Overseas travel might be off the cards for the forseeable future, but that doesn’t mean a weekend away can’t feel like you’re a million miles from home.
An overnight safari at Jamala Wildlife Lodge at Canberra National Zoo & Aquarium helps transport you far away from home, giving you the opportunity to come face-to-face with lions, cheetahs, giraffes and more.
I recently spent a Saturday night at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, kicking off the weekend with a wander around the aquarium and zoo, followed by a relaxing bath in our lodge (while a cheetah watched on through the glass), and then dinner in an underground cave with a pair of white lions. Sounds surreal, right?
On Sunday morning we were greeted through the glass by our roommate (Jura the cheetah) and had a private tour of the zoo where we were able to ask questions about conservation and how the zoo looks after each animal.
My husband and I had to keep reminding ourselves we were in Canberra, and not on safari, but the surrounds and five-star accommodation are so unique, it’s easy to feel as though you’ve been transported somewhere far away.
We were invited to Jamala Wildlife Lodge as guests of the hotel, to see how it’s operating now that domestic travel is starting to open up again. From the minute we arrived, I felt perfectly at ease. We were directed into a large communal area of the hotel where we could grab a drink, a snack, and a map before heading on either an organised or self-guided tour of the zoo. We opted for a self-guided tour — I always like the opportunity to take my time and wander slowly.
There were signs throughout the zoo encouraging visitors to practice social distancing, with limits on how many could gather around certain areas where there wasn’t as much space. Hand sanitiser dispensers were also placed throughout various checkpoints, including on either side of gates and doors. The zoo is actually huge and it’s mostly outdoors (all the smaller ‘cave’ areas had been closed off to avoid guests lingering in enclosed spaces) so I never felt like I was too close to another person.
Now, let’s talk about the room. We stayed in a Jungle Bungalow where you have the option of sleeping next to either a cheetah, lion, sunbear or tigers. (The other accommodation options are the Giraffe Treehouses where you get up close with giraffes or the uShaka Lodge where you can encounter either sharks or meerkats). We were paired up with Jura the cheetah just outside our room. It happened to be a rainy weekend, so Jura spent most her time curled up under the awning under our window — not sure if that’s where she always likes to kick back, or if we just got really lucky! But it meant we were able to see her pretty much the whole time we were in our room. She was very calm, and it was hard to fathom we were face-to-face with the world’s fastest land animal.
After kicking back for a relaxing bath post-zoo tour, we made our way down to the Jamala Wildlife Lodge’s Rainforest Cave restaurant, where we were seated (socially distanced, of course) next to two white lions for our dinner service. At dinner, you’re joined by other guests for an African-themed dining experience — where the wine keeps on flowing.
I tried to snap a picture of the white lions at dinner, but the room is dark (presumably so the lions aren’t too bothered) but you can see just how close they are!
The next morning, we were served breakfast back in the Rainforest Cave followed by an early morning private tour of the zoo before it opened. This was the part I was really excited for. When we were invited to visit Canberra Zoo & Aquarium, I was super keen to learn more about its conservation programs.
As our tour guide walked us through the grounds, we learnt about how the zoo supports various breeding programs that can help save a number of animals from extinction.
If you’re looking for a weekend adventure close to home, Jamala Wildlife Lodge might be exactly what you need to feel refreshed and pampered, and entertained.
The room rate includes your overnight accommodation, all food and dinner beverages and exclusive tours. All suites feature bespoke African fixtures, lavish king beds and premium amenities.