Well, it wasn’t my first day in Australia, because that day was spent mostly recuperating from the long and tiring flight from Canada, not to mention the incredible jet lag. But on my second day, after sleeping for a good 12-13 hours (forcing myself back to bed every time I woke up in the middle of the night), it was time for a day out in city!
I’m currently staying at this super cute hostel called Eva’s Backpackers, located pretty much near the downtown/waterfront/whatever you call it area. It’s nice and quiet, somewhat easy to find, near lots of amenities like a grocery store (called supermarkets here), a bank, and lots of other crap. I’m staying in a 10 Bed Dorm room, and I’m happy to say that I nabbed the last bottom bunk when I checked in early!
But anyways, back to the story! So I decided that I would go out and explore the city after being well rested. I grabbed a map from the front desk, but was also very aware that I would probably be relying on my phone to check online maps in real time. Here’s the surprising part: I was actually able to make my way toward the water without checking too much. I knew it was to the left of the hostel and a little higher up, so I just went from there. Although there was a super confusing part. I didn’t know this, but there are lots of areas in Sydney that have stairs. Like… what? Public walkways where you have to climb up to get to the next street. How does the layout of this city even work?? I was lucky that as I was confusedly checking my map/phone, a lady stopped and asked if I needed help. I told her I was looking to get to Circular Quay to catch the ferry. She told me I had the climb the stairs nearby to get there, and that I could cross the Botanical Garden if I wanted to and that would lead me there. Initially, I did not like the idea of zigzagging around in a public garden, but in the end, that’s where I ended up going to avoid crossing streets. And you know what? It was actually pretty easy to navigate! This is a pretty big deal for me by the way, because I usually have a terrible sense of direction. More on that later…
So I cross the Botanical Garden-ish, and get out onto a street that I remembered seeing on the map as being one of the main streets leading down to the water. Lucky me, that’s exactly what this street was, and it led me directly to the Sydney Opera House.
I took some time to take some pictures and look around a little. Then I checked the signs for the ferries and found out that I needed to get to Terminal 4 to take the ferry to Taronga Zoo, which was departing very soon! I hurried over and asked the lady at the ticket counter how it all worked. She said I didn’t need a ticket or anything like that as long as I had my Opal Card I was good to go. As I walked passed her, I saw the ferry leaving. Dang it! I was hoping to get to the zoo right when it opened at 9:30AM. I asked the lady when the next ferry would arrive and she said it would be at 9:50AM.
I decided I would take this time to get a small breakfast or snack while I waited. I looked around and didn’t find much that interested me, so I went to a place that sold small breakfast items (little pricey) and went with a simple fruit salad. And holy jeez, was it ever good! That’s probably due to the fact that all the fruit in that salad were actually grown right here in Australia!
After I was all done eating, I grabbed my Opal Card – the public transit card used in Sydney for busses, trains and ferries – and scanned in to take the ferry. I sat down and waited, although it didn’t take too long for the ferry to arrive. I got on board and sat down outside, although not too close to the water. I was just hoping to God I wouldn’t start feeling queasy again and that the ferry ride didn’t last too long.
It didn’t help that an old lady working on the ferry asked if I could fill out a form about the quality of service. I didn’t feel like saying no, so I accepted the paper and a pen, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to write anything down without starting to feel sick so I just set them aside.
The ferry ride was actually pretty short, less than 10 minutes I believe. I stepped off and headed where everyone else was headed, assuming that was the right path. What I hadn’t known at the time was that you were supposed to “tap off” when you were done, but I hadn’t seen anyone else doing it, so I didn’t do it either.
I started looking around to see which way the entrance would be, since I hadn’t bought my ticket in advance (I had a coupon, which in the end would save me more money than purchasing in advance). For some reason, there was an employee greeting everyone and insisted that if we did not have a ticket that we needed to board the bus. I thought this was odd – why couldn’t we just walk there? But apparently the entrance where there is a walkway was under construction. Plus turns out the bus fair was only like ten cents.
When you walk inside, it’s very different from the Magnetic Hill Zoo where I work in Moncton. First of all, there’s no actual entrance building. The arch leads you back outside, where you are directed to make a line to pay the entry fee at the windows to your right. When it gets to be my turn, I ask the lady at the admission booth to see if they had any discounts for zoo employees from other countries. She said she could ask, but that she would need to see some ID. Darn it. Stupid admissions workers don’t have swipe cards so no proof that I actually work there. Ah well. At least I had my trusty coupon, saved me 15%!
