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Close up, rhinos are big. So when our guide at the Werribee Open Range Zoo regales us with a tale of a young male charging one of the open-sided safari vehicles, his horn piercing the metal side, it has the intended effect.
A ripple of excitement passes through the ten or so of us looking out over the savannah, dotted with stocky rhinos and cliques of zebras. Like an Escher drawing, it's hard to tell where one zebra ends and another begins as the stripes on their hides merge together.
A few hundred metres away, the banks of the Werribee River offer a cool retreat from the heat of the day.
If Werribee doesn't sound very African, that's because it isn't. The name is derived from a word meaning 'spine' or 'backbone' in the language of the Wathaurung people - the indigenous inhabitants of the land west of Melbourne.
But as I discovered, an African safari adventure is closer than you think.
For a fraction of the cost and carbon emissions of a trip halfway around the world, you can drive through the savannah, see lions, zebras, monkeys, rhinos, hippos and giraffes up close, camp out in style and wake up to the roar of lions.
The Slumber Safari, which allows you to do all of this, is one of a number of 'sleepover' experiences offered by the Zoo.
Let's be realistic, if your lifelong dream is to visit Africa, this overnight experience is not exactly a substitute.
On the other hand, if you've ever wanted to spend the night within sight and sound (and quite possibly smell) of exotic animals, find out what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo, or mark a special occasion with an unconventional getaway, you're likely to enjoy this.
Slumber Safari guests are free to roam the zoo before joining their guide for a behind-the-scenes tour - watch the cheetahs being fed and put to bed by their keepers or lions devouring their afternoon feed.
Afterwards, you'll head to the campsite for an African BBQ, a drumming lesson around the campfire and four-star accommodation in simple but elegantly furnished canvas tents. A cooked breakfast the following morning is included and to complete the experience, there's another special encounter with the zoo animals.
The content of the morning tour varies; it could involve getting up close and personal with two-and-a-half-tonne rhino Leeroy or watching how the lions are trained to do things such as spread their claws or roll over. This conditioning makes it possible for the zoo vets to treat the animals without needing to knock them out every time.
For those who want a day trip or are on a budget, general admission to the zoo includes a 40-minute Safari Tour on a bus.
Slumber Safari is held between September and May on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and additional weeknights in the school holidays.
Slumber Safari tickets cost $245 for adults and $235 for children (must be 12 years or over). General admission costs $23 for adults, $11.50 for children (4-15 years) and children under four are admitted free.
Catch a train from Melbourne to Werribee and a bus from Werribee train station to the zoo (Monday to Saturday only). The Werribee Park Shuttle, a private bus service, operates between the Victorian Arts Centre on St Kilda Road and the zoo.