We stayed overnight at The National Zoo and Aquarium in Canberra at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge during our Canberra Adventure.
Wow! What a memorable experience it was! The Jamala Wildlife Lodge is a five star African adventure package where visitors get the chance to stay overnight at the zoo and enjoy behind the scene experiences. From the time we stepped through the doors, we felt like we were in Africa with all the African décor, carvings and African music. The service from the staff was fantastic, and we all felt like African queens from the moment we arrived.
We were greeted by the reception staff and then escorted to the Ushaka Lodge area through the accessible entrance past the meerkats. At the Ushaka Lodge, we were welcomed by other guests and served delicious morning tea. All food and drinks were included as part of the experience, and mum said the coffee was one of the best coffees she had ever had! There was a vast selection of delicious food, ranging from fruit to mini burgers. Yummy!
After filling up on food, everyone moved outside to meet the beautiful cheetah cub Solo and his best mate Zama. The story between the cheetah cub and his doggy friend is beautiful. It is amazing how two different species share such an incredible bond. Solo and Zama were introduced at a young age and haven’t been inseparable ever since.
After the cheetah talk, we went on the afternoon tour, which is included in the Jamala experience. The group was separated in two, with the wheelchairs and scooter users remaining in the one group. A few of the older people in our tour group decided to use a scooter for the tour as there is a fair amount of walking. Myself and another young lady in our group were both full-time wheelchair users.
The tour was completely accessible, and we were able to access all areas of the tour without difficulty. Our zookeeper tour guide was fantastic. She was very friendly and knowledgeable and had a real passion and love for all the animals at the zoo.
After the tour, we were lucky enough to meet the white lion. The white lion encounter is not included in the Jamala experience and needed to be purchased separately through The National Zoo and Aquarium. To read more about The National Zoo and Aquarium and the encounter, please click here.
After the fantastic lion encounter and seeing a little of the zoo from the afternoon tour, we made our way to our room. We were staying in the Wild Encounter Suite. The Wild Encounter Suite is located in the Ushaka Lodge and has been recently upgraded and now is home to the Meerkats. Each room at Jamala Wildlife Lodge is located next to an animal enclosure where guests can view that animal from the room.
When we arrived at our Suite, we were lucky enough to see the keeper feeding the Meerkats. They were very cute and cheeky! We were extremely excited to have them as our neighbours for the night.
The Suite was beautiful and African themed. As we entered the room we were greeted with the sound of African music, and on the bed sat a gift from Jamala, a stuffed cheetah!
The Wild Encounter Suite is not classified as an accessible room. But the main living area is step free and is large enough for wheelchair access. However, there is a sharp corner to navigate from the main door to the main living area / bedroom, so larger wheelchairs might find this a bit difficult.
The bathroom is step free with a walk-in shower. There is no handrail or shower stool available. Since I was only staying the night, I didn’t request a shower chair, but I am sure Jamala would provide one if requested.
The second bedroom in the Wild Encounter Suite is down a flight of stairs. Nicky had this room.
There is a step out onto the patio area to get to the meerkat enclosure from inside the room. To get out near the meerkat enclosure, I had to go the long way around, out the Suite front door and through the Ushaka Lodge. We could see the meerkats from the large glass doors in our room, so we didn’t really need to go outside, but it would have been a nice option.
The bed itself was very high and is certainly not a good option for guests who need to transfer to the bed from a wheelchair. Even though the Wild Encounter Suite wasn’t the most accessible room, the Wild Encounter Suite suited us fine for our one night stay. For guests with a wide wheelchair who need a little extra room to get around corners, a lower bed height and an accessible shower with handrails, this room might not be the best option.
Official wheelchair access room: No (only available in Lemur rooms)
Open plan In room accessibility: Partly
Wide doorways: No
Bathroom with hand rails: No
Toilet access: Yes
Roll in shower.: No (step free walk in shower)
Shower chair available: No (Might provide on one request ?)
Side bed access: Yes (Very high bed)
Step free : No (Large Step to patio and stairs to bedroom #2)
Jamala Wildlife Lodge does offer two official wheelchair accessible rooms, the Lemur rooms in Ushaka Lodge.
Unfortunately, these rooms can only accommodate a max of 2 people, so those rooms weren’t an option for us. The other young lady who also used a wheelchair could not stay in an accessible room because like us, she was travelling with more than 2 people.
When booking our stay at Jamala Wildlife Lodge, I did have my heart set on staying in a Jungle Bungalow. The bungalows are home to the Lions, Tigers, Cheetah and Sun bears. Sadly I was informed the Jungle Bungalows are not wheelchair accessible. The lion bungalow is step free but because its located in the middle of the zoo a bus must take all guests back to the bungalows at night after dinner due to safety, and unfortunately, that bus isn’t wheelchair accessible. The Giraffe Treehouses are also not wheelchair friendly and have several steps.
I was informed our step free room options were the Wild Encounter Room 1, Wild Encounter Suite and the Reef Room. We decided to go with the Wild Encounter Suite because it was a little bigger.
Even though I would have loved to stay in a bungalow, I really enjoyed our stay in the Wild Encounter Suite. I feel whichever room guests stay in at Jamala Wildlife Lodge will be an unforgettable African getaway. However, I would love to see some more accessible options.
Later on that night, we made our way to the pre-dinner drinks, which is also included in the experience. We relaxed by the fire with the sounds of the lions roaring.
The hyenas joined us outside during our drinks before we moved into the dining area. The dining area was beautifully laid out, and we were all seated in order via our room type. The silver service dinner was fantastic, and the staff were outstanding. The white lions also joined us during dinner, but they were at the other end of the dining room, so we couldn’t see them, but after dinner, we were able to go say hello.
The next morning we awoke to our cheeky meerkat neighbours and made our way down to breakfast through the Aquarium.
Breakfast was terrific, and we left there with full bellies and a smile on our face ready for the morning tour. The morning tour was different from the previous afternoon tour. The morning tour was more of a behind the scenes tour of the zoo before it is open to the public. Our group was divided into the same group of people from the afternoon tour along with the same zookeeper. The morning tour was a lot of fun, and we got to feed a few different animals.
The tour was completely accessible again, except until the very end. Sadly those in wheelchairs weren’t allowed to visit the rhinos due to the rhino not liking wheels. While the other guests continued on, we finished our tour there. We spent the rest of the time looking around the zoo ourselves until checkout time.
The Jamala Wildlife Lodge is privately owned, and funds from Jamala Wildlife Lodge go back into the zoo. The funds from Jamala help care for the zoo’s animals and support the conservation work and education programs they do within the zoo.
We had a fabulous time staying at Jamala Wildlife Lodge. It was an extraordinary and special adventure, and I am so happy we spent it at Jamala, which made it even more special.
Thank you Jamala for a magical African experience!!
In my opinion, I give Jamala Wildlife Lodge a rating of 4 for wheelchair accessibility and a rating of 5 stars for the overall service and experience.
* I was not financially compensated for this review. The review is based on my own opinion and personal experience.*