Monarto Safari Park – How to Plan Your Visit

Monarto Zoo, now Monarto Safari Park, is an open range zoo near Adelaide. It has everything from lions, giraffes and chimpanzees to meerkats and Tassie devils along with fantastic interactive experiences with the animals. And it’s big, Monarto Safari Park is the biggest safari-style experience you can have outside of Africa.

Spending a day at Monarto Safari Park is not only a great opportunity to see some beautiful and amazing animals. You also come away with an appreciation of how important parks like Monarto are in conserving these animals in the wild.

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Monarto Safari Park FAQ’s

Getting to Monarto?

Getting to Monarto?

Monarto Safari Park is about 60 minutes from the centre of Adelaide. Getting there is an easy drive. Get on the South Eastern Freeway, go through the Adelaide Hills and look for the turn off to Monarto Zoo on your left.


Monarto Safari Park Cost

There are a range of ticket options which you can see on the website. Adult tickets are $40 (for 15 years and older), children $21.50 and family passes start at $102. Admission includes all bus rides around the park and keeper talks.

Interactive animal experiences are extra. Some of these include the cost of admission and others do not. The experiences are often booked out in advance, so it is worth checking ahead if this is something you want to do. We have done a few of them and describe them later.


How big is Monarto Safari Park?

Monarto Safari Park is the largest open range zoo in the world. How great is it that for Australia?

Here are a few comparisons to put Monarto’s size in context. The Adelaide Zoo fits in Monarto’s lion enclosure. Monarto is almost 4 times the size of Australia Zoo. It is 5 times the size of the Dubbo Western Plains Zoo. If you combine Taronga Zoo and Melbourne Zoo, it is 30 times bigger than that!

Getting Around

Getting Around

Unlike some open range zoos, you cannot drive yourself around Monarto but there are a couple of other options.

Monarto shuttle bus service

The most popular and easiest way to get around is the hop on hop off shuttle bus service. Each bus has a volunteer who provides commentary on the exhibits as you travel between them. The buses are comfortable, air conditioned and come by every 15-20 minutes. If a crowd has built up at a stop, extra buses come by. For a big park, they are very good at keeping visitors moving.

Walking around Monarto

If you would rather a more energetic approach to seeing everything, there are 12km of walking tracks around the park. The trails link the various viewing platforms and are a relaxing way to get around. A couple of things to keep in mind if you are walking:

  • wear comfortable walking shoes, the tracks are mostly dirt or rock
  • Be aware of the heat. Monarto can be several degrees warmer than adelaide and the walks are exposed – have plenty of sunblock and water
  • In summer, the flies can be full on, have some bug spray handy
Monarto Visitor Centre

Your day starts at the Visitor Centre

As part of a major re-development at Monarto, a new visitor centre and entrance has recently been built. If you have been to Monarto before, the lay of the land is different now with the new facilities on the opposite side of the park to the old entrance.

The imposing structure has a café, a souvenir shop, it’s where you get your general admission tickets, it’s where you meet your guide for animal encounters, and it has a wonderful gallery showing Monarto Zoo’s evolution to Monarto Safari Park.

You also catch the shuttle bus service or start your walks from the visitor centre

Planning your Day

The keeper talks are really interesting and a time when the animals are often a bit more active. The talks are around the middle of the day, so you need to have a bit of a plan of what you want to see and when you need to be somewhere.

The park is so big most people use the hop on hop off shuttle bus to get around. There are six stops on the circuit. At some stops, you can get away with hopping off the bus, checking out the animals and getting on the next bus. At other stop you’ll want to stay much longer than the 15-20 minutes between buses.

Here is the order of the stops and what you can expect at each.


Stop 1 Cheetah

Cheetah Keeper Presentation is at 12.45pm Daily

The first stop after you leave the visitor centre is the cheetah exhibit. To be perfectly honest, you’ll be doing well to spot them if you come outside of the keeper talk time. It’s one of the problems of having a big enclosure. Combine that with an animal that is made to blend in with its environment and spotting them is pretty tricky.

Your best chance of seeing the cheetahs is when the keeper talk is on or as the bus drives along and the driver and guide point them out. If you want to get within arm’s length of them, try the cheetah encounter – we mention it a bit further on.

From the cheetahs you can easily walk to The Bomas, or stop 5, where you will have no trouble seeing the southern white rhino.

