Two attractions in one!
The National Zoo and Aquarium (NZA) first opened in 1990 as the National Aquarium. The Aquarium consisted of approximately 30 different species, a large restaurant and function area, with its main feature being a large 1.5 million litre aquarium with an underwater viewing tunnel. This was reportedly the first of its type in the world and was manufactured by a local Canberra company. The Aquarium was situated on around 7 hectares of land which also incorporated a series of outdoor ponds and streams for trout farming. The Aquarium struggled both financially and with some of the major exhibits and within 3 years of opening had been sold to another operator.
This phase of the facility lasted around five years. During this period, the new operator added several outdoor exhibits that consisted mainly of native wildlife. The large aquarium was converted from saltwater to freshwater to reduce costs. The overall theme of the facility changed in an attempt to meet the demands of a large Asian inbound tourist market into the ACT and offered an “Australian” experience that incorporated the wildlife park aspects as well as other activities such as fly fishing in the trout ponds, sheep shearing and boomerang throwing demonstrations.
Why are we here?
The vision of the National Zoo and Aquarium is to inspire and assist in the conservation of the natural world through exciting and innovative educational experiences.
Our mission is to set world’s best practices for animal care and sustainability while impassioning our guests to protect the natural world.
We do what we do to move towards a better future for us, and all living creatures on this planet.
Growing every day...
In 1998 the facility was again up for sale and purchased by the Tindale family. Richard Tindale was a successful local businessman who had a passion for animals. He had travelled to Africa on multiple occasions and had an interest in establishing a conservation breeding centre for big cats. Coincidentally, the wildlife park was put up for sale around the same time. His interest in animals at the time, along with several of his children prompted Richard to buy the facility in mid-1998. Initially, the Tindale family struggled to be accepted into the zoo arena having had very little background with zoo animals previously. Over the next two years they worked hard and repaired and replaced many parts of the existing facility and enclosures as it had been poorly maintained for several years. This included the discovery that the major exhibit of the facility (the 1 million litre walk through aquarium) had to be closed down permanently due to concrete cancer in the walls of the aquarium.
In 1999 the first significant enclosure was completed to house 3 Brown Bears that had to be re homed after living for years in a private collection. In 2000, construction began on several big cat enclosures to house some retired circus lions, leopards, tiger and a pair of tigons (a cross between a lion a tiger). By 2001 the wildlife park was in full swing, at one stage having 14 new exhibits under construction that, when completed, would house more big cats, additional native animals, a variety of primate species as well as large ungulates such as zebra, antelope and giraffe. Upon completion the wildlife park changed its name to the “National Zoo & Aquarium”.
Between 2001 and 2003, the zoo battled Canberra’s bushfires on two separate occasions, and the once established pine forest surrounding the zoo was turned to cinders. It was suggested that the zoo should potentially expand into adjoining land. Over the next 5 years the zoo continued to develop as well as negotiate and design a potential future expansion.
With their motto in mind – “To inspire and assist in the conservation of the natural world through innovative and exciting educational experiences” – the zoo developed a number of hands on animal experiences for visitors, one of the first Australian zoos to do so. In 2004 the NZA won a tourism award for the ZooVenture Tour.
The NZA is now one of the largest privately owned zoos in Australia and one of only 26 zoos that have been accredited out of the 52 zoos that are members of the Zoo and Aquarium association of Australia. It has the only inland aquarium exhibit in Australia.
It is also one of the major Tourist attractions in the ACT and region and with the opening of the open range section in May 2017, has increased to 3 times its former size.
The NZA strives to house animals in comfortable surroundings. As such, most of the enclosure sizes are far larger than found in other urban zoos and animal husbandry and welfare are aimed at achieving world’s best practices.
- 2002: Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards, Adventure Tourism, Commendation
- 2004: Rhodium Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards, Adventure Tourism, Winner
- 2022: Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
- 2022: Canberra Regional Tourism Awards, Major Tourist Attraction, Winner
- 2022: Australian Tourism Awards, Major Tourist Attraction, Silver
- 2023: Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
From concept to reality
The addition of Jamala Wildlife Lodge in December 2014 was a major step to bolster the programs run by the zoo. The aim is that the funds from Jamala will allow the zoo to continue to grow and support its breeding programs. Jamala and its exclusive tours have been designed to maximise the opportunity to subtly impress on its guests that everything possible should be done to ensure that these magnificent animals survive in the wild.
Jamala Wildlife Lodge offers you the opportunity to experience the thrill of close encounters with some of the world’s most dangerous and endangered animals, as well as relaxing in the unique atmosphere of its three individually designed five star Accommodation hubs; Giraffe Treehouses, Jungle Bungalows and the uShaka Lodge. The African inspired luxury suites lie in the heart of the National Zoo & Aquarium and epitomise style and comfort.
The combination of opulent surroundings, incredible animal encounters and gourmet cuisine alongside Jamala’s five star hospitality ensures that all guests share in a once in a lifetime experience during their stay.