By Larry Rivera
Quite possibly the only one of its kind in Australia, if not in many parts of the world, it is a zoo and aquarium combined in one.
This is Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium, home to a wide variety of native and exotic animals and numerous species of fish and other aquatic creatures.
It is a must-go-to destination for both locals and those visitors to Canberra with an interest in some of the world's fascinating land and marine creatures all together in one place.
Zoo visitors, in fact, can get up close and personal with various zoo inhabitants such as cheetahs, lions, tigers, and Australian natives like dingoes, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils, emus and little penguins, on strolls around the park or on special guided tours.
Several of these animals, including brown bears and towering giraffes, can be handfed, and pythons fondled, during the zoo's Zooventure Tours.
The Zooventure Tour is a behind-the-scenes guided tour of some two hours for adults and children at least 10 years old. A modified Family Tour is available for parents and younger children aged at least 4 years.
The Meet a Cheetah experience allows no more than two persons at a time to enter the cheetah enclosure with an experienced zookeeper providing information and guidance in interacting with the animal.
The aquarium, which is said to feature the largest inland saltwater tank in Australia, is home to various species of shark and other sea creatures usually inhabiting the Great Barrier Reef and inland rivers.
Land and water creatures, including American alligators, boas constrictor, pythons, iguanas, blue-tongue skink and shingleback skink, as well as turtles and frogs, are to be found in the lower level.
Sharks and other land and sea creatures can be handfed during the zoo's Walk on the Wild Side Tour which normally starts at 8am and continues until 3.30pm. Those joining the Walk on the Wild Side Tour must be at least 1.5 metres (4.92 feet) tall and at least 12 years old.
There is a charge (which includes free admission to the zoo and aquarium) for the Zooventure, Family, Meet a Cheetah and Walk on the Wild Side Tours and bookings are essential. Unless booked and participating in these and other specially designated tours and activities, a general admission fee is charged for entry to the zoo and aquarium.
For current admission and tour charges, visit the zoo and aquarium website.
Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium is located on Lady Denham Drive, next to Scrivener Dam in Canberra's west, and is accessible from Tuggeranong Parkway, Parkes Way, Cotter Rd and Clunies Ross St.