YouTube video

Stop 2 The Outpost

Meerkat Keeper Talk at 12.15pm Daily

Chimpanzee Keeper Talk at 10.30am daily plus 12.40pm only on weekends, school & public holidays

The Outpost is the location of the original park entrance, there is a lot to see and do here so allow 60 – 90 minutes to look around. There is a café, toilets, picnic area and a playground so if you are going to the keeper talks, The Outpost is also a good spot for lunch.

From where the bus stops, it is only a short walk to the meerkat and African Porcupine exhibits. We must have been to Monarto Safari Park 6 or times in recent years and in that time have briefly glimpsed the porcupines just once. Such a shame as they are amazing looking things. You’ll have no such trouble seeing the meerkats. Meerkats are one of those endearing creatures, whether they are standing tall on guard duty or flat out in the sand sleeping, they are still adorable.

From the meerkats it is a 10 minute walk to the chimpanzees, for kids the walk is broken up by the fantastic Rhino sculpture called Shandu. Along the way you can also walk through the yellow footed rock wallaby exhibit. We always have a look through here; they are beautiful animals and are easy to spot.

The chimps have impressive living quarters. There is a large outdoor area full of play equipment and an indoor area with plenty of windows. Whether they are inside or out, you will get great views and can find yourself watching them for ages.

Stop 3 Black Rhino

The black rhino stop is another one where you’ll probably want to have some binoculars with you. If you get lucky, they will be quite close to the viewing platform otherwise it will be a distant view. You can also spot zebras here, but we generally find that the best views are from the bus as you drive through. If you do get off, it is only a short walk to The Waterholes where you will want to spend some time.

Monarto Zoo Zebra
Monarto Zoo Giraffe
Monarto Zoo Watering Hole

Stop 4 The Waterholes

Giraffe Keeper Presentation 11.05am every day and on weekends, school and public holidays also at 1.40pm

This is a must get off stop. You can see the second of two exhibits featuring Australian animals here – the Tassie devils – but this stop is all about the biggest land animal in the world, the giraffes.

The Waterhole must really agree with the giraffes because their breeding program has been hugely successful. As a result, there are no shortage of giraffes and often they are pretty close to the large viewing platform. Like the chimpanzees, this is another stop where you could spend quite a while watching these extraordinary looking and grace creatures.

It is not only giraffes you’ll see here, also keep an eye out for the worlds biggest bird – the ostrich and a couple of antelope species – Nyala and Eland.

YouTube video

Stop 5 The Bomas

Rhino Keeper Presentation at 12.15pm Daily

If you didn’t walk here from the cheetahs, The Bomas is a great stop because you should have no trouble seeing the white rhinos. The keeper talk adds a lot to the experience but even if you miss that, it is worth watching these stunning animals do their thing. Docile, surprisingly playful and enormous, there are plenty of good vantage points. You’ll also find toilets, a picnic shelter and a playground here.

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Monarto Zoo Lion
Monarto Lion Cub
Monarto Zoo Spotted Dog

Stop 6 Windana

Lion & Hyena Keeper Talk at 2.40pm Daily

The king of the jungle features at the last stop. Windana is a fantastic viewing platform that overlooks the lions on one side and the spotted dogs and hyenas on the other. The lion enclosure is bigger than the whole of Adelaide Zoo so this is another stop where binoculars or a big zooming camera could come in handy. This is one spot where it pays to be here for the keeper talk as the animals get a feed and it is a good chance to see them up close.

A good tip for this stop is to find out when the Lions 360 experience is on. If you are not doing the experience, go to the viewing platform when it is on because you’ll get a great view of the lions being fed and climbing all over the Lions 360 cage. You can walk to Windana from the visitor centre – it takes about 10 minutes each way – and you’ll get some great photos.

Monarto Bus

What can you see from the bus

The shuttle bus not only takes you from one stop to another, but it also drives through them. This means you can get right up close to the animals if they are on the move or if their being uncooperative by not standing right next to the viewing platform.

If you are not up for much walking or if want to stay in the air conditioned comfort of the coaches, you will still see lots of animals.

Driving through the Waterhole area is fun, there are some great photo opportunities. It is not unusual to have to let some giraffes cross the road or give way to a curious ostrich. In Windana watch for the painted dogs, they like chewing on the bus tyres. And no, there aren’t any zebra crossings!

