Orana Wildlife Park is operated by Orana Wildlife Trust, a registered charitable trust and not-for-profit organisation. Set on 80 hectares of park-like grounds, Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand's only open range zoo. We offer a range of exciting encounters on a daily basis. The Park is located within ten minutes drive of Christchurch International Airport. There is also a transport service with the Orana Wildlife Park Shuttle.
The Park has been developed as an open range sanctuary for endangered animals, providing them with enclosures as close to their natural habitat as possible. Streams, moats and banks are used as barriers to allow visitors the opportunity to see the animals in a natural manner. Over 400 animals from 70 different species are displayed.
Conservation is one of the Park's core missions and the name Orana is the Maori word for welcome or place of refuge. Orana Wildlife Park is internationally recognised for its involvement in captive breeding programmes for endangered exotic animals, as well as New Zealand's own rare fauna.
Orana Wildlife Park is located on McLeans Island Road, 9 kilometres from the State Highway 1 turn-off. The Park is within 15 minutes drive (north-west) of Christchurch International Airport.
I have always enjoyed a good zoo, and I always thought that the Auckland Zoo was great. But it pales in comparison to the Christchurch zoo's. Last time I went to the South Island, I went to both Willowbrook and the Orana Wildlife Parks in the same day. My only regret? Trying to fit both zoos into one day. I went to Orana second, so I arrived just after noon, and I immediately looked at the map and realised I would not have time to see it all. Gutted.
When I paid for my admission, I was offered a discounted rate on a tiger experience, as the spots hadn't all been filled, so I thought I'd give it a go. Best Idea Ever! getting up close and personal with the tiger and even getting the opportunity to feed it, was a breathtaking experience. The zoo is by far the largest zoo that I have been to, and they recognise that, and offer free Safari Shuttles around the grounds, accompanied by tour guides, that will narrate while they drive.
I managed to watch the feeding of spider monkeys, and the kiwi, and got to watch them measuring the tuatara. So many up close guided experiences. As interesting as it all is to do on your own, nothing beats the narratives from the zoo keepers. You learn so much stuff. With so much stuff to do, and so many animals to see, make sure you have the whole day available.
I have been to Christchurch a couple of times and one thing I have always enjoyed about a visit there is heading to Orana Wildlife Park. When I first visited the Park, it was back in the day when you could drive into the lion enclosure. The excitement of getting that close was unreal. The idea that any moment a lion might jump onto the car was both terrifying and wonderful. With happy thoughts of my previous visit I could not wait to take my family there on a visit in 2010.
Of course, they have now stopped the driving in with the lions (except via special encounters at an extra cost). But that doesn't mean the excitement of close encounters is gone. While we were there, we got to hand-feed giraffes. I have done this a couple of times, but its not something our local zoo offers. My daughter, who is animal mad, was absolutely besotted with the giraffes. After a short tutorial on what to do, we got amongst it and feed the giraffe lots of leafy treats. We also got to watch Tigers jumping so close to us for their meat.
One thing that really struck me, following the staff around, was how passionate they are about animal conservation. Most zoos are. But Orana Wildlife Park staff really pushed all the facts about animal trade and other aspects. One guy was quite misty eyed about some of the horrible things that happen to animals in the name of medicine (as you would be when you have a passion for lovely animals like these). It was really interesting being at all the talks and thinking about how we affect the world we live in, even unintentionally. The day we went was wet, so we couldn't stay too long. But it was a beautiful time and I felt so happy to have returned.
Value for money-wise, at $25 an adult and $8 for a child its largely in line with Auckland Zoo and Rotorua's animal attractions as well. If you are local you can get an annual pass as well which is awesome value. You can also book extra encounters, though you need to be in quick at $30 per person daily and only 4 spaces available. I can't wait to visit again in the future.
If you plan on visiting Orana pack a picnic and intend on spending the day. It can take a while to walk around, although there is a shuttle (open air wagons pulled by a tractor) that you can catch a ride on, but the walk is well worth it. There are regular feeding times so it's easy to find when they are, the giraffes are hand fed browse twice a day and is an amazing experience for young and old.
We have found the best time to view a lot of the animals is just after feeding, especially the big cats as they're active and protective. Kiwis are best seen at "dusk" so the very beginning of the day. When you're ready for some down time there are picnic tables and bbq's dotted around for you to use as well as a cafe and a playground. The farmyard is always a hit with the little kids and they almost always have a calf and lamb.
As a local family we purchase an annual pass which is the cost of two visits for each of us which is very handy when we're on limited time, we just pop out and see what we want to without feeling we have to look at the entire park. The whole atmosphere of the park is excellent, even when it's really busy you hardly notice it until you attend a feeding time. If you have the time and money I'd strongly recommend spending the day, the teenagers might not be that in to it but I'm sure most other age groups will thoroughly enjoy it.
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