Monarto Zoo in Adelaide is an open range zoo. It has everything from lions, giraffes and chimpanzees to meerkats and Tassie devils. It also offers incredible interactive experiences with the animals. It’s not your traditional zoo. Be prepared for a full day of animal sightseeing from viewing platforms and shuttle buses. Wear comfortable shoes and take some snacks. It is a big day, but a wonderfully memorable one.
Monarto Zoo Adelaide Zebra

Where is it?

Monarto Zoo is about 50 minutes from the centre of Adelaide. Getting there is an easy drive. Get on the South Eastern Freeway and go through the Adelaide Hills. Signs along the freeway will point you in the right direction.

Cost

There are a range of ticket options which you can see on the website. Adult tickets are $37 (for 15 years and older), children $20 and family passes (2 adults and 3 children) $93.50.

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 couple of them and describe them later in the post

Monarto Zoo Adelaide Rhino

Size

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

There are walking trails linking the viewing platforms. If you go for this option, make sure you wear good shoes. The more popular way to get around is the 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 run at regular intervals. 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.

What will you see?

With a zoo this large you might wonder if you will get a good look at the animals. While, like any zoo, some animals can be hard to spot, most exhibits have excellent viewing area. What you see will also depend on the type of enclosure…

Contained exhibits

These are areas that are more confined and have a good viewing platform or long fence line. The highlight in this category is the chimpanzees.

The chimps are a 10 minute walk from the main entrance which also serves as the visitor centre, café and shuttle bus departure point. On the walk there you pass the meerkats, a playground and a very cool rhino sculpture called Shandu.

The chimps have an indoor/outdoor exhibit and at any one time there will be chimps in both areas. We have been several times and without fail, there is always something going on in chimp land.

There are volunteers on hand to tell you the name of every animal in the troop. They can also fill you in on all the latest chimp happenings. It is easy to get stuck watching the chimps. Their mannerisms and behaviour are so humanlike it is captivating to watch.

monarto zoo adelaide meerkat
Monarto Zoo Tasmanian Devil
Other animals you can view easily are crowd favourites, the Meerkats. The Yellow footed rock wallaby habitat is a short loop you can walk around on your way to the chimps.

The Tasmanian Devils and White Rhinos are also easy to see. The devil’s exhibit is near the Waterhole – the main giraffe habitat. The white rhino has its own area – The Bomas – which you can get to on the bus.

Monarto Zoo Watering hole

Viewing Platforms exhibits

There are two main viewing platforms. There’s the Waterhole which overlooks the giraffes, zebra, ostriches, and elands. The Waterhole is a large open area. Even if the animals are some distance away, they are still easy to spot.

The second platform – Windana – overlooks the lions on one side and the hyenas and painted dogs on the other. Now, this is where things can get a bit tricky. These enclosures are less open than the Waterhole and they are large. So, if the animals aren’t nearby, all you will get is a nice view of the savannah landscape.

Monarto Zoo Adelaide Feeding platform
Monarto Zoo Adelaide
On our visits we have never seen nothing. Even so, the painted dogs can be hard to spot, and the view of the lions can be a distant one. This is not a criticism. In fact, it’s great the animals have so much room to move.

To get the most from the viewing platforms try to be there for feedings and keeper talks. Nothing brings an animal out of hiding like a bit of food. Don’t worry if you think the platforms appear crowded. They are enormous and cater for big crowds. You will still get a good view of the animals.

There are lookouts on some of the walking trails, but we haven’t had much luck spotting animals from them. I’m sure if you are at the right place at the right time, you’ll get a great view. If you enjoy walking, the short hikes are fun. If you see animals, consider it a bonus.

Monarto Zoo Adelaide Giraffe
Monarto Zoo Adelaide Lions

From the bus

The shuttle bus not only takes you from one habitat to another, it drives through them. This means you can get right up close to the animals if they are on the move.

It is not unusual to have to stop to let some giraffes wander across the road. And no, they don’t use a zebra crossing… Driving through the Waterhole area is great. Besides the giraffes, it isn’t uncommon to get up close to the ostriches and elands too. There are some great photo opportunities.

The painted dogs like chewing and chasing the bus tyres which makes that part of the loop fun. The bus tour is also your best chance of seeing the cheetahs. The drivers and guides are very good at spotting them and they know where their regular hides are.

For some of the less well known animals, the bus ride is your only chance to see them – anywhere. This is the case for the barbary sheep and the addax. One of our few complaints about the bus is that it seems to drive past these animals too quickly.

Monarto Zoo

Living museum

You might not be all that familiar with the addax. It is a white antelope with long wavy horns that lives in Saharan Africa. Or rather, lived in Saharan Africa. They are now extinct in the wild. There are fewer than 10,0000 barbary sheep left in the wild too.

It is one of the more poignant moments of the bus tour. Looking out at the herd of 30 or so addax and realising they are all but gone from the face of the earth is quite affecting. It seems fitting that the bus pause for just a little longer so people can take in the sight of these creatures.

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 most of the animals in the park. There are also half day and full day keeper tag along experiences too. We have done the giraffe and the lion feeding.

Lion feeding

The lion feeding takes place in the Lions 360 enclosure. This is an eye level cage where people can 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, in particular, 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.

Giraffe feeding

As imposing as the lions are, the giraffes are graceful. It’s close, but we almost enjoyed feeding the giraffes more. There are no bars between you and the giraffes. You just hold up a carrot and from the sky comes an enormous giraffe head. Then, its long blue tongue gently takes the carrot from your hand.

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.

Big and getting bigger

As if the park is not big enough, a resort and glamping facilities and are being added to the site. Safari-style open-sided vehicles will also soon be available for visitors to ride in.

They are also in the process of developing a 35,000 square meter walk through lemur enclosure. This will add even further to the parks credentials as a centre for conservation. At present, 70% of the species at Monarto are threatened with extinction.

Monarto Safari Park

Monarto Safari Park – a must do

Be ready for a big day at Monarto. It’s a big space 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 Zoo Safari Park

LOCATION

Monarto Safari Park, South Australia

BIG4 Hahndorf Resort

Monarto is only 30 minutes away from our home but have have stayed at the local caravan park in Handorf previously! The park is set on rolling green hills with fabulous with a cafe, pools, ponds with ducks and geese wandering through the campsites. Only a couple of minutes from the hustle and bussle of Hahndorf Village.

Monarto Entry Fees

Monarto Safari Park

There are a range of ticket options which you can see on the website. Adult tickets are $37 (for 15 years and older), children $20 and family passes (2 adults and 3 children) $93.50.

monarto experiences

Monarto Safari Park
A range of interactive experiences are available for you to get up close and personal with your favourite animal. We love feeding the giraffe and lions but you can also meet a cheetah or rhino.

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Monarto Zoo
Monarto Zoo Adelaide
Monarto Safari Park
Monarto Zoo Adelaide

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