School’s letting out soon, which means moms and dads will be looking for kid-friendly things to do. This summer, consider visiting one of the world’s most impressive zoos. Doubling in most cases as research facilities, these zoos protect endangered, rare and downright adorable animals, from pandas to monkeys to lions. Which animal tops your list? Each of our top 10 zoos worldwide allows fans a chance to visit their favorites!
Singapore Zoo – Singapore
Singapore Zoo is “open-concept,” meaning that the enclosures are separated not by fences or cages but moats that give an altogether more “in the wild” experience – for animals and visitors. The zoo has become world-famous as a home for our feathered friends. The specialties of the walk-in aviaries are the Birds of Paradise, the Bali Mynah, the Hyacinth Macaw and the Blue Throated Macaw. However, the flagship species – and visitor favorite – are the orangutans who lounge above your head as you leave the zoo. Just keep hold of your iPad. Search and compare cheap flights to Singapore.
Visitors to the San Diego Zoo are typically surprised – and then immediately impressed – by the attraction’s cage-free setup. The SoCal zoo was one of the first in the world to build moats instead of bars, encouraging a more organic environment for the animals – and for spectators. Get a feel for the massive park on a five-mile-long monorail, then visit the adorable monkeys in the Lost Forest exhibit. Some of the rarest and most endangered primates dangle from tree canopies as visitors meet nearby flamingos, hippos, tigers and more. Search and compare cheap flights to San Diego.
Tian Tian (the girl panda) and Yang Guang (the boy panda) left their Chengdu home and arrived in Scotland – to the sound of bagpipes – in December 2011. They are the first giant pandas to live in the United Kingdom for nearly 20 years, drawing around 70,000 panda lovers already – including Nicole Kidman and her daughters. The big hope is that they mate and have super-cute cubs. That would turn the 99-year-old, 1,000-animal Edinburgh Zoo into a stellar attraction. Search and compare cheap flights to Edinburgh.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo – Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Like many of Dubai’s other attractions, the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is a world-class show-stopper. It has even earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest acrylic panel. So far, so dull except for the fact that this panel is 32.8 meters wide, 8.3 meters high and holds 10 million liters of water. The aquarium/zoo has quickly become one of the best places to see sharks. There are seven new species there (Black Tip Shark, White Tip Shark, Spotted Bamboo Shark, Coral Cat Shark, Zebra Horned Shark, Wobbegong Shark and Leopard Shark) and it has the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world. Search and compare cheap flights to Dubai.
The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center – Belize City, Belize
“The Best Little Zoo in the World” was founded nearly 30 years ago to provide sanctuary for wild animals used in a documentary about tropical forests. Today the zoo, located 29 miles west of Belize City, exhibits more than 150 animals native to Belize. A major draw is the represented five wildcat species found in the Central American country: jaguar, puma, ocelot, margay and jacuarundi. The Problem Jaguar Rehabilitation Program is just one of the zoo’s initiatives that help to promote conservation and awareness, and to protect Belize’s natural resources. Search and compare cheap flights to Belize City.
There’s nothing like escaping the big city to explore orphaned creatures and animals from around the globe. The eco-friendly escape was the first in the world to establish both a zoo education program and a predator-prey exhibition. Take a tour of Africa in the middle of New York: the African Plains exhibition is a second-best environment for giraffes, zebras and, of course, lions. Search and compare cheap flights to New York City.
Remember Knut, the lovable polar bear cub who was raised by a zoo keeper at Berlin Zoo after his mother rejected him? He charmed the world, lending his likeness to a mountain of covetable merchandise before passing on at just four years. Now, happily, he has a new half-sister Anori whose playful frolicking is wowing visitors to the 24-hectare zoo in Wuppertal. Apart from Anori, the zoo also has the largest lion enclosure in a German zoo, an outdoor enclosure for orangutans and, somewhat unusual for a zoo, a large herd of elephants. Search and compare cheap flights to Dusseldorf.
The first and largest koala sanctuary in the world was set up in 1927 and is home to more than 130 koalas. It’s one of the very few places where you can hold a koala (a hug and a photo costs about $20 AUD) and you can also feed kangaroos and the colorful lorikeets! Strict rules mean a koala can only be cuddled for up to 30 minutes each day and they get every third day off. There are lots of other native animals too – kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, reptiles and a platypus. Search and compare cheap flights to Brisbane.
Toronto Zoo – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Canada’s largest zoo is divided into seven geographic regions: Indo-Malaya, Africa, the Americas, Australasia, Eurasia, Canadian Domain and the Tundra Trek. In other words, the more than 5,000 animals – covering more than 500 species – is a strong representation of the planet’s creatures. Bring your camera for the 5-acre polar bear habitat or the Gorilla Rainforest, the globe’s largest indoor habitat for lowland gorillas. Search and compare cheap flights to Toronto.
America’s most famous free zoo is an absolute delight to visit, as the park’s set up trainings, feeding demonstrations and expert discussions daily to educate visitors. Famous for its outdoor giant panda habitat, the National Zoo – as its better known – also features the Great Ape House, Invertebrate Exhibit, Reptile Discovery Center and more must-visit attractions. On the top of our list are the elephants, who are waiting for their new home – Elephant Trails – which will open in 2013. Search and compare cheap flights to Washington, DC.
(Images: Bronx Zoo, ikrichter; Edinburgh – confounding; Dubai – emmanueleragne; Wuppertal – ; Singapore – bigsumo; Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – bareego; San Diego – lisa cee; Jaguar – Tambako the Jaguar; Lion – Tambako the Jaguar; Toronto – Rayza.Ramon; elephant, KRO-Media)Pleasance Coddington