After you pay, the admissions employee hands you your receipt, and apparently this is your proof of payment. Right after that area is another wooden structure on your right hand side, and I can see that everyone there has a volunteer tag on. They are giving out maps and information and such. On the left, there’s one of their many gift shops. Part of me REALLY wanted to go inside and see, but I knew that the presentations were starting soon and I really didn’t want to miss those!
After you pass those things, there are washrooms, and then a toll-like area. Two employees stand there waiting for you to show your proof of purchase, and then they stamp you on the hand. I can already tell this zoo has way more employees than the zoo back home…
I open up the map right away.
I’m so excited, I don’t know where to go first! The map is also pretty confusing, because there are lots of higher and lower areas, and 3 or 4 coloured paths that I couldn’t quite find in the beginning. But the super obvious path had green circles painted onto the asphalt. I figured that would be a good place to start.
I wandered around for a little while, taking some shots as I walked by some cool and interested creatures. I skipped some on the way because I was trying to rush to get to a show. I couldn’t find the lemurs right away, so I gave up and decided I would go to the seal keeper talk instead. And holy camoly, was it ever worth it!!
Get this – they’ve got about 8-10 different seals, all trained very much like dogs! I couldn’t pick my favourite, but here’s a good shot of Pepper:
My God, they are such majestic creatures!
Next up were the elephants! Some were getting bathed, while others were doing exercices. It was pretty cool to see, especially since I think this was the first time I have ever seen an elephant in real life (except that one time Max & I saw the circus elephant’s butt as he was being taken out back at the Magnetic Hill Zoo like 10 years ago).
I also saw loads of birds, various monkeys, something called a binturong which is also called a “bearcat,” some hippopotamuses from behind, and so much more.
OH, AND I SAW A RED PANDA!
Ok it’s not the greatest shot, but it’s the only spot where you could see him. And he was just so cute!
I’m probably boring a lot of you, but you know what? I had a a BALL spending my entire day at the zoo, so I’m just gonna go on and keep talking about every animal I saw!
After I spotted all those guys, I walked down to see the seals again, now that they were all in their enclosure. And oh they looked like they were having so much fun! Playing with each other, swimming up and down, flipping around… so much fun to watch.
But you know what’s even better than seals?? TINY PENGUINS!!
Next up I went to see lots of reptiles and bugs and whats-its. It was in the kids area but there’s was lots of interesting information about all the animals. Next to it was a barnyard area, but I pretty much grew up with most of those so I just walked through. But then was a super cool spot that they called “Kangaroo Walkabout.” There’s actually two spots like these, the first one was right next to the koalas (more about them later…) and had wallabies, ostridges, and two different kinds of kangaroos, then the other one had your typical Australian kangaroos.
OK so here’s the deal with the koalas… turns out it was not a great time to try to see those guys because usually, they have 3 different enclosures throughout the entire park, but today (and probably for a few days to come) two of those enclosures were under construction, and the only one left that was open to the public was the one where you had to book to go for an encounter. Well, that was obviously sold out all day, so the best I could do (for now…) is this:
I didn’t get to see any Tasmanian Devils, they were probably all hiding or sleeping. But it was interesting to read about the conservation project that the Taronga Zoo has going on to help save the population from going extinct.
What I did get to see though were some FREAKING ADORABLE LEMURS!! I went by for the keeper talk in the afternoon and then she said we could do a walk-through of their enclosure 12 at a time. Well, you can imagine I ran up to be first in line (ok, fine, I was third in line because two people had coincidentally already been standing there while watching the presentation). I was among the first to go in, and she explained the rules to us very clearly. Apparently these guys don’t like to be touched (the ones in Moncton, I’ve been told, will tolerate you petting them, especially if you give them food) and get nervous is people crouch down. So I couldn’t get lots of different angles, but I did manage to get some good shots. Check this guy named Julian:
He was an excellent model.
After that excitement was all done and over with, I continued my walk and went back to see everything I had missed. I saw some meerkats (Timon!), a beautiful zebra, an animal similar to a cow called a bongo, some mountains goats, very vocal chimpanzees, and many more. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see the Fennec Foxes, which I was really looking forward to, but for good reason. The female had just given birth recently and was likely out back tending to the kit.
You thought it was all over, didn’t you? Well, I saved one of my favourites for last…
And that’s where I’ll take my leave.
Honestly, that’s pretty much the only thing I did on that first full day in Sydney. By the time I took the ferry back to Circular Quay, it was almost 5PM. I had to walk back to the hostel, that was another 20-30 minutes, then I had to cook supper, eat, and it was almost time for bed. (Don’t judge me, I’m still pretty jet-lagged)
If there’s somewhere you think I should absolutely not miss out on while I’m in Sydney (or along the East Coast), please feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll gladly look into doing some new stuff that maybe I hadn’t thought of!