An African themed open range zoo in our doorsteps is a school vacation blessing for many Melbourne parents. The Werribee Open range zoo offers free entry for children on weekends, public holidays and school holiday seasons. That makes it an ideal place to spent three to four hours or more in a friendly entertaining environment for the whole family. Open range structure limits the number and variety of animals the zoo can take care of. The zoo also invests on captive breeding and recovery programs for threatened species. The animals are not caged to an extend that it limits its mobility and the right to live in a natural environment. This provides guilt free entertainment for wild life enthusiasts.
Before we begin our journey to the African simulated zoo, a quick glance on the history of the land and the zoo we hope may interest our readers. The growth of suburbia has brought Werribee close to the city’s chest in the past ten years. Werribee was named so in 1909 after the Werribee river. The river got its name from a local Wathaurong aboriginal word meaning the spine or backbone, which described the backbone like curve of the River.
The zoo began its life as an extra pasture land for the surplus stock of Melbourne Zoo. The land was acquired in 1975 with an aim to develop it as an open range zoo. The zoo was opened to public in 1983 with a few animals like bison, deer, kangaroos and Rhinos and the visitors were given a safari style tour of the zoo. Visitors boarded the Safari from a shelter near the Werribee mansion. Gone are those days and the zoo was completely renovated and relaunched in 1996, with the look and feel of what you see today. More Rhinos arrived in 1999 along started the Rhino breeding program. 2004 came with a bang with the entry of the lions. In 2006, the zoo opened its Kubu river hippo habitat.
With the natural male attitude, I did not follow the track as described in the brochure that accompanied the ticket. The first to catch my eye was the Gorilla enclosure. To ensure everyone’s safety, there is a water body around the enclosure which makes the lookout platform quite far from the enclosure. The Gorillas were quite entertaining by being themselves, but they did not care much about our curious eyes.
Walking through the Pula reserve to the lion enclosure placards introduced the newly born lion cub, it’s dad, mum, aunty and bro in a rather fascinating way. The lions maintained their superiority complex by posing a grand demeanour.
Then came the hippos, three large chunk of bulky meat looked more like sleeping for quite a long time except for the one who winked time and again. Hippo play trail in the area was full with little kids enjoying their time out.
The other stars around were Cheetah, African wild dog, Meerkat, Emu, Kola and Bandicoot. Unfortunately, I could not spot any Kangaroos around.
Then came the time for Safari, which took us back to the Safari station to catch the bus. To ensure a window side seat, we went a bit ahead of the scheduled time, which we soon realised was unnecessary as the bus was specially designed for everyone to have a clear view.
The safari through the African Savannah (Pretend) will take you through to the camels, Zebras, Bisons, Antelopes, Hippos and Giraffes. It is an adventure worth the salt for both kids and adults’ alike sans the adventure part. The Safari will take a minimum 30 minutes. It can take more if the bus route is blocked by Hippos or other animals which require the keepers to allure the animals to safety before proceeding.
Details about the zoo
Address: K Road, Werribee South, Victoria, 3030
Werribee Open Range Zoo is located 35 kilometres west of Melbourne’s city centre, on the Princes Freeway. It is a short 30-minute drive from the city over the Westgate Bridge or via the Geelong Road. (Take the Werribee South exit to K Road.)
The Zoo is also en route to the Great Ocean Road and is a major attraction on the Great Southern Touring Route and the Bay Tour.
By Public Transport
Catch Metro train to Werribee station and from there catch Bus 439
Catch bus 439 from Werribee Station – Werribee Station – Werribee South via Werribee Park Mansion. Departs from the terminus at Werribee Station and runs via Manly St, Market Rd, Cherry St, Synnot St, Duncans Rd, K Rd, Diggers Rd and Beach Rd to the terminus near Rivercoast Rd, Werribee South. Route extension: Some services deviate to Werribee Park Mansion and Werribee Zoo via Main Dr.