‘It’s like a dream come true’: Monarto Safari Park’s new visitor centre opens
After more than a year of construction, the first big part of the zoo's Wild Africa expansion is complete.
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A new visitor centre will open to the public this Friday at one of the Murraylands’ biggest tourist attractions.
A nature play space, a lookout and an exhibition space are among the new features of the $16.8-million centre at Monarto Safari Park, accessed via a new main entrance on Monarto Road.
It also offers a fancier cafe and souvenir shop, and African drumming can be heard all around its central courtyard, where a hundred-year-old boab tree stands.
Safari park director Peter Clark looked around with pride on Wednesday, as Zoos SA members filed in for a sneak peek.
“It’s a little bit like a dream come true,” he said.
“We’ve always had high standards as far as experiences and people go, but having the facilities to match is amazing.”
Zoos SA CEO Elaine Bensted said the new centre would allow Monarto Safari Park to cater to many more visitors – more than 200,000 per year, potentially – and to better showcase the organisation’s conservation work.
But she expected locals would benefit from the visitor centre’s opening as much as anyone, and not just because of the jobs it would create.
“People can come and use the cafe, use the retail, use the children’s play area without necessarily going into the park each and every time,” she said.
“We want it to be a local area that people can utilise.”
The dream was made possible by investments of $11.3 million by the federal government and $4.6 million by the state government.
Thirteen months have passed since work started on the centre, and the park has been closed for a week to give staff time to make the final preparations.
Big crowds are expected over the weekend.
But many more visitors are likely to arrive from around the world early next year, when a $40 million, 78-room luxury hotel will open as part of the park’s Wild Africa precinct.
Rhinos and lemurs, among other animals, will move into the park around the same time.
Mr Clark said having guests stay at the park overnight would make possible all kinds of extra experiences, including dawn safari tours and keeper talks with nocturnal Australian animals.
In turn, those tourism dollars would allow Zoos SA to expand its conservation work.
But for now, he and his colleagues are delighted with one of the biggest steps forward in the park’s history.
The park will open at 9.30am on Friday and close at 5pm, with the last tour bus leaving the visitor centre at 3pm.
More information: www.monartosafari.com.au/monarto-safari-park.
Tickets: $39/28/21 at www.monartosafari.com.au/tickets.
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