When Phenom-A-Mum recently took Little E and me to Hobart, I asked the question “Is there anything to do besides freeze to death?”. I can’t remember what her smart-arse answer was, but she should have said “Anything to do? We’re going to ZooDoo!”
You can feed lions! Actual lions. And the kids can pat most of the other animals around the park. It’s a truly interactive animal experience! Need more convincing? The staff provide true Tasmanian service and hospitality – everyone is just so darn lovely.
This isn’t the place if you’re looking for a huge menagerie of animals; no elephants, giraffes or ocelots. And if you’re looking for the tiger on their website you’ll be disappointed; they tell you when you arrive that the poor thing passed on. The park is a little weathered so expect a more rustic aesthetic.
Are you getting bored with zoos where the animals are miles away, and the kids are more interested in playing games on your phone? Then hop on a plane, or take the car on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, and get your family to ZooDoo Wildlife Park. It’s only a 25 minute drive out of Hobart, to the beautiful heritage town of Richmond.
To make it clear from the outset, this place is not anywhere near the scale of Melbourne or Taronga zoos. It’s a small and cozy privately funded park. The main focus is on interacting with the animals, so they’ve chosen approachable creatures over the zany, wild and scary.
As soon as you walk in you can head into the petting farm and get the kids hands-on with some baby animals. Chicks, baby rabbits, teenage emus. If the gate to a pen is unlocked, you are free to head on in and let the kids go nuts, as they pat the cutesy animals senseless.
There was even a lonely little kid that tried desperately to suck milk out of my finger (the goat, not human, variety). This was sure more peaceful than my goat encounter in London where one rebel teen decided that my knee was perfect for head-butting practice.
Birds and chickens wander the cafe and eating area. This peacock was putting on his sexy, sexy man-display for any lady bird that came near. The dude must be toey!
One of ZooDoo’s main programs is to help Save The Tasmanian Devil. They’ve got a few tassie devil enclosures and the keepers give talks and feedings throughout the day. I’ve never really paid attention to these ravenous beasties before; they are awesome! A weird mix of Disney’s cute-as Stitch character and the bum-biting monsters from the 80’s film franchise Critters.
There are also Keeper talks about the monitor lizard, snakes and meerkats. The kids can pat the reptiles all they like, whilst bombarding the Keeper with questions. Informative and funny.
But that’s not what we were waiting for. The big draw card for ZooDoo is that you can feed the lions! Don’t be worried. There is a wall and metal fence between the big beasts and your precious babies. (They don’t need all ten fingers for a productive life do they?)
I will admit to being torn in two directions. Seeing these amazing cats almost performing for hand outs seemed undignified. But being that close to such a powerful animal and having the momentary experience of being connected (even with a pair of tongs between us) won out over my concern. I am a true hypocrite. But a hypocrite who has fed a lion!
Even Little E had a go at holding the tongs to feed the adolescent lion cubs. He screamed his little heart out… but maybe the memory will stick with him when he’s older. Hopefully not the memory of blood-curdling terror.
The lions are awesome, but there’s still more to do!
Hop on the Safari Bus and take a trip around a couple of the back paddocks of the park. Sound a bit naff? Okay, add some plastic cups full of feed and some nutsoid giant birds and you’re heading into the most hilarious ride of your life!
We visited fields of teenage zebras (brown instead of black markings), llamas with no sense of personal space, and emus & ostriches. All of them come up to the open-backed bus to be fed and, occasionally, to be patted.
You thought that feeding lions was cool? It’s nothing on feeding emus and ostriches! Funniest experience in a long time. When we set out on the Safari ride, the guide showed us the correct way to hold the plastic cups of feed – grip at the very bottom. And now I totally understand why.
Those birds are berserk! They literally attack the cup, slamming their heads into it. Hilarious! It was like someone else taking over control of your arm, and then they just flick it all over the place.
Check it out:
Safari ride over, we wandered further into the park to find even more animals to feed. Lambs, ducks, chickens, goats and some reindeer. All are poised, ready to swarm you as you enter their paddocks and nibble anything that looks vaguely food-like. Make sure that you’ve bought a couple of cups of feed from the randomly located vending machines ($1 per cup).
The kangaroos will nose through your pram and bags. But the cutest encounter is with the gentle wallabies. A mix of grey, brown and albinos wallabies will gather around quietly and wait to be fed out of your hand. It tickles when their rough tongues flick over your palm.
When we visited the females pouches were full of joeys. And the mums allowed us to hand feed their pocketed babies! Amazing. The albino wallabies are pretty shy, so you may need to blockade some of the more precocious brown-furred ones.
In case you’ve gotten to this last paragraph and haven’t worked it out yet, my family had the most awesome time at ZooDoo! It is such a hands-on and fun experience that you will remember it for years to come.
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