Our little 16-month old toddler, Aidan, just loves looking at the animals in his wildlife book, so for my birthday this year we treated him (and ourselves) with a trip to the Pretoria Zoo. Our route through the park was a little haphazard, since we only arrived at 10 am (parents with toddlers will understand that, even with the best intentions in the world, there’s never any chance of being on time for anything!) and we wanted to show him all his favourite animals before his midday nap.
The first sight that greeted us as we entered the zoo was a sea of pink flamingoes. They’re not the best-smelling birds, but they are a family favourite just because they’re so pretty!
We quickly walked down to the elephant enclosure, and this is where Aidan decided that he does not want to be cooped up in his stroller. He wanted out and he wanted to see the elephants from up close.
After the elephant, we wandered down to the farmyard section to look at cows and goats and pigs. Aidan had seen these animals before, so we didn’t linger too long, but made our way over to the rhino and the giraffe. Our little animal enthusiast was particularly enamoured with the giraffe, who stopped for a snack right next to the fence so we could get a good look at his spots and his looooooong neck.
After a quick lunch (to anyone planning a visit, please note that inside the zoo is cash-only and your debit or credit cards will not be accepted anywhere other than at the gate), we meandered through some of the smaller enclosures, stopping to look at lemurs and gibbons.
We were a little disappointed with the zoo at this point. Many of the enclosures were empty with signs up saying they were closed for maintenance, and none of the shops or ice cream vendors were open. We were parched by the time we had made it up the mountain on foot in the heat of the midday sun.
The big predators are located on the slopes of the hill, and when we arrived the tiger was pacing back and forth along the fence, much to Aidan’s delight. He had been losing interest for a while, getting tired, but when he saw the magnificent striped animal, he sat up straight in his chair, threw his arms in the air and roared! It was just too cute for words.
The lions, on the other hand, were not in the least bit interested in putting up a show for the little one.
On our way down the hill again, we saw all sorts of antelope, peacocks, a couple of black rhinos and a collection of zebra (another toddler favourite). To my delight, we also stumbled upon a cozy company of red mud hogs basking in the midday sun.
By the time we reached the aquarium (Gareth’s favourite part and, to his disappointment, partially closed for maintenance), the little explorer was all tuckered out. He completely missed the komodo dragon, the fish, snakes, crocodiles and penguins. I guess that just means we’ll have to come again soon!
What are your thoughts regarding zoos? Are you for or against them? We think that as long as the animals are comfortable and well taken care of, they are great learning experiences for little ones. When last did you visit your local zoo?