When one heads off to Australia - as we did last October - it seems that part of the point should be seeing some of the local wildlife. And we did, at various points - but a lot of those animals had the traditional wild animal tendency to hide from human inspection, or at least not to be where we happened to be. So we decided to cheat, a little, and spend a day in Sydney's Taronga Zoo. The only snag was, the day we scheduled for this (the 25th) turned out to be the greyest and wettest of the entire trip. Oh well.
Actually, we wrapped a little other sightseeing (and required shopping) around the zoo trip, starting with a stroll down George Street as far as the rather grand Queen Victoria Building with its two huge and slightly kitsch roof-suspended clocks, then heading back up to Circular Quay to pick up a ferry across the harbour. The zoo actually has a rather wonderful location, on the slope of one of the many hills running down to the water; when one arrives by ferry, one can catch a cable car over the zoo to the entrance higher up the slope. (Assuming that the wind isn't strong enough to close the cable car, that is. We got lucky and arrived before that happened.) The zoo itself also seems fine, with a range of animals including but not limited to a lot of Aussie species. The animals look quite happy and healthy, too.
So yes, we did get to see koalas, a saltwater crocodile, a komodo dragon (okay, not native, but right end of the planet, okay?), assorted kangaroos and wallabies, a cassowary, an emu, a Tasmanian devil, and even a couple of monotremes. The latter, by the way, are a bit like hard work for the return; the echidnas just slumped and whiffled around with their snouts in feeding tubes, while the zoo's platypus is in a large tank in a darkened room, around which visitors stand waiting for glimpses through the aquatic vegetation. Plus, we saw a lot of assorted smaller Aussie fauna, including a local snake and lizard being introduced to the public by one of the keepers and looking quite elegant in the process.
The zoo also has a fair number of the universal zoo favourites, incidentally - chimps, elephants, giraffes, and so on. The location made for a dramatic backdrop for the ibex enclosure in particular, and it turned out that, completely by chance, we were there on the first day that the litter of cubs recently born to the resident Sumatran tigress were on view to the public.
Then, on the way out, exiting in traditional fashion through the gift shop, we discovered the bonus exhibit. The shop has a huge floor-to-ceiling window, looking into the tank occupied by one of the zoo's resident sea lions - an amiable creature who appeared as interested in looking at people as people were at looking at her. Special bonus points for the sympathy play; apparently, she's an orphan whose mother was killed by a shark
Anyhow, zoo trip done, we rode the ferry back across the harbour, and stayed on as far as Darling Harbour. Stuff to see there: ships outside the Maritime Museum, fountains and water features ... but we would be going back that way the next day. For now, we followed the monorail track back to George Street, strolled back to the hotel, took the lift up to the rooftop viewing platform for some panoramic views of the rain-washed centre of the city, then eventually made our way back to the Rocks/Circular Quay area for dinner in an Italian restaurant.