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A night at the zoo: staying at Taronga Wildlife Retreat

Every year as May comes along I have the great pleasure of anticipating my annual South Africa trip as a guest of South African Tourism for the yearly Travel Indaba in Durban. This is usually followed by one of my very favourite things to do…a safari.


But with our closed borders, my options have been somewhat limited — until the Taronga Wildlife Retreat.



On my very own doorstep sans long flight and annoying jet lag, Taronga Zoo here in Sydney offers a fantastic safari ‘hit’ complete with guides, early morning and late-night tours, luxury lodge-like accommodation and mouthwateringly delectable food.


Part of Sydney’s iconic Taronga Zoo, Taronga Wildlife Retreat is a 62-room luxury ‘eco-retreat’ offering five environmentally sensitive and sustainably designed lodges built into the native bush. With views across a wildlife sanctuary that is home to platypuses, koalas, echidnas and all sorts of other species that I had never even heard of like Pademelons, Bettongs, and the cutest little potoroos.


Upon arrival I am blown away by the reception area, reminiscent of the many African lodges I have stayed in. The emphasis is bringing the outside in with the use of timber, green screens and earthy fabrics and colours. As stunning as the interior design is, the backdrop of Sydney Harbour as the sun is setting eclipses everything.



We are on an ‘Ultimate Retreat Package’ which includes sunset cocktails, a three-course gourmet dinner in Me-gal restaurant (with the best view in Sydney), a sanctuary tour on arrival as well as an ‘Intimate Wild Mates’ sunset tour that I am hanging out for!


Our room is a super luxe lodge like retreat. I am giddy with excitement …is it the sunset cocktail or the sight of our very own koala perched in the tree only a few feet away from our window. It’s funny because Africa always has this effect on me, but I don’t generally see koalas unless I have had about four of the aforementioned cocktails!


Gazing down from our window onto the Woodland Wildlife Sanctuary beneath I cannot wait for our Welcome tour.



It doesn’t disappoint. We are taken on a guided tour with an extremely well informed and passionate guide who introduces us to the varied species of pouched cutie-pies. I am loving this whole experience and it only gets better when the sun has gone down and we are treated to a nighttime tour where our senses are overloaded with the smells and sounds of our bushy surroundings. This is very exclusive (only two other couples on this sunset tour) as we are regaled with wondrous tales of interesting animal couplings and wild mate anecdotes accompanied by various nocturnal noises.


Dinner is an extravaganza with both service food and views — all five star — as is the comfort in our room. But the best thing is Kevin the Koala is still outside our window when we turn in for the night!



In the morning I find myself enquiring if I can patronise the restaurant as a local without being a hotel guest as it’s the best eggs benedict ever.


A quick zip around the largest bird aviary in the southern hemisphere and sadly we have to check out – a great pity as part of the package is a free pass for the main zoo for the day (where I could have had my annual African lion fix).


We will be back!



We stayed mid week in Harbour View Room on the Ultimate Retreat Package. This includes a 3 course dinner for 2, breakfast for 2 and Sanctuary Tour for $627. 


We were upgraded to the romantic package which costs another $95 and gives you the cocktails and Sunset Wild Mates too.


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Written by: Jenny Rowland
Published: 5 May 2021

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