Taronga Zoo, Sydney Aquarium, AMP Tower

It was a rainy Tuesday morning in Sydney but that was not enough to dampen Adi's spirits. The gloomy weather was enough though to make us panic and buy an umbrella off one of those small stores at Circular Quay, for a whopping AU$33 (about P825), something we would never dream of doing in Manila, land of the free corporate umbrellas.

"We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can too, too, too. We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo." Do you know how that song goes? If you don't, then you have got to meet my son, Adi, since he sings this so cutely. Anyway.

First Stop: Taronga Zoo
Rating: 2 kangaroos - worth hopping on to also

We bought a Zoo Pass for AU$21 each (about P525) and this includes the roundtrip ferry ride from Wharf 2 (one way takes about 15 minutes), the bus ride to and from the zoo, as well as the entrance fee. Kids below four years old can get a ride and get in for free. The ferries come and go at 30-minute intervals.

When you get to Taronga Zoo, make sure you get a map, for which you will be asked to make a small donation. The Zoo is really big (it's quite overwhelming, to say the least) that you may get lost if you don't get hold of a map. Allot about two hours, if you have previously been to the Wildlife Park, since you can just choose which animals to see. If you are intent though on seeing everything, four hours may give you enough time.

Some of the attractions were under renovation (as a lot of things were in Sydney), most probably since they expect more tourists during the Sydney Olympics. The signs were also a bit confusing since as you find yourself following some of them (to the bears, for example), they just disappear and you cannot find any follow-through.

We noticed that some of the attractions had corporate sponsors. They had companies or brands like Mentos or Johnson Wax, supporting particular attractions. I wonder, can Filipino corporations do the same for the Manila Zoo?

We enjoyed seeing an echidna, the giraffes, dingos, Chester, the White Tiger (who looked beige or ecru and not white, to me), the flamingos, the hippos, the lions, and the bongo. My favorites though, were the meerkats, who were so active digging tunnels and hugging each other. They were such a joy to watch! By the way, where were the birds in the Bird Rainforest? We didn't get to see any.

Meerkats hugging in the sand Meerkats hugging in the sand.

Didn't realize how tunnel-digging, fast-bounding meerkats can also be affectionate towards each other. And no, it wasn't very cold that day.

These are just some of the numerous animals you'll probably see for the first time in Australia.

Second Stop: Writers' Walk, Circular Quay
Rating: 2 kangaroos - worth hopping on to also

I had been searching for this since the weekend. As we were walking from Wharf 2 to Wharf 4, I suddenly looked down, and there it was. Writers' Walk consists of a series of plaques (round ones), where Australian writers, and some guest writers too, note their observations about Australia. This may not be too interesting for people who don't care much about reading books nor about writing but to someone like me, who dreams of eventually getting into writing seriously, walking on Writers' Walk or even finding it accidentally, can be taken as a sign to pursue that dream of really writing sometime soon.

Thea Astley pavement plaque at Writers' Walk Thea Astley (b. 1925) - "Queensland isn't the home of the tall yarn. It's where the tall yarn happens, acted out on a stage where, despite its vastness, the oddballs see and recognize each other across the no-miles and wave their understanding." - Being A Queenslander (1976)

"Thea Astley was born and educated in Brisbane. Her relationship with Northern Queensland and Catholicism is strongly present in her work. She has won the Patrick White Award the Miles Franklin Award (three times). Her works include The Acolyte (1972) and It's Raining in Mango (1988)."
- Engraved on the pavement plaque set by the NSW Ministry for the Arts

Third Stop: Sydney Aquarium
Rating: 3 kangaroos - hop on to this immediately

After the Zoo Pass, we were off to buy an Aquarium Pass this time. It costs AU$19.20 each (about P480). Again, this includes the roundtrip ferry ride (one way takes about 20 minutes, with about four stops) and the entrance itself.

We liked the Sydney Aquarium. It is very organized and orderly. It is laid-out in such a way that there is no way for you to miss out on anything. Allot about two hours, for the entire aquarium.

