These school holidays, Werribee Open Range Zoo were open of a evening (they normally close at 5pm). I'd seen information about it and thought it looked cool, then forgot all about it. On Friday morning my Zoo Membership newsletter had a reminder about it, and I realised if we wanted to do it there were only 2 nights left. I mentioned it to Tony and he was keen to go, and suggested we go along after baseball on Saturday afternoon.
So we met after baseball (around 5.30pm) at a Red Rooster near the Western Ring Road, grabbed some dinner and left Tony's car there, and drove through the rain (finally some rain! Its been many weeks since we've had rain like this) to the Zoo, arriving just before 6.30. I was wondering if there'd be many people there, being a cold wet night and the last night-time session - the carpark was full and we could only find a creative parking spot over on the edge...
The zoo looked quite exciting in the dark, with just enough lights on for us to find our way to the entrance (although Liam and I did both step into a deep, water-filled pothole). Inside was even more exciting, there were lots of glittery lights, and triangle frames with fairy lights wrapped around them (to show the way down the paths) and in some areas there were tin cans with holes punched in them, and lights inside, which gave a speckled look to the light on the ground - it was like walking through a forest in the daytime, with the speckled filtered light coming through the trees.
We sat on wet hay bales in the rain and watched a Fire Show - some quite impressive fire twirling coupled with a lot of gymnastics, entertaining to watch (although a bit scary when one of the sparklers flew out of his hand towards the crowd).
From there we hurried to the cheetah exhibit to see them being fed - there were so many people there by the time we arrived we couldn't see through the glass so tried to see from another vantage point but only got a faint glimpse of them - when we got back to the glass most people had left so we were easily able to see both cheetahs eating, and then one came right up to the glass and walked past us all for a while, he wandered off and came back another 2 times - the kids were face to face with him (he was between Millie and Liam's height so they in particular were looking him right in the eye) and it was completely worth driving all that way just to experience this (especially since the cheetah is one of Liam's favourite animals). They were bigger than I expected, and their tails were long and seemed much firmer than a small cat's tail. One of them had his hackles up on the back of his neck and look quite threatening.
From there we saw some hippos asleep in the water, then went and roasted marshmallows over a fire. All 3 kids are getting quite good at roasting their marshmallows to the level of meltiness and crispness that they each prefer.
We wandered past the African Wild Dogs but they were hiding, then saw one of the lions sitting up in his shelter - then he lay back down again and snuggled up with his brother. The vervet monkeys had gone to bed and we saw a couple of groups of them all huddled together.
The last stop was in one of the African huts where there was flouro light (it felt like being in a nightclub. Kind of) and lots of flouro hoops, plates to balance on sticks, scarves to wave and balls in bags to twirl around. They all looked quite spectacular and we all had a go at everything. Liam's boots looked phosphorescent in the light, it was like he had alien feet. The girls both had a good go with the hula hoops, I had no idea they were so proficient.
When we finally tore ourselves away from there it was time for the zoo to close. We took off wet clothes and snuggled up in the car and drove home listening to 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire' on Audio CD.
A very enjoyable spontaneous family night out, even in the rain. I'm exceptionally pleased that we went and will try to make it over there for one of their summer night events in January.