Monarto Safari Park review
If you're looking for things to do in Adelaide, the Monarto Zoo is the largest safari park outside of Africa.
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Monarto Zoo: Quick Verdict
The Monarto Safari Park isn't an essential wildlife visit, but it's certainly a well-priced and enjoyable day out. If accessibility is important to you and your family, or you want something to do during weather extremes, it comes into its own thanks to the bus service. I was impressed by the staff and the layout of the park, and feel it will only get better in the future as it expands with a greater variety of animals and accommodation options.
- Location: Old Princes Highway, Monarto South, SA 5254
- Ticket price individuals: $39 (Adults), $21 (Kids 4-14 years), $28 (Concession 15+ years), Free (Kids 0-3 years)
- Ticket price family: $98.50 (2 Adults + 1-3 Kids)
- Alternative ticket: Zoos SA Pass, starting at $54
- Opening hours: 1 April-30 November: 9:30am-5pm (last entry at 3pm) | 1 December-31 March: 9:00am-4.30pm (last entry at 2.30pm)
- Family friendly? Yes
- Reviewer: Father, mother and 3 kids under 10
Pros and cons
- Tours through the inside of the enclosures
- Accessible to all ages and agilities
- Interesting selection of animals
- Not easy to take photos through bus windows
- Location is a bit out of the way
- Not much variety in animal types
The largest safari park outside of Africa can be found in South Australia. The Monarto Zoo provides a 1,500 hectare home to over 50 species of animals from both Australia and overseas. The park provides a place for animals to retire once they've done their tour of duty at other zoos, as well as a destination for animals that have nowhere else to go.
During a recent holiday in Adelaide, my family of 5 (with kids aged 9, 7 and 5) took the 50-minute drive out to the Monarto Safari Park. Is it worth it for your family?
Where is the Monarto Safari Park?
If you're holidaying in or around Adelaide, the Monarto Safari Park is quite easy to access. Just take the Princes Highway about 50 minutes east of the CBD and you cannot miss it. There are also regular buses out to the animals if you don't have your own transport.
How much is the Monarto Safari Park zoo?
Monarto Safari Park tickets fall in line with what we've come to expect from other zoos in Australia. There are a few variations of the Family Pass, but as a general guide:
- Adult = $39
- Child (4 to 14 years) = $21
- Concession (15+ years) = $28
- Family (2 Adults + 1-3 Kids) = $98.50
I think being able to take your whole family on a day out for under $100 is good value. It's worth pointing out that you can become a Zoos SA member too, which gives you unlimited access to the Monarto Safari Park and the Adelaide Zoo for a year. You also get others perks, such as reciprocal access to 6 additional zoos in Perth, NSW and Victoria. The Zoos SA passes cost:
- Adult = $115.50
- Child (4 to 14 years) = $54
- Concession = $80
What makes the Monarto open-range zoo experience special?
What separates the Monarto zoo experience from others in Australia is its sheer size. It's 5 times the size of Western Plains Dubbo Zoo – to which it shares a kindred spirit. It's so big that, as part of the experience, you can ride in a bus through the enclosures (at no added expense). In fact, unless you run marathons in your spare time, walking the whole zoo by foot would be too much to achieve in one day – especially for families.
The idea of exploring a zoo by bus, listening to the guides provide information as you go while getting really close to the animals, is awesome. And air-conditioned! Plus, the buses run so frequently that getting off and on at each of the stops to explore that surrounding area, do an experience or listen to a keeper talk is easy.
I was also very happy to see that school groups and holiday camps don't jump on the same buses as general visitors. You don't have to worry about suddenly missing a bus because 40 people are getting on at once (or ending up in the middle of a rendition of "Hail to the bus driver").
Pros: What's great about it?
Within Monarto Zoo, there are several hub areas that act as centralised locations from which you can branch out and explore surrounding animals and experiences. Each hub acts as a bus stop too. Buses travel in a one-way circuit and leave every 20 minutes or so.
If you stay on the bus, you can get around the whole zoo in a little over an hour. However, the idea is that you get off, explore that hub area, and then get back on to transport yourself to the next hub. These hubs have toilets and water, as well as plenty of walking tracks you can take to see more of the enclosures than what can be viewed from the bus.
We got off at every hub on the way to the furthest bus stop before catching it all the way back to the start once we reached the far end. Taking this approach, we ended up seeing everything in about 5 hours.
