Orana Wildlife Park, Christchurch

Orana Wildlife Park is New Zealand’s only open-range zoo sitting on 80 hectares of land, located just outside of Christchurch.

Orana Park opened in 1976 as a drive-through open-range zoo. What made it popular in the early years was its drive-through lion reserve. The lions were known for climbing on top of vehicles.

In 1995 Orana changed its business model. Visitors could no longer drive through the park. They would walk around the park or ride on the complimentary shuttle. This also meant the drive-through lion reserve closed. Today for an additional cost visitors can do the Lion Encounter. They will hop onboard a vehicle with the zoo keepers that drives through the lion enclosure. The keepers will feed the lions from within the safety of the vehicle. As you can see from the photos below the lions will often climb on top of the vehicle.

There are other activities, which are included in the standard zoo entrance price that offer visitors the chance to feed or see animals up close. There is the opportunity to hand feed a giraffe twice day and in the afternoon at the rhino encounter visitors will be only a few feet from a white rhinoceros (safely separated by two fences of course).

The day I visited there were also keeper talks for the Meerkats, Kea, farmyard animals, Tasmanian Devils, Trout and Gorilla.

There is also the Safari Shuttle, which provides guided commentary as it circuits the park. This takes approximately 25 minutes.

Orana Wildlife Park is located at 493 McLeans Island Road, Christchurch.

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

The Isaac Theatre Royal is a heritage theatre in Christchurch.

The theatre, which was designed by Australian brothers Sidney and Alfred Luttrell, opened in 1908. It is the only operational Edwardian style theatre remaining in New Zealand.

The first theatre on Gloucester Street, the Canterbury Music Hall, a wooden building was built in 1863, on a site across the road from the current theatre. The theatre later became the Royal Princess Theatre and then the Theatre Royal. This building was replaced by another wooden building in 1876.

The new Theatre Royal opened on its current site in February 1908. Its design included a traditional horseshoe-shaped dress circle and gallery, elaborately decorated walls and a painted dome. The theatre has had several renovations over the years. In 1928 the theatre interior had a major rebuild – only the dome, which features a painting of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, remained untouched.

By the 1970s owner J.C. Williamson Theatres were scaling down investments in New Zealand. As a buyer was unable to be found it appeared the theatre would be demolished and the land sold. A group ‘Friends of the Christchurch Theatre Royal’ was formed to try and save the theatre. The Theatre Royal Foundation was later formed that raised the funds to buy the theatre from Williamson.

For many years restoration work was carried out with very little budget. Between 2004 and 2005, a $6.2 million redevelopment was undertaken. This included demolishing the original brick fly tower and dressing room facilities and building a larger modern concrete fly tower and dressing room facilities. The stage and fly tower was made wider and deeper.

Unfortunately the auditorium and foyer were damaged during the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake and following aftershocks. The theatre was closed for nearly four years while a $40 million restoration was completed. The theatre reopened on the 17 November 2014.

The main auditorium seats up to 1292 across three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. There is also the Gloucester Room, which is a studio space suitable for rehearsals, workshops and performances.

The theatre is named after art patron Lady Diana Isaac, who generously supported the 2004/05 refurbishment. Lady Isaac passed away 23 November 2012, aged 91.

The Isaac Theatre Royal is at 145 Gloucester Street. It is just around the corner from the New Regent Street Precinct.

Van Gogh Alive

Van Gogh Alive is a large-scale immersive multi-sensory experience featuring the works of Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh Alive opened today Saturday April 10th at Spark Arena in Auckland. It is on until May 6th. I had the opportunity to see it last month at the National Air Force Museum in Christchurch.

The exhibition features over 3,000 images that are projected over the walls and floors. The giant projections are set to a score of classical music. The experience uses 40 high-definition projectors and cinema-quality surround sound.

On arriving visitors will enter the Interpretive Area, which offers visitors the chance to familiarise themselves with the life and works of Vincent Van Gogh before entering the sensory experience.

There are many Instagram worthy moments to be had, including a three-dimensional life-size version of ‘Van Gogh’s Bedroom’ and a sunflower-filled mirrored hall.

Vincent Willem Van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most influential figures in Western art history.

Over a decade Van Gogh created about 2,100 pieces of art, including about 860 oil paintings. Most of these were made in the last two years of his life. These included landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and self-portraits. His works were often characterised by bold colours and dramatic expressive brushwork.