January 1, 2016

A luxury wildlife experience close to home

Jamala Lodge

Jamala Lodge is a boutique luxury wildlife lodge in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.  We came here during their once a month family night for my son’s 9th birthday. There are many different room types you can stay in and most have an amazing close-up experience with an animal as part of your room charge.  Some rooms share a floor to ceiling window with a sun bear, others share the same window with a cheetah and then there are the tree-top villas where you can hand feed giraffes from your deck in the morning.  We stayed in Ushaka Lodge which is the main house in an upstairs bedroom suite above the shark tank. Our room included a private feeding tour of this tank so it was fun for the kids to get up close and personal to many sharks and fish (some were enormous too).

On arrival the children were so amazed at the size of the bathroom which had an enormous circular spa big enough for all four kids and then some!  The bedrooms were authentically decorated in a safari theme with the main bedroom having a romantic 4 poster bed with netting.

There was a small plush animal toy left for my son with a personal Happy Birthday message which was a really nice touch and much appreciated by him. The way it worked when we were at Jamala lodge is that you check in after lunchtime whilst having a light snack they provide on arrival and then go on the first personalised small group tour of the zoo which was very interesting and informative.  There was enough time taken at each animal enclosure to listen to the guide and really learn a lot of things you normally don’t get to learn when visiting a zoo.  Wherever possible everyone was invited to interact with certain animals e.g. by patting the rhinoceros and feeding others. The zoo-keeper took the time to engage all members of the group in a way that was perfectly appropriate to their age and all the children in the group learned so much about the various animals.

There was a children’s sitting of dinner then they went on an aquarium tour with a member of staff while the parents dined in a group table setting with other guests. The highlight was that you dined adjacent to a glass fronted enclosure where they had brought 2 stunning white lions (a beautiful big-maned male and a gorgeous female) into the enclosure to view whilst we dined. We had learned earlier in the day that these stunning lions are not albino lions and that there are only 300 or so of them left in the world.  We absolutely loved the dinner with the lions and the lions were very happy, relaxed, clean and clearly well cared for. Each night the lions are invited into the glass enclosure adjacent to dinner, however, they have the choice whether to come in or not, they are never forced.  Luckily they were happy to go in the night we were there and we heard that they do get a lovely treat if they go in so it’s very rare that the lions decline their invitation!

Dinner service was good, a lovely three-course meal and the Moet was free flowing and very much enjoyed by all the guests – it definitely made the experience feel very luxurious.

Breakfast was continental, followed by another private group tour of the other animal enclosure we hadn’t already seen. The morning tour was again very interesting and this is where you feel like you are getting value. We saw many animals who were sleepy on the afternoon tour the prior day, now up and energised including the beautiful snow-leopards and the cheetahs. We were told to move very slowly and quietly past the cheetah’s enclosure so as not to excite them! They did not take our eyes off and moved along their boundary very stealth-like and we got a sense of their enormous power and prowess.   My teenage daughter loved Jamala Lodge too and made a video of her experience.

We highly recommend a visit to this unique lodge, we have already told many people its worth a visit – hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Best Bits:

  • The Cheetahs are magnificent, our favourite animal to get up and close to.
  • The Moet at dinner was a nice touch and a reminder that you are having a true luxury experience.
  • Loved that kids were kept busy on a mini tour of the aquarium so the parents could eat in peace!

Our Tips:

  • It gets very cold in winter so take a lot of layers (and beanies for the kids) as the morning tour especially can be near zero degrees.
  • Ushaka Lodge is great for families as it has the 2 fully separate sleeping areas and plenty of space.

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