The powerful hum of Wellington Zoo’s cheetahs Kango and Kunjuka vibrate around me.
Despite being bigger than me, they’re not scary; the affectionate brothers have the same mannerisms as domestic cats. They lick each other behind the ears and flop down for belly rubs: their playful energy contagious.
It’s no secret animals can reduce stress and boost happiness levels. A zoo is an accessible option and some, like Wellington, offer close encounters with cheetahs, lions, giraffes, meerkats and red pandas.
Just being in their company makes me smile. I watch cheeky tamarins show off; calm and collected lions couldn’t care less about having an audience, barely batting an eyelid while basking in the pale late-afternoon sun.
I stand mesmerised for what seems like hours in front of the chimpanzee enclosure. Their gestures and stances are eerily similar to ours. They’re just as inquisitive as I am, walking over to the window and looking me right in the eye.
A toddler waddles up and presses her nose into the perspex and I snap out of my daze. I realise that while I’ve been here I haven’t checked my phone once, nor was I distracted by the pressures of the outside world. The animals have taught me to live in the moment and to take life a little less seriously.
Reported by Monica Tischler for our AA Directions Autumn 2019 issue