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A wild time

Having grown up with adventures at Orana Wildlife Park, KATE BARBER introduced her kids to the wonders of New Zealand’s only open range zoo.

Set on 80 hectares, within 15 minutes of Christchurch Airport, Orana is home to over 70 species of animals, ranging from mighty lions, to inquisitive lemurs, to mischievous kea – creatures great and small, exotic and native, fierce and friendly.

On entry we were each handed a map. As Edie (5) surveyed her copy, her eyes darted from tiger, to gorilla, to kiwi, as she planned possible routes that would take us to the animals on her must-see list. I suggested we follow the feeds around the Park, starting with the spider monkeys, then moving onto the giraffes.

Harriet, the giraffe, was born at the zoo, and right on schedule she sashayed up to the feeding platform. Edie waved her wattle like a peace offering, and let it fall when Harriet approached. Mabel (3), less timid than her big sis, held on with all her might, her face flushed with a mixture of determination and awe.

From the plains of Africa, we wound our way to a more familiar space: the farmyard. Edie liked rounding up the chickens, while Mabel enjoyed trying to wake Lily the kunekune. We also took a stroll through the native bird aviaries and met kakariki, kereru and tui, while one frolicsome kea put on a show, hopping up and down the path.

Abuzz with families, the spacious grounds contain ample spots for children to explore and play, and for parents to sit back and enjoy a coffee from the café. After our picnic lunch, we ventured to the top end of the Park to visit the Great Ape Centre, home to two species of critically endangered Great Ape. The gorillas and orang-utans are majestic creatures and, without doubt, seeing them up-close was the highlight of my day.

In the afternoon, we opted to take a ride on the complimentary Safari Shuttle. It was lovely sitting back and listening to the driver speak so fondly about the animals and fervently about what we can do to support the conservation work of the Park, like recycling an old mobile phone to help the gorillas.

At the end of the circuit, I let the girls play on the adventure playground. More than just a platform for leaping about like springboks and wallabies, the trampoline presents the prospect of meeting other bouncy young Park visitors, and my girls made some new friends.

On the drive home, before they nodded off, I asked them which animals they enjoyed seeing the most. Edie loved the meerkats, while Mabel was enthralled by the lions – ‘because they might eat me’.

Orana’s membership pass means that, for the equivalent cost of just two Park admissions, you can visit as often as you like, between 10am and 5pm, until 30 June 2019 – a great option for families with young children, as it eases the pressure of seeing everything in one day.

03 359 7109 / oranawildlifepark.co.nz

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