There’s always something a little naughty about being in a place after hours, a secret tantalising feeling as darkness falls and the doors are locked. One place that knows this well and embraces it is, unexpectedly, the zoo. Melbourne Zoo’s ‘Zoo After Dark’ combines supper with a sleepover, and they have introduced ‘I, Animal,’ a new interactive zoo experience that is very much not for kids.
‘I, Animal’ begins with each person being given their own iPod Touch. Loaded onto it is the voice of your very own tour guide, Zoe. Throughout ‘I, Animal,’ Zoe guides, chats and flirts with you, sometimes asking you personal questions and getting you to type or draw the answers. Rather than making a broad sweep of the zoo as you would on a regular guided tour, people are separated into groups that then move away and focus on a specific animal.
Falling into the penguin group, I was delighted with the occasional glimpses of tiny baby penguins and seals (as well as the ‘conversation’ between the penguins piped into my headphones).
But the focus of ‘I, Animal’ wasn’t, surprisingly, the animals. Melbourne Zoo instead felt like a stunning backdrop for a bit of introspection on a starry summer’s night. Surrounded by hundreds of people, Zoe prompts you to find a quiet spot and turn your face to the sky and think deep thoughts of self-reflection—not something you expect at the zoo.
The tour then ends with refreshments and the opportunity to take a whirl on that old childhood standard, the carousel.
Overall, ‘I, Animal’ is a charming adult-friendly alternative to the usual guided tour that takes advantage of the latest technology and the beautiful location to deliver a quirky new experience.