Home' Get Up and Go : Spring 2016 Contents R
ollicking through the bushveld on African
safaris, wild animals’ sleeping habits have
always intrigued me. How do those at the
bottom of the food chain avoid being eaten
while taking a nap? Do they have a safe hideout or do
they merely rest in situ in the hope they won't be devoured
by a predator? How does a giraffe slip unseen into the
background while taking a load off lanky legs?
Checking into Jamala Wildlife Lodge I'm curious to find
out why sleeping in a zoo in our capital is getting such rave
reviews. But, I’m also hoping to find a few answers to my
questions. A plush take on traditional African lodges, tucked
away in Canberra's National Zoo & Aquarium uShaka Lodge,
is the central hub for guests housed in 18 bungalows, suites
and treehouses scattered across the zoo grounds.
The uShaka Lodge was formerly the private residence
of the zoo’s owners Richard and Maureen Tindale and
their six children. The much-travelled, environmentally-
focused Tindale's were sizing up options to run a big-cat
breeding program when the rundown aquarium and native
wildlife park came on the market. Since 1998 they've
taken in rescued animals from circuses and private
collections around the globe, giving neglected animals
a leisurely retirement home. Three generations now work
with international zoos and breeding programs in an effort
to conserve and protect endangered species. Jamala is
named after a beloved king cheetah that Richard forged
a strong bond with before it died from renal failure. The
Tindales make no secret of the fact that the addition of
Jamala Wildlife Lodge is a stepping stone to bolstering
funds to help protect the future of the animal kingdom.
Immersion and 'animal encounters' are integral to the
overnight experience at Jamala. After checking in mid-
afternoon, with tea and cupcakes demolished, we set off
on an escorted tour to meet the inhabitants while learning
about the zoo's breeding and conservation programs
such as Free the Bears.
I'm booked into a Giraffe Treehouse in the middle of
the zoo overlooking the banks of the Molonglo River.
Elegantly appointed with African artefacts, polished
hardwood floor and exposed timber beams, a king bed
draped with fine muslin dominates the room. In case I
forget whose keeping me company, the walk-in shower
is adorned with a floor to ceiling giraffe mosaic. Out the
back, resident giraffe Hummer awaits.
He's well-drilled in the process of new arrivals who
have booked a feed and photo opportunity on the balcony
of a Giraffe Treehouse. We're standing eyeball to eyeball
as Hummer's enormous head looms over my balcony,
his long-lashed eyes dark and inquisitive. His cheek is so
close I could reach out and stroke it, were I not reminded of
strict instructions to resist the urge. But I am permitted to
hold out a carrot for him. Hummer’s black tongue snakes
around the carrot, slobbering on my hand as he whips it
deftly from my grasp. Within moments it's disappeared
down his throat and he's looking for another. I hold out
another, then another, which disappear at lightning speed.
As dusk settles over the zoo it’s time for pre-dinner drinks
and canapes in uShaka Lodge. I've also got a scheduled
meeting with white lion brother and sister duo Jake and
Mishka. Over chilled champagne on the verandah the
guttural roar of lions, known as the Brat Pack, ensures we
don't forget our surroundings. On cue Jake and Mishka
appear, posing magnificently for our cameras. As we move
into the Rainforest Cave for a five course African-influenced
degustation dinner they settle down metres from my chair.
A sheet of floor-to-ceiling glass is the only thing preventing
the diners from becoming dinner. Long shared tables
ensure that dinner is a jovial affair. We share stories about
our accommodation, or more particularly, ‘our animal’. One
couple has a Malaysian Sun bear to ogle, a grandmother
and granddaughter are sleeping with a tiger.
Returning to my Giraffe Treehouse, Hummer's enthusiasm
for re-acquaintance doesn't quite match my own. I pour a
glass of wine and observe him from a distance, wondering
if he's resting as he quietly patrols the enclosure beyond
the glass-railed balcony. What goes on in a giraffe's head?
Protected from predators I half hope he will curl up on the
dirt and get comfortable for the night.
I fall asleep accompanied by the deep roar of lions,
idly wondering if my dinner companions bedding down in
bungalows fronting the lion enclosure will get any sleep.
With Hummer the star of the show and in such close
proximity, I feel as though sleeping is cheating. Like a
scene from Sleepless in Seattle I toss and turn, getting up
throughout the night to check on him. It's the same each
time. Standing motionless his elegant neck catches the
moonlight. I hope he's sleeping. •
The writer was a guest of Visit Canberra and Jamala
The National Zoo and Aquarium is undergoing
major expansion to include open range
savannah exhibits. Jamala Wildlife Lodge
is Canberra’s first all-inclusive luxury
accommodation experience offering 5 star
African-styled accommodation designed to
maximise interaction with wildlife residents.
Visit: [@] www.jamalawildlifelodge.com.au;
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