On the morning of my daughter's eighth birthday, the first words she spoke to me when she leaped out of bed were "I'm old enough to be a Taronga Zoo Keeper now!". Well not really, but from the age of eight years old, kids can take part in the Taronga Zoo Junior Keeper for a Day program. Of course we booked her in, along with her brother and a couple of her animal mad cousins.
The Taronga Zoo Junior Keeper for a Day program is an amazing hands on experience that links participants with dedicated Educators so that they can learn all about what it takes to be a keeper. It runs all year round on weekends and select days during the school holidays, offering a whole day adventure never to be forgotten. It's one of Sydney's must-do activities for kids, making it a top Bucket List item to check off.
We arrived at Taronga Zoo bright and early ready for the 9.45 am start. You can choose to drive to the zoo or take the scenic route offered by the ferry. On arrival we were met by the zoo educators who signed Sunshine, Striker and their cousins in and provided them with their individual souvenir Junior Keeper t-shirts. The kids were all giddy with excitement and when it was time to head off for the day, didn't even give me a backwards glance.
While parents don't attend the experience, you can purchase a zoo entry and wander around the exhibits at your leisure. The educators were more than happy to let us know where the Junior Keepers would be stopping for lunch so we could join the kids if we wished. I decided not to intrude on their day and enjoy the rare opportunity to explore sans offspring.
So what did the kids think? When we picked them up at 3.30 pm, their hosts were busy distributing super-doopers and congratulating all the Junior Keepers for an awesome day. They had cleaned out enclosures, made engagement tools for animals, handled and hand-fed a number of animals, watched a seal show and a bird show and, become totally immersed in the daily experience of a zoo keeper.
All four kids were still buzzing and quickly told me that they needed to do it again next holidays for 'purely scientific reasons' so they could see how the animals acted in a different season. How could I say no to that! With gift vouchers available for the experience, I think I'll be squirrelling away a few for birthdays.
The Taronga Zoo Junior Keeper for a Day program runs across the year and costs $95.00 for children aged 8-11 years old. Children aged 12-17 years can join the cadets for $110.00. You will need to provide morning tea, lunch and sunscreen on the day. Dates are often booked out quickly, so check the calendar. Head to Taronga Zoo Keeper For A Day for full details.
Oh, and if you're just as obsessed with animals as my kids, you might like to check out the adult Keeper for a Day experience which is offered on on Saturdays, and Wednesdays.