The Nocturnal House is dim and mysterious inside. The kids complain they can’t see anything, but a moment later, their eyes have adjusted, and they are gasping and pointing. There is a scorpion glowing under ultra-violet light, and a ghost bat with pale fur and huge ears. The kids scamper from window to window, calling out proudly as they spot the secretive creatures. You peer anxiously at your watch – it’s nearly time for the elephant talk, and then you’ll need to rush to the primate walk-through, and then the penguin presentation…
20 Labouchere Rd, South Perth; (08) 9474 0444 or (08) 9474 0333
■ Times for feeding and special presentations – these are listed on the website but may vary. Favourites are the elephant and reptile talks and the primate walk-through.
■ The historic carousel, conveniently located near the Zoo Cafe, so adults can relax while the kids ride.
■ Scene Too Believe photography just inside the zoo’s main entrance (extra cost). With digital manipulation, you end up with a fun photo of your family. How would you like a photo of your bunch fending off some very hungry crocodiles?
■ The free one-hour guided walking tours offered once or twice daily. Enquire at the information centre for start times and location.
■ The wonderful Variety Special Playground, which has caves, tunnels, frog ponds, water-play, a periscope, musical objects and a tree house cubby.
The woylie, one of the critically endangered animals in the Nocturnal House, has an unusual skill. When it needs to carry twigs and grasses for building a nest, it curls its long tail around them. You can watch a video of this on the zoo website. The woylie is a small, herbivorous animal found only in very small patches of south-west Western Australia.
■ The zoo map costs $1 at the entrance, or you can download a free copy from the website.
■ When you arrive, choose your favourite animals and keeper presentation times, and plan your visit so you don’t miss out.
■ The animal enclosures try to replicate the natural environment, so you may need to wait and watch in order to spot the animals among their surroundings, as you would if looking for them in the wild.
■ The zoo is a short ferry ride across the river from the city, or you can even ride a bicycle there (see Bike hire, Perth).
■ If little (or long) legs are getting tired, you can organise your own Zebra Car Tour (small extra cost). A guide will drive you around in a zebra-painted electric vehicle for an hour.
■ Close Encounters are available with a variety of animals (high extra cost). A minimum age applies, but 6-year-olds can have a little penguin encounter, and 7-year-olds can meet Australian reptiles. Encounters need to be booked well in advance.
■ If you see any squirrels scampering around freely, they are Indian palm squirrels, imported by the zoo and released in 1898. They are now considered to be a pest, but they are very cute!
■ There are a few food outlets around the zoo, but they may finish serving before zoo closing time. There are also barbecues and picnic areas.