It’s a popular bucket list item: travel to Africa and go on safari. Experiencing first-hand the sights, sounds and smells of this enigmatic continent fires the imagination – not to mention the appeal of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat. But for many, safaris are out of reach. Africa is a long way to travel and most lodges impose an age requirement of 12 years and above – so the kids can’t come.
However, a passport is no longer required to get up close and personal with wild beasts – and Africa is as close as the nation’s capital. The Jamala Wildlife Lodge in Canberra can give you and your young adventurers an incredible experience.
The National Zoo is privately owned and operated by Richard and Maureen Tindale, who purchased the property in 1998 with a vision to rescue animals that had been in circuses or other negative environments throughout the world.
The zoo contributes to a large number of breeding programs attempting to save animals from extinction. Besides staying at the lodge, you can help this effort by becoming a member or adopting an animal.
Although in the zoo grounds, the lodge has its own entrance and living areas. There are three five-star accommodation options: the Giraffe Treehouses, Jungle Bungalows and uShaka Lodge, each with various configurations to accommodate couples and families. The suites are African-themed and comfortable, but the real attraction is the floor-to-ceiling glass wall that allows you to actually sleep next to a wild animal. Choose from the Brown Bear, Sun Bear, Cheetah or Lion rooms – or Giraffe suites high enough off the ground to put you eye-to-eye with the giraffes that feed from the boxes near your balcony.
Three-course meals are all-inclusive and African-themed, served at long tables with other guests to create a inclusive atmosphere starting with pre-dinner drinks on a deck adjacent to the hyena enclosure.
Special guests include the male and female white lions lounging in their glass-enclosed den while you eat. Kids are offered their own exclusive tours during dinner to give parents a break.
Guests even have the opportunity to walk around with handlers and actually hand-feed lions, tigers and bears. It is truly incredible to be that close to a large, ferocious animal, and feed it meat with kitchen tongs. We also fed the giraffes and got up-close to the rhinos. It’s an amazing experience and the kids will feel like they’ve been somewhere very special, on their own personal African safari – without a long plane ride.
Getting up close and personal at Jamala Lodge