The 12 Coolest Zoos Around the World
One of the most fun evenings I’ve ever had while traveling was a visit to the Singapore night zoo (this was pre-kids and probably says as much about Singapore’s night life as it does about the zoo). Animals are often a lot livelier and busier at night than in the day and the zoo had installed lights that allowed us to see the animals without them seeing us. So it was some of the best animal viewing I’ve ever had at a zoo.
As with so many things, seeing how other countries do their zoos can be illuminating. It can reflect on their culture or at the very least just show that there is more than one way to do things, even a trip to the zoo.
Here are a dozen “zoos” outside the U.S. that experienced travel writers recommended to me, or that I’ve visited myself. Hope you get some good ideas to make your next vacation pretty wild. (We also list the 12 Coolest Zoos in the U.S.)
12 Must-Visit Zoos Around the World
Zoo: AllWetterZoo Münster
Where: Münster, Germany
Why It’s Cool: “This zoo is unique in that it’s an all weather zoo,” says writer Annalyn Belle. “The animals are in their habitats, but there is shelter on all the walkways so the visitors are in shade when it’s hot and covered when it’s raining.”
Zoo: Aluxes EcoPark
Where: Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico
Why It’s Cool: Blogger Aimee Lynch likes that “the animals are local species that have been rescued and cannot be returned to the wild; a visit is very educational. They have a breeding program for scarlet macaws and the released wild babies tend to hang around and fly overhead.” For something a little different, try a nocturnal tour of the park
Zoo: Bandia Reserve
Where: Sindia, Petite Cote, Senegal
Why It’s Cool: This park is more than a zoo less than a safari. We loved that the property was big enough to give a sense that these animals were indeed wild and roaming free (fingers should remain in the jeep, please), but the density of animals was high enough that good viewing was guaranteed. Tiny Travel thrilled at seeing black rhinos, wart hogs, giraffes, gazelles and much more close up and without glass between us and them.
Zoo: Belize Zoo
Where: About 30 miles west of Belize City.
Why It’s Cool: Travel bloggers Stacey-jean Inion and Terumi Johnson both recommend this zoo and it’s easy to see why; it’s a slice of wild Belize tamed just enough to be visitor friendly. It’s jungly native vegetation is left largely to its own devices and all of its 125 or so animals are native to Belize. To extend your experience stay at the adjacent Jungle Lodge. Guests can birdwatch, go canoeing or take a nighttime tour of the zoo.
Zoo: Elephant Nature Park
Where: Chiang Mai, Thailand
Why it’s Cool: Michele Chan-Thomson loves this single-animal experience because ”you get to feed and bathe the elephants at this rescue sanctuary.”
Zoo: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Where: Brisbane, Australia
Why It’s Cool: Travel blogger Mary Penafiel Solio and family blogger Sara Wellensiek say they love this zoo (top). Solio explains, “You can feed kangaroos and wallabies and see all other animal wildlife native to Australia. It’s also one of the few places one can cuddle a koala.”
Zoo: Montagne des Singes
Where: Kintzheim, Alsace, France
Why It’s Cool: Another single-animal reserve, this one offers a guided walk through a forest that’s home to 200 barbary macaques. Blogger Mark Wyld appreciates that, “Some of the monkeys are returned every year to their natural habitat in north Africa.”
Where: Munich, Germany
Why It’s Cool: Founded in 1911, this was first zoo where animals were organized in complex communities based on their geographic habitat. Family travel blogger Inga Batur says it’s her family’s favorite zoo. “ I was impressed by its size, number of different animals and really nice looking enclosures,” she says. “I remember the bears, with their own little stream and plenty of greenery.”
Zoo: Singapore Zoo
Why It’s Cool: Terumi Johnson agrees with me that this zoo is awesome. In addition to the night zoo (video left), the unique River Safari shows wildlife that lives around seven world rivers in an exhibit that is part zoo, part aquarium. Kids like the Zoo breakfast with a chance to visit with Orangutans and hold smaller animals as well as the sizable water play area (a nice tough given Singapore’s heat and humidity).
Zoo: Taronga Zoo
Where: Sydney, Australia
Why It’s Cool: This enormous zoo is also celebrating its centennial this year. Blogger Bethaney Davies says “The have all the usual animals that kids love and lots of Aussie specialties like Koalas.” She adds, “The ferry trip across the Sydney Harbour is worth a visit. And the whole time you’re walking around the zoo you get amazing views of Sydney, the opera house and Harbour Bridge. Blogger Mary Hickcox says it’s, “One of the nicest zoos I’ve ever been to.”
Zoo: Tierpark Hagenbeck
Why it’s Cool: Travel writer Julie Furst Henning says she likes this zoo because “Many of the exhibits are open air with animals roaming. There’s a fantastic playground for kids and also a massive exhibit for penguins/seals/walruses we really liked.”
Where: Vienna, Austria
Why It’s Cool: Located amid the gardens of Schönbrunn Palace, this zoo began in 1752 as the imperial menagerie. Stefanie Whelchel Cornwall recalls, “The architecture throughout the zoo is incredible. My family couldn’t believe how beautiful the enclosures were, and how regal they looked. Since it is on Palace grounds it shouldn’t be a surprise.”
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