Once you're in the enclosures themselves, the bus follows a pre-determined route, but stops regularly depending on where you can get the best view of the animals. On many occasions we were very close, and some animals – namely the lions – have been known to attack the tires. We weren't lucky enough to experience that!
There are keeper talks, smartly staggered so you have time to get from one to the other on the bus. For those inclined, there are additional paid animal experiences too, which allow you to get up close and personal. We didn't do any of these, but we saw the Lions 360 experience unfold from our bus window and it looked incredible. Very jealous!
There's also a handful of animals I haven't seen at other zoos before. The African Crested Porcupine, American Bison, Tasmanian Devil and Spotted Hyaena, in particular, were fun to see in the flesh.
The main depot, where you start and end your adventure, has the usual eatery and shopping options including ice creams for the kids. There are also a few animals you can see in this vicinity and a playground to try out, making for a nice relaxing end to the day's activities.
Cons: What's bad about it?
There's not too much to complain about with the Monarto Safari Park. While there's more to like than dislike with the bus element, it does have some downsides. There were enclosures where the bus couldn't get very close to the animals or find a good viewing angle. And obviously, the more people there are on the bus, the harder it is to be the one who can get a good view out a window.
Taking photos and videos is also impacted as you're looking through glass. Yes, you can get out and walk around at the bus stops. But, overall, the best view of the animals comes from the bus – and if you love your photography, this may disappoint.
There's also not a great range of animal types. There are only 25 of the claimed 50 species that get a name-spot on the map. That's nothing to sneeze at, but I'd be lying if I was saying I didn't find the variation a little disappointing.
Yes, I understand it's "safari" focused, but even just adding some exotic aviaries, reptiles and even an aquarium would really add some depth. And every zoo needs an elephant, right? For international tourists, the lack of koalas and kangaroos will be a hard pill to swallow too. I was told there are plans to extend the zoo in the future and I did see some construction already underway.
Is Monarto Zoo good for kids and families?
Any zoo is good for kids, but undoubtedly some are better than others. I think families with older kids who want to be more mobile and distanced from their parents may struggle with this zoo. You'll spend a large chunk of time on the bus moving from one spot to the other together.
For families with younger kids, or indeed family members with disabilities or elderly patrons, the bus service is amazing. The bus itself is a mini adventure. Plus, you don't have to suffer through complaints of tired legs, or being too hot or too cold – or too far. You don't have to lug around a backpack full of sandwiches and water bottles for kilometres on end either. Hooray!
There's also plenty of useful information to absorb about the animals, as each bus comes with a ranger/guide with a microphone in hand. I think we all enjoyed that. The kids can play around with the Monarto Safari Park app too.
Monarto Zoo accommodation
The Monarto Safari Park is a fair way out from Adelaide, and zoo accommodation isn't abundant. Not yet, anyway. A $40 million resort and glamping facility is under construction and is due to open in mid-2022. Otherwise, you can look at nearby home stays or motels, or use the opportunity to stay in nearby towns. I can personally vouch for the mesmerising beauty and charm of Hahndorf.
For most visitors, Adelaide is likely to be the main option for accommodation. You can find the latest deals on our Adelaide Hotels page.
List of animals at Monarto Safari Park
- African Porcupine
- African Wild Dog
- Barbary Sheep
- Black Rhinoceros
- Emu (not in zoo, but walking about carpark)
- Indian Antelope
- Mesopotamian Fallow Deer
- Przewalski's Horse
- Red Deer
- Scimitar-Horned Oryx
- Spotted Hyaena
- Tasmanian Devil
- White Rhinoceros
- Yellow-Footed Rock Wallaby
Monarto Safari Park Map
Keeper presentation timetable
- 11:20am: Tasmanian Devil
- 11:45am: White Rhino
- 12:15pm: Reptile/Insects (Wednesdays only)
- 12:20pm: Meerkat
- 12:35pm: Carnivore
- 2:10pm: Giraffe
- 2:30pm: Chimpanzee
- 3:00pm: Cheetah
Is Monarto Zoo worth it?
Monarto Safari Park offers a unique zoo experience, allowing you inside the enclosures where you view the animals from the comfort of a bus. This makes it extremely accessible and easy for families. Looking at it through this lens, if you need a good experience that everyone in your group can do regardless of the weather and their own abilities, then it's completely worth it.
The zoo is good value for money, and my young family and I really did enjoy the day out. However, it's not a photographer's dream. Also, if you're a regular to zoos around the country, then you'll likely feel – as I did – that it could do with a greater variety of animals as it expands into the future.
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