We packed a chilli bin with snacks, and I carefully packed water, a sun hat for Petra, and our jackets into a back pack (which I put down so that I could buckle Petra into her carseat and forgot to pick up again – it was still sitting on the front steps when we drove into the carport several hours later. So much for my efforts to be an organised motherly type!), and took ourselves off.
Petra’s very enthusiastic about giraffes for some reason, and we happened to arrive just before a giraffe feeding, so we made our way to the top of the hill to the giraffe enclosure. I was impressed by the habitats we passed on our way. The animals aren’t caged in the way that they were in older zoos – they tend to be contained by the terrain instead of by fences. The monkeys live on a series of islands, deterred from leaving not by huge fences, but by moats, the giraffes share a whole hillside with a couple of ostriches and various types of deer, and the chimps and baboons live in large, noisy family groups. I didn’t like the cheetahs’ enclosure so much – it was open and a reasonable size, but still far too small for animals who can run at speeds of over 100km an hour. You need a huge amount of space for that.
The giraffe feeding was fun. They’re such enormous and unlikely creatures – it was wonderful to see three of them in person. We gathered on a platform which was situated at about giraffe head-height. Petra held out a small bunch of leaves and the giraffe gently took them from her hands. Their muzzles are soft and their lips surprisingly precise and delicate. They’re also pretty damn slobbery but that didn’t stop their keeper, and some of the braver people in the feeding group, from putting the leaves in their mouths and allowing the giraffes to snuffle away at their faces.