There are mornings where I seriously wonder whether I am certifiable. Trying to coordinate a bunch of Playgroup mums and their progeny on a Melbourne Zoo excursion seemed so easy on paper.
These ladies are good friends of mine and there is the understanding that we’ll look out for each others’ kids, but we are only responsible for our own. An unwritten rule. A “ladies” agreement.
With 8 mums and 20 kids between us, though, it was always going to be a gamble. Particularly when one of those kids is a headstrong 2 year old with a passion for simians. I lost Inky so quickly. We were leaving the Orang-utan Sanctuary and she was right behind me, padding along beside one of my “ladies”. The next thing I knew she’d buggered off. Somewhere. Where? She wasn’t on the path in front of us or behind. Where the f*ck could she have gone in 5 seconds (this, my friends, is how long it takes).
I raced back to the Orang-utan Sanctuary where she’d spend the better part of a half hour shrieking in delight at their antics. No banana (see what I did there?). I was frantic (not hysterical, repeat I was NOT HYSTERICAL). For someone who’s a bit of a submarine parent (the opposite of a helicopter parent, I spend much of my time assuming my kids will be OK. Within reason) this was unlike me. I knew she would probably be OK, my mobile number was tattooed on her arm after all, but not knowing where she was was pretty scary. And you know, she’s only 2. She needs her mum. Except when she doesn’t.
Happily, she’d actually buggered off in the completely opposite direction and had caught up with some other friends. Big. F*cking. Sigh. Relief.
Melbourne Zoo on a School Holiday day is busy. Chaotic even. We are Friends of the Zoo (FOTZ), which is great because I never feel compelled to do everything on the one trip to get my “money’s worth”. We spent 3 hours today wandering around the Thai Village and Monkey-land (note: this is not what they are called but I can never remember what these things are called). Elephants and hippos are a drawcard, but there are also chimpanzees, orang-utans, mandrills you name it, they have a simian of your pleasure.
But this is but a tiny part of the zoo, just near the entrance. Melbourne Zoo is huge, brilliantly set-out and maintained, and home to a range of animals including meerkats, game cats, reptiles, giraffes, seals and a freaking carousel (not an animal). I’ve never been a massive fan of zoos from an ideological point of view, but in terms of entertainment for the kiddies, it’s bang on. And during Victorian School Holidays and weekends, kids are free (adults are about $25).
Here are my top 5 tips for a seamless Melbourne Zoo trip:
- Write your mobile number in pen on your kids’ arms/hand. Luckily I didn’t need to rely on that today, but if Inky really had been lost it would have been a godsend.
- Take a stroller. Even if your kids are past needing one. Both girls had a stint in it today and it became the go-to vehicle for bags that had become too heavy.
- Bring (lots and lots of) snacks (the cafe near the front entrance sells pretty good coffee though).
- Bring wipes and water-free antibacterial wash. A necessity for any self-respecting parent. Taps are few and far between here and the kids get real dirty (although perhaps not as bad as the white-cheeked gibbon who drank its own wee in front of us).
- Next time I’m pinching some salt from the Village Kiosk (apparently they are attracted to minerals) to rub onto Inky’s arm in the Butterfly Enclosure. I didn’t hear the end of “I WANNA BUTTERFLY ON MY ARM! I WANNA… BU..BU..BUTT..BUTTERFLY ON MY AAAAAAAARM”. Save me.