Even before the first official guests checked in at the magnificent new 62-room Wildlife Retreat at Taronga Zoo beside Sydney Harbour, a coterie of other well-fed and watered patrons had already made themselves snug at home at the luxurious eyrie.
The latter guests are of the non-paying type, in the form of the marsupials and monotremes, including echidnas, platypus, koalas and wallabies, which now occupy The Sanctuary, the central, carefully landscaped feature of this ambitious, multi-million dollar urban eco-retreat.
From some of what may become the most coveted five-star hotel-style rooms and suites overlooking The Sanctuary, human patrons will come face-to-face with languorous koalas clasped to lofty tree branches with Sydney Harbour as the backdrop.
An overnight stay at the Cox Architecture-designed Wildlife Retreat at Taronga, consisting of a quintet of sensitively designed lodges, includes immersive guided tours within the zoo. The tours offer an opportunity to meet not just with the rest of the more than century-old institution's captive inhabitants, but also their dedicated keepers.
Before and after each tour, and in between, guests can relax and imbibe at the suitably named The Nest, a plush circular communal lounge delivering spectacular, unrivalled panoramas of the harbour, city skyline, Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge and, to be sure, views of the furry and spiky house guests mingling below.
Doubles at the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga start from $790 per night for two adults, which includes two-course dinner at Me-Gal Restaurant, buffet breakfast, exclusive Australian animal experiences and complimentary general admission to the zoo.
Anthony Dennis was a guest of the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga. See taronga.org.au