Imagine a place where you can walk amongst the animals, climb above the treetops and feel on top of the world before floating back to earth. You can experience all of these things at one place – Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome.
You won’t believe it until you see it for yourself, but that ornate dome atop the Reef Casino in Cairns is home to an open wildlife exhibit with various rope courses, zip lines and the opportunity to get the best view in town.
Animal lovers don’t need to travel far from Cairns to get their fix. The Cairns Wildlife Dome is essentially a small tropical zoo within a 20 metre high glass dome that showcases native Australian animals. Built within the surroundings is Cairns ZOOm, an elaborate rope course with zip lines, a spiral staircase and a platform at the top to soak in the views of the region.
There are various talks throughout the day so that you can learn and interact with animals such as crocodiles, snakes, koalas and various birds. The animals are all fairly used to the presence of people so you can get up close without startling them. One of the best presentations is the crocodile feeding, where you can see and hear Goliath the saltwater crocodile snap at morsels of meat.
While many of the animals have their own separate enclosures, birds and small marsupials roam free in the rainforest environment. Kookaburras, frogmouths, curlews and cockatoos are easily spotted from the ground while parrots, herons and doves fly above and can be accessed from a circular boardwalk. There are over 400 animals within the dome, including an albino kookaburra that can turn the day into a game of hide and seek.
While many of the animals are visible during the day, such as the turtles, crocodiles and lizards, if you stick around after sunset, the nocturnal animals come out to play. Bettongs can be seen visiting the feeding stations, the mahogany gliders leave their cosy log for breakfast and curious pademelons are ready to meet the visitors. While we were in the pademelon section, they were so friendly, one even hopped into Dave’s lap for a kiss.
ZOOm Courses & Ziplines
When you enter the Wildlife Dome, the overhead ZOOm course is not hard to miss. It is the world’s first rope course set up in a wildlife exhibit and has over 65 different crossings, including ziplines, ladders, tyre bridges, rope webs and small platforms.
There are two ZOOm levels – the mid level course is great for beginners, kids and those who may be afraid of heights. Once you’ve completed the Mid-ZOOm, you’re ready for the Hi-ZOOm. This course is twice as long, with more crossings and climbs to nearly 10 metres above the floor of the dome. The view is amazing and dizzying at the very top. On the way down, there are three ziplines, with one that goes directly over Goliath’s pond. Don’t worry – there’s no chance he can jump high enough to get you, and there’s even a camera set up so you can take a cool photo souvenir home.
We were excited about getting up in the air, and the harnessing and safety processes by the friendly staff was nice and quick. The Mid-ZOOm course was a great introduction into what we were in for with the Hi-ZOOm, and we certainly worked up a sweat. It’s a great workout for your arms and core, trying to stay stable on wobbly bridges and holding onto ropes and rails. For the Hi-ZOOm course, we opted for a GoPro helmet for Dave. We are so happy to have video of the experience, especially the narrow beams at the top of the course that provide nothing to hold on to. They reminded Juz of the photos from the 1930s of the Rockefeller building construction workers sitting on beams up in the sky.
After the Zoom courses, we ducked out for lunch before returning just before sunset for the Dome Climb. We ascended the spiral staircase that takes you up to the top of the dome and were connected to a belay system before stepping through an opening to get outside. A tour guide was with us and she gave us a great run down on the history and geography of Cairns.
Needless to say, this is THE BEST VIEW OF CAIRNS, and it was even more magical at sunset. We dangled ourselves off the edge, walked all the way around the Dome and took heaps of pictures before climbing back inside.
After soaking in the great views of Cairns from the Dome Climb, we had no intention of walking back down the spiral staircase, so we chose to jump down… or POWERJUMP down! The PowerJump involves stepping off a platform 13 metres high and falling at a speed of about 30km/h to land safely at the bottom. The descent is controlled by a special fan that dissipates the potential energy and allows for a fast fall and soft landing.
Dave suggested Juz go first so he could film her with the GoPro. He probably could’ve filmed from the bottom, but then you wouldn’t be able to see the expression of her face at the edge of the platform before she jumped – or to be more accurate, crumbled – and let out a nice scream on her way down. HAHAHA! After she landed, she promptly curled up into the foetal position. Dave went next and owned it. He didn’t even make a noise.
After de-harnessing, the Dome was dark so we did another lap to meet some of the critters that come out at night.
We had an incredible time at Cairns ZOOm and Wildlife Dome. The open plan of the zoo provides the opportunity to interact with some the animals, while the rope courses above are a great way to get an active thrill. If the physical aspect of the rope course is not your cup of tea, then the Dome Climb is certainly a must do activity because those views are absolutely magnificent.