Just do it – even if you’ve been to the Zoo a thousand times before. The night walk is a great chance to see the animals without all the crowds, and to learn more about them all from the knowledgeable team who manage this event. Plus the money raised from the ticket price goes to supporting environmental causes.
These safari nights aren’t a regular thing so when they are announced they sell out pretty quickly. Keep an eye on the website for dates and make sure you book straight away!
When you get there, visit the Te Wao Nui section as you’ll see just about everything else on the night walk.
What to take
The Zoo team will send you a full list of what to take with you when you book – but what you mustn’t forget is a torch covered in red cellophane so the light doesn’t scare the animals. Don’t worry about taking too much stuff with you – you’ll get to bring your car into the Zoo through the back gate so you won’t have to carry your gear very far.
A good general knowledge of animal facts – answer one of Dave’s questions correctly and you’ll get to feed a Hippo!
Some more Experience Gift Ideas
This experience was chosen and paid for by me. No part of this review was influenced or sponsored by Auckland Zoo.