A Vivid Experience – May 2018
Three friends and I visited Sydney in May 2018 to experience the fabulous Vivid light festival. I had been to the White Night Melbourne Festival held annually since 2013 but this festival had never quite delivered on the promise of the first year, which had a varied and interesting program but was plagued by poor crowd management. So, I was interested to see if Vivid Sydney lived up to the promotions. It well and truly delivered providing magical experiences on the three nights we were there. The festival covers many different precincts, but we decided it was better to experience just three of them properly rather than try and see everything on offer. Also, with limited budgets, we kept to the free events – with the exception of Taronga Zoo.
The Rocks and Circular Quay Precinct
Accommodation is usually expensive in Sydney but not at the YHA Sydney Harbour. We share a four-bed bunk room with our own facilities for $40 each per night. But the best thing about this hostel is the rooftop recreation area which has panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, The Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. We sat enjoying a bottle of wine watching the sun set and the light installations on the nearby buildings gradually appear and reflect in the harbour waters. Colourful decorated ferries full of noisy revelers travel to and fro from Circular Quay. The Opera House stuns with its everchanging colours and designs with even a tribute to the red and gold of the local lifesavers.
We head out to join the throng admiring the light installations in the trees and overhead as we head down to Circular Quay stopping at the Overseas Passenger Terminal to view the NASA Earth installation and soundscape. Outside, there’s a food market and we pick up an assortment of dishes for our dinner. We also buy lighted flower headbands – not just for the fun of it but so we can find each other in the crowds. The crowd grows as we get closer to the water but it’s moving steadily, and we follow on around to the Harbour Bridge and look out across the water to Luna Park and the decorated ferries.
We wend our way back through the Rocks area spending time viewing the CSIRO light installation on the buildings. These light projections of infectious biological agents that most affect human health including Ebola, Zika and Influenza, are beamed at spectacular scale. As we head back towards our accommodation, we walk under the canopy of 1000 origami cranes that light up as people gather underneath. Nearby is Peacock, an abstract image made from colour changing light tubes representing a peacock dancing.
Taronga Zoo Precinct
Today is zoo day and we catch the ferry across the harbour. It’s a fine Autumn day just perfect for exploring this lovely zoo set on a hillside overlooking the harbour and city. We decide that our favourite animals are the Sumatran tigers and we are lucky to see them up close at feeding time. We want to see the Lights of the Wild show in the evening but have to leave the zoo at closing time and return later. We buy our tickets before we leave as the numbers are limited then head out to catch the bus down to Balmoral. Dinner is a bowl of seafood chowder at the fish & chippy by the beach. A walk along the beach to watch the sunset then we catch the bus back up the hill to the zoo.
We get a taste of what is on offer as we walk through the mouth of a shark into the spectacular entrance leading through shimmering marine life. It’s like a fairyland of lights as we take in the stunning sculptures in the Sumatran jungle. There’s a one-way path to follow and crowd control is excellent so there’s no problem viewing these in detail. Of particular delight are the sculptures based on children’s drawings from a recent competition. We take in the light and sound show at the Zoo theatre then stroll through a stunning Australian bush-scape back to the entrance. We head down the hill back to the ferry terminal and enjoy our ferry ride back to Circular Quay. It’s magic seeing all the lights reflecting in the black water as we glide past the Harbour Bridge and Opera House and it’s lovely seeing the building light shows from a different angle.
Botanical Park Precinct
On our last day we take the ferry to Manly then walk along the Corso to the beachfront. It’s a lovely, easy walk from the main beach to Shelley Beach (Fairy Bower) and there’s a great little cafe at Shelley Beach right on the water. We have a lazy day here exploring around Manly and delay our return, so we can watch the sunset from the ferry.
Arriving back at Circular Quay, we head around past the Opera House to the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney. Once through the crowds around the waterfront, it’s a well organised event with another one-way path through the ten artist lighting installations. The installations are scattered throughout the gardens and we can walk through or pass by as we choose. My favourites are the storybook Bib and Bub figures and the carousel inspired by Buddhist prayer wheels.
We head back to the City guided by a pod of volunteers with torches. We are tired but it’s our last night, so we amble through the Rocks again and find a pleasant outdoor restaurant for a final champagne dinner. We toast to our fabulous experience and promise to meet up again in 2020 for a repeat.
Note: Covid 19 has put paid to our reunion plans but we have our fingers crossed for August 2021