Having heard more about Zion Wildlife Gardens in Northland from their notoriety than anything else, I was curious to make the detour from Whangarei.
Firstly it is ridiculously hard to find! There was one sign in the tiny town of Kamo pointing left, then nothing. They left us in the lurch for what seemed like hours, doubling back on ourselves, searching Google maps again and having a couple more goes. We drove and drove, into the boondocks and still not a sign post in sight. In fact we’d driven about 15kms past a tiny sign and it was only by chance after we’d given up that I noticed it upon our return because the house on the corner looked strangely octagonal and caught my eye.
Apparently people keep stealing their signs, but even a boring AA one would be helpful.
When we finally arrived at the shop/ticket office and were told by a Maori girl with a strange Afrikaans accent that came and went depending on who she was speaking to, that the next tour wasn’t for another hour, I went What?! You drive all this way and it’s not actually a park that is open for visits, you have to wait for the next tour?
I could see a couple of lions behind a fence in the distance and since our extraordinarily long trip meant I was desperate for the loo, this is as close as I got.
Guided tours start at $60 per adult and $30 per child (2-12 years, free under 2) and go up to $650 for two people to walk through the sanctuary within “arms length”. Jarringly the brochure they gave me still advertises that Uncle Dalu will greet you for a full guided tour. He was mauled to death by one of the white tigers in May last year and charges were laid against the park in January.
All in all, it was too pricey and too difficult, so this is as far as I got. If any one’s been to Zion Wildlife Gardens I’d be keen to hear what it’s like!
If you want to find it, the brochure says:
1km down Gray Road, Kamo, Whangarei, Northland. Ph +64 9 435 0110. Or click here for their website.