New Zealand is famed for its raw, rugged landscape and it was clear, venturing just a few miles outside the major population centres that the locals have a real respect for and appreciation for nature. The fact that New Zealand is home to some stunning vistas is no secret, it was chosen as the setting for the mythical Lord of The Rings films which alone is enough to draw in crowds from around the world, keen to re-tread the turf that once played host to epic CGI battles between Orcs and Elves.

New Zealand’s rolling hills and jagged cliffs are also synonymous with extreme sports, and the country is recognised as one of the best places to go skydiving, bungee-jumping, and take part in various other activities that involve throwing yourself off the edge of the earth in a death-defying display of bravado. Not being particularly interested in free-falling from great heights (read; I’m a wuss) I decided to check out the Orana Wildlife Park in Christchurch for a more tranquil ride (or so I thought).

Most Zoos I’ve been too are located in large cities and while, on the whole, the animals have ample space to roam around in, the atmosphere is always somewhat ‘manufactured’ and false. Orana Wildlife Park is completely different however, in fact it’s more akin to a Safari route; the animals have much more room to explore, play, and make the land their own; everything feels a little bit more organic.


Just check out all the room these lucky Lions and Leopards have to roam around in, this shot doesn’t really do justice to the vast amount of space these animals have to enjoy!

To my slight disappointment, Orana wasn’t big on NZ’s indigenous species, I didn’t spot a single Kiwi when I was there (though I did purchase a nifty Kiwi key-ring), but the ability to get up close and personal with all kinds of animals you perhaps wouldn’t find in other Zoos.


Just check-out this cute Meerkat!

It wasn’t just the surroundings at Orana that made it feel like the animals were really thriving, but the knowledge and passion of the Zoo keepers. These weren’t your average cookie-cutter Zoo-staff wearing standard issue uniform, you could really tell they had a genuine interest in and knowledge of the natural world.

Another noteworthy point about Orana was the proximity of the animals to spectators, in most mainstream Zoos the two are separated by various layers of protection – not here, a mere wire mesh fence was the only barrier between us and these curious, yet thankfully docile leopards!


Remember how I said I didn’t like doing scary stuff at the start of this post? Well, Orana has a ride that’s far more terrifying than any theme park rollercoaster or leap of faith from a sheer cliff face; what is it? A chance for YOU to become the spectacle for the resident Tigers, in a spine-chilling role-reversal that see’s you rattle through their enclosure in a metal cage that they can leap on top of, menacingly sizing you up.

At this point I was far too paralysed with fear to take any pictures, which gives you an idea of the scale of the beasts that were just inches away from us…

Other activities on offer at Orana included an even more intimate big cat experience; namely paying a princely sum to climb into a Tiger cage (accompanied by an expert handler), where it proceeds to hug you/maul you half to death. Quite why anyone would enjoy this (very) near death encounter is beyond me.

Either way, Orana Wildlife Park was a real eye-opener and a refreshing change from most run-of-the-mill ‘city zoos’. Orana itself is a short journey from the centre of Christchurch and thus can be combined with a visit to this vibrant city, valiantly recovering from the earthquake which hit in February.

Guest post by Joe

Author bio: Joe is a travel blogger and wildlife enthusiast (though he mainly enthuses about small, cuddly things), he hopes to see some of the native species when he takes his Spain holidays later this year!

2 Comments on “Prowling Around Orana Wildlife Park, New Zealand”

    Ginnie said:

    Ever since the Lord of the Rings movies, LCT, I have wanted to travel to New Zealand! Maybe one day!

    John Allen said:

    New Zealand is a place I would really like to visit. From what I’ve seen in films and travel logs it is truely a beautiful land. The many waterways thru the mountains would be of special interest to me. I never have cared much for the city life and the great outdoors have always called. Used to travel a lot down into the Mexican interior, but that is just too dangerous now with all the violence. Getting on in years now, but still have enough gas in me for one more good adventure and New Zealand would be great.

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