Don’t let mobility issues spoil your travel fun!

Aug 24, 2019
Australia Zoo's Robert Irwin being fed to a crocodile. Source: Di East

Remember when we were young, and we had a left knee and a right knee? Nowadays so many of us over-60s have a good knee and a bad knee, or something much worse! But don’t let mobility issues restrict your fun.

When my sister recently visited to celebrate her 70th birthday, one of her bucket list wishes was to visit Australia Zoo on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Now, Australia Zoo is fantastic but it’s also vast. In fact, it covers 100 acres (40 hectares) and there are kilometres of pathways connecting all the exhibits and attractions. Fantastic if you are able-bodied, but if you are not as mobile as you once were, then this place can be a daunting challenge.

Di and Geoff East recently visited Australia Zoo with Geoff’s sister, who covered the 100 acres of attractions using a mobility scooter. Source: Di East

Fear not, because Australia Zoo hires out mobility scooters for a mere $35 per day. Be warned though that there are limited numbers of scooters, so you need to book in advance, which we did, the day prior to our visit. If your budget is a bit tight then you can get around the zoo on the complimentary shuttles, but these do not go to all attractions and there is still a fair bit of walking required. For our situation, the cost of the scooter hire was money well spent.

Australia Zoo staff were very courteous and helpful. After a short safety and operation instruction my sister was mobile and off enjoying all that the zoo has to offer. The only problem was that she was now faster than us (but not too fast) and we scurried after her for most of the day.

The zoo is big so allow a whole day and plan ahead, otherwise you may not get to see all the attractions that you want. There are plenty of wide pathways with gentle gradients that are easily negotiated with the mobility scooter. In fact, there is no attraction that you cannot get to via the mobility scooter although there are some timber walkways, such as at Bindi’s treehouse, that you still cannot negotiate without getting out of the scooter and walking a short distance. If you are semi-mobile do save your energy for these walkways as they are worth the effort. Another plus is that every attraction has viewing spots specifically for mobility scooters. At the tiger exhibit there is a glass viewing area adjacent to the main viewing arena where scooters can go. However, its best to get there 30 minutes prior to the scheduled performance to secure a good seat at the main tiered arena, as this affords the best views.

The battery life easily lasts all day on the scooter, so you can go all the way to ‘Africa’ (the furthest point of the zoo) and back on one battery.

Off to Africa! Source: Di East
“If you are very lucky you may have the whole Irwin family as your hosts.” Source: Di East

Without a doubt the highlight of Australia Zoo is the daily midday Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors Show in the Crocoseum. This attraction is not to be missed as the zoo keepers entertain you with colourful snakes, swooping birds of prey and of course the feeding of the crocodiles. For patrons using mobility scooters there is a ramp to gain access to the food hall, which overlooks the Crocoseum, so you can watch from your scooter and be part of the action. If you are very lucky you may have the whole Irwin family as your hosts.

Negotiating the food hall at Australia Zoo. Source: Di East

The food hall is also designed to accommodate mobility scooters although you cannot take them into any toilet or lift. Several compounds such as the kangaroos and rainforest aviary have a double security gate like an air lock so that the animals do not escape. If you are on a mobility scooter you will need an assistant to open these air lock type gates as it’s impossible to manage single-handed. However, this was a small inconvenience.

At days end you simply return the scooter to the shop at the main gate where your less mobile family members can wait for you to drive in and pick them up right at the front door.

My sister claimed her best birthday present was the mobility scooter because she could keep up with the group and see the full extent of the zoo. It also made our day better knowing that she was independent and not getting exhausted — in fact we had to keep up with her (which delighted her no end)! All in all, our day to Australia Zoo was totally enhanced by the availability of the mobility scooter.

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Do you have mobility issues? How have you managed them to ensure you have an enjoyable holiday?

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