I have an animal obsessed toddler. He’s always been that way and it’s great. He knows all sorts of animals and gets very specific too – for example, he’s across a tapir, fennic fox and bongo. Huh? Ok then. And he runs rings around me with the big cats like cheetah, leopard, jaguar, cougar – I always get them confused. We’d waited to take him to Taronga Zoo until he was an age that he could really enjoy and appreciate it. We took him a couple of months ago and, as expected, he had an awesome day.

Post-Taronga he constantly studied the map and rattled off all the animals he’d seen – but he’d also done an inventory of the ones we’d missed. His stand-outs on THAT list were the red panda and the otters (they were apparently busy having ‘special cuddles’). The thing with Taronga is that it’s pretty much impossible to see absolutely every animal on one visit. I sensed another trip to the zoo was imminent.

And that’s when I remembered Big Ted and his excellent-looking Big Adventures at a zoo I wasn’t familiar with. A quick google and I’d located it – Mogo Zoo, down south near Batemans Bay. Next step was to find out if it was any good so I asked in the Hills District Mums Facebook group. My post resulted in lots of comments and all were hugely positive and really passionate too, so it seemed a no-brainer. I was also seeing it as a good excuse for a little mini break for the parents!

Hubby was easily convinced so we picked our weekend and off we set. I won’t go into the occasionally hairy car trip with an almost 18 month old and a 3.5 year old. That speaks for itself. But we made it, which was the main thing. We crossed our fingers for good weather on the zoo day and after a few showers very early in the morning it turned into a gloriously sunny winter’s day.

What’s fantastic about Mogo, particularly for really small kids, is how close you can get to the animals without the elbow jostle you often face at larger zoos. Also, you can happily let your toddler wander ahead of you as there’s only one way in and one way out, and you can see them really well. (It may be a little harder in summer time if it’s busier). No way would I do that at Taronga! While Taronga is no doubt magical, Mogo Zoo is equally so for different reasons.

My toddler managed to tick the red panda and otter off his list, both in spectacular fashion! The red pandas were awake and very active and all just metres away. And the otters were easily spotted (not always the case) and had just been fed some juicy fish so were very busy – again, a mere stone’s throw from us!


There are some stunning animals at Mogo too including the white lions, a snow leopard and two white rhinos. The array of primates at Mogo is incredible and includes gorillas, gibbons and pigmy marmosets which have to be seen to be believed! They’re the smallest monkey in the world, about the size of a rat.


Another highlight (for an additional $10) is to feed the giraffes. I’ve always loved giraffes so this was extra special for me – the toddler was maybe a little scared but it was that excited scared they’re prone to! You can also feed the lovely deer and there are a range of animal encounters which would be very special too … we saw two ladies in with the meerkats when we visited – the little critters were scampering and running all over and around them!


We were lucky enough to meet Sally, the owner of Mogo Zoo. It’s very clear that this special place is her life and that her primary passions are the animals, sharing them with visitors and ensuring their conservation. She lives on-site and sits at night listening to her animals. I asked her if she had a favourite but suppose it’s kind of like kids and you can’t really pick (I won’t go there!). But she said there were a handful that were very special to her, such as a cougar she had years ago, because she’d hand-raised them – again, kind of like kids!

We couldn’t leave without asking Sally about her celebrity encounters – yes, there’s been Oprah, Steve Irwin and others … but Big Ted has surely been the pinnacle to date. So what was he like in person (or is that in bear?)? Sally said he was extremely professional and even came with a personal dresser! No wonder he looks so handsome all the time.

So if you’re thinking of a mini break away over the coming months, heading south and making Mogo Zoo a part of your trip would be great. We stayed about 20 minutes from the zoo. There are lots of accommodation options and some lovely beaches as well – it’s a beautiful part of New South Wales.


Thanks to Mogo Zoo for hosting us.