Last week in Part 1, I posted pictures of the regular animals. But this week, I’ll be talking about the special exhibits that make Vienna Zoo the coolest zoo I have ever visited!
Let’s get straight to it! If you just want to know if it’s a responsible zoo or not, feel free to jump to the bottom!
I thought this was the most interesting part of the zoo! As soon as you step into this huge multi-level glass building, you are transported into a tropical rainforest! The hot, sticky climate of a real rainforest is replicated inside this glass house. Visitors can explore at the ground level and canopy level. Large fruit bats hang from the trees and little colorful birds flit from branch to branch. I loved that most of the animals here are living sans-cages, making me feel like that we were really walking into a rainforest where animals roam free.
One really unique part of this Rainforest exhibit is the bat cave on the upper level. We walked through some doors into a completely dark cave. Among the hushed squeals of visitors, the only things you can sense are dozens of flapping critters flying around, some whizzing right over your head. It was pretty creepy! I was just happy not to get pooped on.
The Insect House
I’m not even exaggerating when I say that this is the most interesting Insect House I’ve ever seen! I hate creepy crawlies in real life. No one screams louder than me when there’s a cockroach on the ground (even if it’s dead). But… I LOVE them behind glass. I honestly think that the insect world has some of the most fascinating creatures, and this zoo has the best of the best on display. Check it out!
Before we move on to something cuter, let’s keep with the insect theme. I never quite figured out the theme of this house. Half of it is an aquarium (complete with water tunnel) that simulates the Amazon during a flood. You can see the gigantic sting rays lazily gliding by. The other half seems to house a number of oddities, including the nocturnal house with glow scorpions and bats, bright free flying parrots, snakes and lizards, and a butterfly breeding station. There are also plastic tubes running throughout the entire building that serve as ant tunnels so you can observe the busy ants at work.
The Sloth House
Once again, the Sloth House was an open exhibit, meaning that we are IN THE SAME ROOM with the sloths!! There are a variety of ropes, dangling baskets, etc. hanging from the ceiling for the sloths to use. It took a while to find them at first, but they were both snuggled up in a basket in the corner, doing what sloths do. Just as we gave up hope for any action and started to leave, one of them started moving! It slowly crawled out of the basket and moved towards the ropes.
I started to take a video of the sloth in action… but after 15 seconds, I realized that I was filming a sloth, so it could take an hour for something interesting to happen. So here’s a picture of it dangling on the rope instead!
The only thing that I didn’t like was that this house doesn’t imitate a sloth’s natural habitat (a rainforest) at all. I wish they had some trees to hang from.
Half of the Vienna Zoo is actually a forest (legend goes that it’s the very forest and Hansel and Gretel got lost in). In the forest, you’re in another world altogether, as the lions and bears fade away, and it’s just you in a dense jungle. One turn, and you feel miles away from the city.The most fun way to navigate through the forest is on the canopy suspension bridges.
And lastly… The Man in the Woods
As cool as the animals were, sometimes what really makes a place special is small, seemingly unimportant interactions with people. So here I tell this story:
We turned a corner in the forest and came across a man. He was staring out into the trees, a little bag of almonds at his feet, his face intense, occasionally making a clicking sound with his tongue. For a while, nothing happens. And then I heard it. A rustle of branches, crunching of dried leaves. And a squirrel hops up on the railing. The man offered his hand, little pieces of almond nestled in the palm. The squirrel inched forward, took the offering, before scampering off again into the woods.
Over and over, the man does this. Over and over, the squirrels come to collect the prizes. And soon, I started to snap pictures. It was hard to capture the flitting, jerky movements of the little critters. But there were the rare times I got a particularly good shot. I shared the picture with the man, and in return, he handed me some nuts. He called out to his little friends, and when they arrived, I held out my hand and watched as they took the nuts.
So for a good few minutes, I spent my time with this man and his furry friends. I giddily smiled when the squirrels reached into my outstretched hand and we both laughed when 2 fought over one nut. And when I left, I only offered him a danke as it’s the only German I know. But I hope he knew that it made my day.
The Vienna Zoo (Tiergarten) – a quick review
Usually, I do a fair bit of research before visiting any kind of zoo/animal sanctuary, because I don’t want to accidentally support organizations that abuse their animals. But I fully disclose that I didn’t do any research on the Vienna Zoo, because just the title of being the oldest zoo in history was enough to make me want to visit desperately. Yeah… I don’t even know why…
But honestly, this zoo blew me away. This, you guys, is a zoo done right. A good zoo should provide an environment as close to the animals’ natural habitat as possible, and they really took care to do that. I mean, the tiger enclosure was so full of dense trees to imitate a jungle that you can’t even find the tiger! The polar bears are only a speck in their huge, huge enclosure, and the wolves get an entire fenced off area of the natural woods (no, we didn’t find them either in there). Keep in mind that a lot of my pictures (especially in Part 1) were taken with the lens zoomed to the maximum, and then picture cropped. So really, all the enclosures were super huge!
But at the same time, they put a lot of consideration into the visitors’ wants too, as we are paying money to come see animals. There are always multiple areas to view the animals, and a lot of the enclosures allow you to go inside the animal’s house so you can really get close to them. Another thing they really do well is the open exhibits, where the visitor becomes part of the exhibit and is actually inside the enclosure with the animal (like the Rainforest and sloth house).
I walked away with a really really good feeling. This is one of the best zoos, with the most interesting exhibits, that I have ever been to.
- Cost: 16.50€ for adults, and 8€ for children
- Hours: 9:00am – 6:30pm (summer hours, winter closes a little earlier)
- Getting there: Take the U4 (green line) and exit Hietzing
Don’t forget that this zoo is located inside the Schonbrunn Palace! On the way to the zoo, you will see gorgeous gardens like this:
Have you been to the Vienna Zoo? What other zoos would you recommend to an animal lover??
This post is part of #SundayTraveler with Pack Me To and others, and don’t forget to support all the other participating blogs (links at the bottom of post)!