Review: Stay where the wild things are in Canberra at Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Travellers looking for that quintessential African lodge experience generally have to travel to Africa. Canberra's Jamala Wildlife Lodge is a fabulous alternative — and it's a whole lot closer to home! Adam Ford checks in following a stay where the wild things are in the capital...
When you think of possible places to stay in Canberra, an African-style lodge is probably not something that springs to mind.
However, this is one style of accommodation that certainly captures the hearts of many visitors to Africa. Once the preserve of big game hunters, somewhere along the line lodge operators cottoned on to the fact that tourists were prepared to pay just as much to immerse themselves in the natural habitat of Africa’s game without the inane need to shoot it and hang it on the wall. The luxury lodge industry was born.
Today it’s a multi-million dollar industry, with lodges catering from mid range all the way up the scale to ultra luxury. What’s common to all though is the concept of bringing nature as close as is safely possible to the guest.
To achieve it, lodges will usually be situated by a water source, where animals are likely to congregate and the daily dramas of survival of the fittest will be played out for all to see. Permanent tented lodges are very popular, promoting an even stronger sense of integration with the natural surrounds without depriving guests of all the mod cons like four-poster beds, plush furnishings and plumbing.
Now unless you’ve been living deep in the Masai Mara, you’d have been hard pressed to miss the coverage of the opening of the Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra. It’s been featured extensively by breaky TV crews and travel shows — and with good reason.
There are other zoos and wildlife parks in Australia that offer the chance to spend a night in the company of the furry and feathered locals, but this experience takes matters to a whole new level. $20 million dollars has been spent creating an experience that’s absolutely on par with top luxury lodges in Africa.
Welcome to The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a sneak peek inside Canberra’s fabulous Jamala Wildlife Lodge! Fancy waking up with a pride of lions or a brown bear just metres from your bed? It’s possible at Canberra’s National Zoo & Aquarium with the opening of the fabulous $20million Jamala Wildlife Lodge.
From the superb foyer and guest lounge in the main lodge building, to the themed guest rooms located in different parts of the zoo, those staying at Jamala are absolutely in for a once in a lifetime experience.
Stays are themed around the traditional African lodge timetable, which typically consists of early morning and late afternoon game drives (when the animals are most active), lavish meals and of course — the tradition that no lodge experience would be complete without — ‘sundowners’ with your fellow guests to discuss the day’s animal sightings. Packages at Jamala Wildlife Lodge include accommodation, all meals, beverages with dinner and guided ‘safaris’ around the zoo.
For early arrivals, there’s an optional afternoon safari to get the ball rolling. At around 4pm, guests are delivered to their suites and this is where the fun really notches up a gear.
There are a number of different accommodation options. The Giraffe Treehouses are absolutely superb and you can expect a visit from Hummer the resident male giraffe looking for a snack. You can hand feed him in the company of zoo keepers, but be careful not to use your ring hand. Hummer has a tongue that can dislodge pretty much anything from your grip.
Alternatively there are the Jungle Bungalows, which adjoin various animal enclosures with a glass wall between you and your possibly carnivorous neighbour. Take a bath next to a brown bear or relax on your lounge with a tiger licking its chops just a metre or two away.
The rest of the afternoon is at leisure, before you head back to the main lodge for drinks on the terrace with your fellow guests, followed by a superb three-course dinner. Afterwards guests are delivered safely back to their suites to enjoy the nighttime symphony of exotic animal calls.
After breakfast, guests can join a guided morning safari and are then free to spend the remainder of the day at the zoo. There are several animal encounters on offer at an additional cost, including the wonderful Meet A Cheetah experience.
While it receives no public funding, the National Zoo and Aquarium is no slouch in the animal conservation stakes and actively contributes to several world-class breeding programs. Revenue from the Jamala Wildlife Lodge contributes directly to this valuable work.
All in all, Jamala Wildlife Lodge possibly manages to ‘out-lodge’ even the lodges of Africa. A stay where the wild things are in Canberra is an absolute must.
Have you stayed at Jamala Wildlife Lodge? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image courtesy of Jamala Wildlife Lodge
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.