The bus is the only way you can see spectacular red deer, enormous American Bison and several types on antelope. The bus tour is also your best chance of seeing the cheetahs. The drivers and guides are very good at spotting them and know where their regular hides are.

For some of the less well known animals, the bus ride is your only chance to see them. This is the case for the barbary sheep, scimitar-horned Oryx and addax. One of our few small complaints about the bus is that it seems to drive past these animals too quickly – and they are worth more than a passing glance as they are all but gone from the wild.


Monarto Zoo Experiences

If you want to get up close to your favourite animal, there are a range of interactive experiences you can pay to do.  Experiences are available with the lions, lemurs, meerkats, Tasmanian devils, giraffes, chimps, cheetah and rhinos. There are half day and full day keeper tag along experiences too. We have done a few of the experiences, here’s what we thought.

Find more great Experiences and Wildlife Parks in South Australia

YouTube video

Lion Feeding

The lion feeding takes place into the Lions 360 enclosure. This is a dome-shaped cage where you come face to face with the big cats. On this occasion, it is the people who are in the cage. The lions roam around and sometimes on top of the dome shaped structure. For an extra fee, you can feed them.

Hand feeding is not an option with the lions. Instead, you impale a piece of meat on a heavy metal skewer and poke it through the bars. The lions get within half a meter of you as they remove the meat from the spike. Even though there is a cage between you and the lion, you still get a few butterflies as they approach you licking their lips.

When they stand up against the cage to retrieve the piece of meat you are blown away by how big they are and how large their mouth and teeth are. It is without doubt, as close to a hungry lion as you would want to be.

There is something majestic about them. Their flowing manes, the intensity of their eyes and their powerful legs. Seeing them up close is special. The lion feeding experience is limited to people aged 10 years and over. There are no age restrictions on going into the Lions 360 cage.

YouTube video

Giraffe Feeding

The giraffes are as graceful as the lions are imposing. We maybe enjoyed feeding the giraffes more than the lions. There are no bars between you and the giraffes. You hand feed them and when an enormous giraffe head comes down from the sky, long blue tongue waving at you, it is exhilarating. And their appetite for the carrots you feed them is insatiable!

We’re not telling anyone anything new when we say they are tall. But, when you are standing alongside one, wow! It makes the way they swoop down and take the food even more amazing. And it is also a treat getting to look a giraffe nearly in the eye. They have a beautiful face.

Unlike the lions, there is no minimum age for feeding the giraffes and it is a great family activity. There are plenty of opportunities for pictures. The keepers are happy to take photos if you are on your own.

Cheetah Encounter

This is a great experience too. You can see the cheetahs on the bus tour in the big cat area, but they are masters of camouflage so can be tricky to spot. But there’s no missing them on this experience!

You meet the keeper ‘behind the scenes’ where you get to see the cheetahs before they go into their day area. They are beautiful animals and as they come up to you, you can hear them purring. The hand-raised ones really look like they are after a pat. Depending on the conditions you might be able to do just that but, unfortunately, we couldn’t for our visit.

Park entry is included for this experience which has a maximum of 4 people in it, and you must be at least 10 years of age. It was a shame we didn’t get a pat but, short of going to Africa, this is as close as you will ever get to these wonderful cats.


Land of the Lemurs Walk

This is one of newer activities at Monarto and it is a beauty. The ring tailed lemurs are stunning and start following you around as soon as you get into the big enclosure. There is no patting or feeding here, you just walk around, the lemurs all around you darting through the trees with unbelievable agility. As they follow you around, they scamper right past you, often treading on your shoes as the scurry about. The time goes all too quickly but seeing the lemurs up so close is a real treat.

Monarto Safari Park

Big & Getting Bigger

As if the park is not big enough, a resort and glamping facilities are being added to the site. Safari-style open-sided vehicles will also soon be available for visitors to ride in as part of the new Wild Africa experience, this will also include dawn and dusk wildlife safaris.

Be ready for a big day at Monarto, it’s a big place with lots to see. In summer Monarto can be a few degrees warmer than Adelaide so pick when you plan to go. Wear comfy shoes, be ready to be get on and off buses and you will have a great time.

Monarto Safari Park is open every day of the year from 9.30 to 5.00. The last bus leaves the visitor centre for a lap of the park at 3.00pm.

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Monarto Zoo
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