Review: Stay where the wild things are at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, Canberra inner banner

Review: Stay where the wild things are at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, Canberra

Travellers looking for that quintessential African lodge experience generally have to travel to Africa. Canberra's Jamala Wildlife Lodge is a fabulous alternative — and it's a whole lot closer to home!
Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Image: Jamala Wildlife Lodge

When you think of possible places to stay in Canberra, an African-style safari lodge is probably not something that springs to mind.

However, this type of accommodation certainly captures the imagination of many visitors to Africa. Once the preserve of big game hunters, somewhere along the line lodges cottoned on to the fact that tourists were also prepared to pay just to immerse themselves in the habitat of Africa’s wildlife, without needing to shoot it and hang it on the wall. The luxury lodge was born.

Today it’s a multi-million dollar industry, with lodges offering a wide range of accommodation options (from the very basic to the outrageously luxurious). What’s common to all lodges though, is the concept of bringing nature as close to the guest as it is safely possible to do.

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So, why not take that concept and transplant it in Australia at our zoos? Brilliant! And there are now a number of zoos and wildlife parks across the country that offer the chance to spend a night in the company of the furry and feathered residents. But Jamala Wildlife Lodge at the National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra takes matters to a whole new level. $20 million dollars was spent creating an experience that’s absolutely on par with the top luxury lodges in Africa.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Image: Jamala Wildlife Lodge

From the superb foyer and guest lounge in the main lodge building, to the beautifully themed guest rooms with their four poster beds, sheer curtains and myriad animal motifs, those staying at Jamala are absolutely in for a once in a lifetime experience.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Image: Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Stays are themed around the traditional African lodge timetable, which typically consists of early morning and late afternoon game drives (when the animals are most active), lavish meals and of course — the tradition that no self respecting lodge would be without — ‘sundowners’ (drinks) with your fellow guests to discuss the day’s animal sightings. Packages at Jamala Wildlife Lodge include accommodation, all meals, beverages with dinner, and guided ‘safaris’ around the zoo.

There are a number of different accommodation types to choose from. The Giraffe Treehouses are absolutely superb and you can expect a visit from Hummer the resident male giraffe looking for a snack. You can hand feed him from your balcony in the company of a zookeeper, but be careful not to use your ring hand. Hummer has a tongue that can dislodge pretty much anything from your grip.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Image: Adam Ford

Alternatively there are the Jungle Bungalows, which adjoin various animal enclosures with a glass wall between you and your possibly carnivorous neighbour. Take a bath next to a brown bear or relax on your lounge with a tiger licking its chops just a metre or two away.

In the late afternoon drinks are served on the terrace at the main lodge, followed by a superb three-course dinner. Afterwards, guests are delivered safely back to their suites to enjoy the night-time symphony of exotic animal calls.

Jamala Wildlife Lodge
Jamala Wildlife Lodge. Image: Adam Ford

Following breakfast, you can join a guided morning safari or enjoy free time in the zoo. There are several animal encounters on offer at an additional cost, including the wonderful Meet A Cheetah experience.

While it receives no public funding, the National Zoo and Aquarium is no slouch in the animal conservation stakes and actively contributes to several world-class breeding programs. Revenue from the Jamala Wildlife Lodge contributes directly to this valuable work.

All in all, Jamala Wildlife Lodge possibly manages to ‘out-lodge’ even the lodges of Africa. A stay where the wild things are in Canberra is an absolute must.

The writer travelled as a guest of VisitCanberra.

Canberra Tours & Experiences

Canberra Tours & Experiences

Have you stayed at Jamala Wildlife Lodge? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below.

Cover image: Jamala Wildlife Lodge

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.



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