After two failed attempts, we finally saw a platypus. A platypus, I suppose, is a nocturnal animal so it was quite dark at the Wildlife Park and at the zoo. It was so dark, in fact, that we didn't get to see the platypus. The lighting at the aquarium was just right that we finally caught a glimpse of the duck-like animal swimming.

My personal favorites at the aquarium were: the Giant Crab, the quick-swimming seals (that you really get to see upclose), the old wife ( a type of fish whose dorsal fins contain some poison), the moon jellyfish (so tiny, so transparent, so relaxing to look at), the neon-colored blue seastar (imagine a bright blue starfish), the yellow eel (also called banana peel), the manta rays, and the Great Barrier Reef where there were really very colorful fish (i.e. bright fushcia, a fish showing gradations of different colors, the blue tang). There were also touch pools where kids can touch some of the sea urchins, etc. There were also quizzes (i.e. questions on the walls and one can choose and see the correct answers) which the visitors can try. For example, one can guess which of the pictures show a male or female fish.

Manta Ray Silent and graceful manta ray

The manta ray glides majestically. In the Ibalong, an ancient Filipino folk epic fragment, we read accounts of winged sharks. Could this be an attempt to describe manta rays during those ancient times?

The Sydney Aquarium really is worth going to. Adi enjoyed it, particularly the touch pools.

Fourth Stop: The Lobster Cave
20 Loftus St., Circular Quay
Rating: 3 kangaroos - hop on to this immediately

We were hungry and were looking for another restaurant recommended by our guidebook. We discovered though that the restaurant had closed shop. Nearby though, was the Lobster Cave and so we decided to give it a try.

To get to the actual restaurant, you will have to go down a flight of stairs, after entering. Downstairs, inside, is a cozy place which serves very good food. The chef is Japanese and so are the nice and pleasant owners who also help out in serving customers. This restaurant is frequented almost exclusively by Japanese tourists.

From start to finish, we were happy with our dinner. We started out with pumpkin soup. It was the right temperature, very tasty and had some very fresh shrimp. Without our telling them, they also split our order into two.

After, we had the scampi and spinach in cream sauce. There was a nice contrast between the very tasty cream sauce and the tangy tomato-based sauce used with the veggies. For our main dish, we had pasta, seafood spaghetti and spaghetti with forest mushrooms. The pasta was cooked al dente. The seafood spaghetti had very fresh shrimp, fish, squid, and octopus. The one with mushrooms had a clean, healthy, fresh taste, and had bamboo shoots and five kinds of mushroom.

For dessert, there's only one choice: ice cream with berries. Very yummy. It had vanilla ice cream, on a waffle cone, with berries and syrup on top.

Our dinner cost us about AU$42 per head (P1,050) but it was well worth it. I don't think they could serve bad food there, even if they tried.

Fifth Stop: The AMP Tower
Rating: 1 kangaroo - hop on to this only if you have extra time

This was another attraction which was undergoing some renovation. After dinner, with a full tummy, we walked to the AMP Tower. Adi had fun, looking through all the binoculars. At least I saw the rooftop of Queen Victoria's Building. Imagine, I didn't get to do any shopping on this trip? I didn't get to set foot in any mall. Well, all the more reason to return.

It was okay looking at all the lights from up in the Tower. It's not much different though, once you've been to other similar towers in other countries.

At least Adi got an AMP Kit, which includes some colored pencils, an activity book, all centered around Seymour (as in "see more," I guess), the mascot of AMP.

Entrance fee is AU$20 or P250 each.

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Top of the Page ^

01 - Intro, Visa requirements
02 - Off To Australia, Adi's Plane Ride
03 - Sydney Wonderland Themepark, Olympic Park Aquatic Center, Charcoal Mine Restaurant (Parramatta)
04 - The Opera House, Silver Spring Resto, Paddy's Market, St. Mary's Cathedral and the Archibald Fountain at Hyde Park
05 - Nature Tripping at the Blue Mountains
06 - Taronga Zoo, Writers' Walk at Circular Quay, Sydney Aquarium, Lobster Cave Resto, AMP Tower
07 - Brisbane, Gold Coast
08 - MovieWorld
09 - SeaWorld

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