One of spring's impressive thunder and lightening displays coincided with a very exciting outing on Friday night. Fortunately the extreme weather conditions only seemed to add to the sense of adventure for Sienna's Brownie unit which was spending the night at Wellington Zoo. With the evening sky lighting up at regular intervals, our family drove across town through the downpour, watching street lights flicker and lose power, navigating the flooded streets and splashing through huge pools of water with our windscreen wipers on full tilt, much to the delight of the girls.
The group of girls assembled at their meeting point and after a watching a brief introductory safety video, our guide took us through the rain up to the giraffe enclosure where he attempted to feed one of them. They weren't at all interested, with one disappearing into her bedroom but the other didn't seem to mind the torch light trained on her or the flash photography. They are such beautiful creatures. Who knew that a female giraffe is pregnant for almost two years? Nine months ain't so long now, hmm?
We were taken behind the scenes to a shed called the enrichment area where the girls all made some tactile toys for the monkeys by wedging popcorn and raisins inside pinecones and toilet rolls. They also viewed the prep area for the animals' food and the large chillers where their vegetables and meat are stored.
I probably should have spent time familiarising myself with how to operate my camera in nighttime settings; so many of my photos were unusable and don't truly capture how eerie but beautiful it is to be walking around the zoo at night.
The girls were taken down to the creepy crawly enclosures. Hairy spiders are only marginally worse than squealing girls. I find large spiders and snakes so intriguing, probably because New Zealand doesn't have them in the wild. Whilst I regard them with both awe and revulsion in equal measure, I can appreciate them more with safety glass between us. The following day, we returned to find one of the spiders upside down, still big, still hairy, but seemingly dead. She was just tricking us though and was in fact in the process of shedding her outer skin, which is something that only happens once or twice a year. Depending on how you feel about these things, we were quite lucky to witness that.
After two hours spent wandering the zoo, it was time to return to our lodgings for the night. Our sleeping quarters overlooked Monkey Island and waking to the sound of spider monkeys calling was very cool.
The rain that had fallen steadily through the evening continued into the next morning, but it did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the children as we ventured back into the zoo after breakfast to watch some animals being fed. Some of the girls were able to help the guide throw their makings from the previous night's activity over the moat to the monkeys.
Although not visited by us on this occasion, one aspect of the zoo that I really love is its veterinary clinic called The Nest, where sick zoo animals and injured native wildlife brought in from outside the zoo can be treated. Two such creatures were some little blue penguins, one with only one leg and it was being rehabilitated in an enclosure when we visited.
We were taken into an area of the zoo that is still under development and will open to the public this weekend. Called Neighbours, it is an exhibit of some of Australia's furry creatures. Visitors will be able to walk through without barriers between themselves and the animals. In this place, my camera battery gave up so I can't show you how close we could get to the wallabies and kangaroos. Instead, you get a picture of a sun bear, taken by Sienna.
It was an amazing 14 hours and at a cost of $800 for up to 20 people, it is not something that we would have ever contemplated doing as a family, so we are very grateful for the wonderful opportunities that Sienna has been given through being a Brownie.