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Monarto Safari Park may be more appealing than African trips
Zoos SA’s revised Master Plan for Monarto Safari Park shows that the park will continue to grow as an exciting tourist drawcard.
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Zoos SA has recently updated its 2015 Master Plan for Monarto Safari Park, revealing the park’s impressive achievements, along with ambitious strategies to lure even more intrastate, interstate and international tourists.
The park’s director, UNESCO award-winning conservationist Peter Clark, is happy with how the Master Plan goals are being met.
Mr Clark even believes that Monarto can be a more appealing tourist destination than Africa.
“Some people find it a bit daunting to go to Africa – some people find it very expensive and not really achievable,” he said.
“But here, it’s only an hour away from the Adelaide Airport, so it’s pretty unique to find a place this big … it’s just another quiver in the arrow for South Australia as far as a mix of different types of adventures you can do here.
“We’re going to attract a lot of interstate people, but we’re also hoping that as the tourism redevelops from Asia that a lot of people from those areas might include us in their itinerary on their visit.”
Mr Clark drilled down to what specific changes to Monarto Safari Park should attract more tourists.
“In the short term, the Wild Africa safari experience is on track, and we hope to be operational towards the end of next year,” he said.
“It’s the next step for open-range parks like ourselves.
“We don’t have 500 species living here at Monarto: We might only have 60, but you’ll see them as herds, as prides, clans; you’ll see them more naturally in larger areas.
“It’s 550 hectares, so it’s a huge safari experience.
“It has about 24 kilometres of safari track, and it’s a two-hour experience – I’m going to Africa later this year on two-hour experiences, so it’s not that far divorced from what you’d see in the wild, and going with it, of course, is accommodation.
“It’s very exciting for us, and it’s an opportunity for us to take it a step further with the mix of animals that we put out there, so there will be more interaction than what we’ve had in the past.”
Mr Clark described what the African safari will look like.
“Not only will we have several species of antelope together, but they’ll be out with giraffes and ostrich,” he said.
“There’ll even be hippos, which is really exciting – and that’s something we’ve been hoping that Zoos South Australia would get to keep again after losing the oldest hippo in the world in captivity, Brutus, and his girlfriend Suzie just before him.
“But you won’t see them through glass windows: You’ll see them in waterholes and as you’d see them in the wild, which is either out grazing, sunning themselves on the sandbanks or nearly submerged in the waterhole.
“Associated with Wild Africa, we’ll be doing something we haven’t been able to do before, which is a native animal experience: Because native animals tend to come out only in the evenings, and we haven’t had accommodation, it’s always been quite difficult to do that.
“We’re actually opening up quite a large area adjacent to to Wild Africa, where we’ll be allowing led groups to go in and go on food trails et cetera and have a look at some of the animals that we’ve been breeding for release both in South Australia and interstate, so you might see some bilbies, bettongs and stick-nest rats, which are absolutely fantastic, but nobody knows anything about.
“We’re also working on a native food garden, where we’re developing an interactive tour with one of our Ngarrindjeri employees, and people will get to taste a few of the things that we grow here and learn a little bit about the culture.
“And we’ll be offering quite a few opportunities for people to get quite close to these animals.
“It’s a little bit different to what we do now because people staying in accommodation will want to see giraffes when they go to bed and see them when they wake up in the morning.
“We’ve also got longer-term plans to do all sorts of things here: We want to set up a new, really large baboon exhibit, which will be fantastic.
“There are plans to have big functions out here, which will be great for the area, and with the accommodation, it will mean it won’t be just locals.”
Since the publication of Zoos SA’s 2015 Master Plan, Monarto has realised several major goals, including the following:
the Lions 360 interactive exhibit completion in 2017
the opening of a new visitor centre in 2022
the ongoing construction of a 78-room safari hotel in the park’s Wild Africa precinct.
Mr Clark was “pleasantly surprised” by how much he and his team had achieved in relation to the original Master Plan.
“It was a very ambitious plan when we set it up, but we’ve got a great leader and a very good team, and collectively it happened,” he said.
“Meanwhile, numbers are coming up here, so we have to keep it going for them – we’ve got to keep adding to things to make the experience a little bit more.”
More information on Monarto Safari Park: www.monartosafari.com.au.