New Zealand really doesn’t come across as a place where you can get up close and personal with lions, tigers and rhinoceros, but that’s until you find yourself at the Orana Wildlife Park, the star attraction of Christchurch. This open zoological garden has become a much-loved destination for tourist and animal lovers visiting the city. Boasting 80 hectares of animal habitat, Orana Wildlife Park is home to a plethora of species from four lands; Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America, it is the only open zoo that you will find in New Zealand. Their extensive captive breeding program gives threatened species like the Cheetah and the Spider Monkey a chance to beat extinction.
The name of the park ‘Orana’ is a Maori word that means ‘refuge’, which is an undoubtedly fitting name as you will be closely encountering many of the world’s rare and endangered animal and bird species on its grounds. Creatures live in large enclosures designed to mimic their natural habitat, separated from the paths of the visitors by large channels and moats. Each area of the park has a rich collection of species; Orana Wildlife Park provides shelter to the elusive Kiwi, and many other weird and wonderful species of New Zealand, such as the Tuatara; a lizard so old that it walked with the dinosaurs. Black Swans, Emus and Red Kangaroos from Australia also make their home in Orana, next to the Zebras, Giraffes, Lions and those queer primates from Madagascar, the Ring Tailed Lemurs. To top off the list, Llamas and Spider Monkeys from South America are also found at Orana Wildlife Park as well as rare Sumatran Tigers.
The true magic of Orana Wildlife Park is the chance to get within touching distance to its wild and untamed residents. The most interesting time for a visit will be during the feeding times of the day, where the keepers will be give visitors a chance to participate where they can encounter animals such as giraffes upclose. You can get in close face to face with a giant White Rhinoceros, and watch the Sumatran Tigers as they reach after their lunch held high, but the most thrilling experience will be the ride through the lion enclosure. You can pay a house call to Orana’s pride of African Lions inside a steel cage placed on the back of a truck in a test of nerves. If the idea of putting just a steel mesh between you and a 400-pound predator is too much, you can always have a quiet time with less dangerous creatures at Orana’s farmyard.
As the Orana Wildlife Park is located just about 10 minutes away from the Christchurch airport, getting there is easy. If you are staying in any Christchurch Hotel, the better, as most of the best hotels are close to the airport as well. Any central hotel Christchurch has got waiting for you is assuredly a place with top class accommodation at an affordable rate, like the Millennium Christchurch hotel. Make your time at Christchurch both memorable and enjoyable with a zoo visit unlike any other you can find in New Zealand; start your holiday visiting the Orana Wildlife Park.