Vivid Sydney and a Light for Wildlife

After our mini adventure around Newcastle on Monday, I boarded a bus bound for Sydney for a conference and to experience Vivid Sydney. Typically I would take the train but they were doing track work this weekend. While I tried to stay awake and watch the scenery, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I get carcolepsy, so of course I fell asleep. Either that or I’m still adjusting to the 14 hour time difference here. We arrived in Sydney and I headed off to find my hostel.

Since I was heading down for the conference early so I could see Vivid, I wanted to stay in a hotel near the harbor. I daydreamed for a while about the Shangri-La Hotel or the Four Seasons but then I got real. But it worked out well. It turns out there is a hostel a block from the harbor with a rooftop patio. It was perfect for what I wanted. The Sydney Harbor YHA was much nicer than I expected. I was super surprised when I walked in. The first floor is an excavation site for colonial Sydney. What a neat thing to find in a hotel!

I checked in and dropped my bag off in my room. For a hostel, this place was really fancy with an in-room bathroom complete with glassed in shower. From there I hurried off to the Quay. I guess I should mention why I was in a hurry. Vivid Sydney hosts “hundreds of events, live music, colorful projections and harborside installations”. I was mostly going to see the Opera House lit up. Then I found out about the zoo!

Vivid Taronga Zoo

The zoo hosts its own special light show during Vivid so I booked a ticket. I knew the quickest way to get there was via ferry. Plus it had the added bonus of being able to see the harbor, bridge, and Opera House from the water. So I hurried off the the Quay to figure out which ferry I needed. Thankfully I got there right before the next trip. It was amazing to watch the Opera House change color as we went past.

The bridge was looking very fancy as well.

Thanks to the event, the zoo had buses picking people up from the ferry to take them to the front gate. I was a little early for my entry time so I bought a mulled wine and watched their introductory light presentation. It was about the importance of conservation and being a light for wildlife. It was pretty interesting to watch. The kids got a kick out of trying to chase all the images on the ground.

After I watched it two or three times, I decided I would see if they’d let me in early. They sure did. So I got my light up wristband (which changed to match the colors of the lights as I moved through the zoo) and headed in. The zoo also offers the option of riding their cable car through the zoo to see the lights. However, that option was sold out months ago. I enjoyed walking through the zoo and taking photos of their lights. They were all animals found at the zoo.

The chameleon was pretty neat. He had flowers (lights) you could touch to different sensors and he would change colors. The kids were loving that.

They had an awesome shark you would walk through. He must have been very fragile, though, as they had an attendant telling everyone to keep their hands in their pocket so they didn’t lose them to the shark.

They also had some really cool jellyfish lights made out of plastic. The whole area was talking about single use plastics and how back they are for the ocean (and the world). It wasn’t crisis messaged and had realistic solutions. I thought it was a great use of the Vivid platform.

Overall, it was a great night at the zoo. I decided to avoid the rush and headed back to the ferry. Unfortunately, this time I had just missed it. So I had a bit of a chilly wait for the next one. However, I was rewarded for my patience by the mostly full moon rising over the Opera House as we returned. It was lovely.

I headed back towards my hostel and looked for some dinner on the way. I almost stopped in at a restaurant that was serving kangaroo steaks but the preparation didn’t sound terribly good. So I ended up at the Australian Heritage Hotel next door. I had a great cider and a haloumi and portobello burger. They were delightful.

After that I headed back to my hostel as I didn’t want to wake up my bunkmates. It turned out that I was the first one back. The ladies I shared my room with were very lovely. There was a lady from South Korea, Israel, and Brisbane. We made quite the group.

Sydney by Day

The next morning I got up bright and early before the conference. I decided to walk the Harbor Bridge. This turned out quite well as the stairs to access the bridge were across the street.

I passed a lot of people in suits walking into Sydney and was one of the few people in a suit walking out of Sydney. The day was beautiful after so many days of rain and I was rewarded with some lovely shots of the Opera House.

I was only going to walk halfway but ended up crossing the whole length of the bridge anyway. When I made it back to land I headed off to find the botanical gardens. They were quite confusing and I had a tough time finding my way to the center. I decided to have breakfast at their little cafe. The weather was lovely and I was joined by several different species of birds including these ibis.

I walked through the garden and found a neat pond that had a bunch of cormorants, ibis, and other birds. I heard a bunch of tiny chirps and thought there might be babies. It turns out all the cormorants were nesting. There were several nests with chicks.


I finished my tour of the garden at the Calyx. They are currently having an exhibit called All About Flowers. Which seems somewhat obvious for a garden. It had a beautiful wall of flowers and was full of orchids.

From there I had to hurry off to the New South Wales Secondary Principal’s Conference. My host was speaking at noon and I wanted to make sure I got there in time. I was actually early enough that I got to see John Bell, creator of the Bell Shakespeare Company, speaking on the importance of teachers and the arts. I also got to see Mark Scott, Secretary of the New South Wales Department of Education, speak. It was very interesting to hear his perspective of what principals need. He took a lot of grief from them. Finally, Dr. Fischetti got up to speak. He spoke about the importance of STEAM in schools so we can help develop kids who are ready for the jobs of the future. I think everyone really enjoyed it.

Following the talk I headed to the train station where I had a kebab for lunch while waiting for the 3:15 train back to Newcastle. I have to say I was super fascinated by the seats on the train. I walked onto the car and realized almost everyone was going to have to sit backwards. Until someone came on and actually changed the orientation of the seat. The backs slide to either side so you can face forward no matter which way the train is moving. Clearly I do not ride enough trains. What has surprised you the most about public transit in a new city?

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