According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) over 175 million people have visited an AZA accredited zoo or aquarium in 2012 alone. With the holiday season fast approaching zoos are clearly part of a lot of people’s holiday wish list. So if you are one of the millions of people thinking of visiting a zoo this holiday season, here are my top tips to get the most out of your visit to the zoo.
Apart from beating the crowds – arriving early is one of your best opportunities to see the animals. Animals are most active early in the day, especially in zoos in hotter climates where later in the day animals become less active and hide in shaded areas to beat the heat.
Feeding times, opportunities to get up close to some of the animals and a variety of shows can be a big part of your zoo experience. Most zoos have great internet sites filled with useful information like feeding times, special experience announcements and a copy of their map and facilities – it is worth studying these before you attend so you don’t miss out. Try and plan your day so that you can attend some of these experiences but don’t plan your day too much, some of my greatest moments at zoos were totally out of the blue and more just being in the right place at the right time than a planned moment.
Take your own food and drink
Not that there is anything wrong with the food served up at most zoos, but do you really want to be standing in line for half an hour to have the privilege of paying through the nose for lunch? Take a picnic and set up under a tree or one of the tables provided. It is much more relaxing and cost effective. Take advantage of zoos with lockers and store your gear so you don’t have to carry it around all day.
It goes without saying but be prepared for the weather. A lot of zoos go for the natural look throughout their grounds so there’s not much shelter to be found if it pours down with rain. Likewise if it’s really hot, especially in the savanna themed areas.
Dress to attract
If you know what the keepers at the zoo wear then try to wear similar colours – if you don’t know what they wear, then put on clothes that are more earthy coloured. Animals get used to what their keepers wear and may come up to you if you look similar. So if you’re wearing a pink skivvy don’t be surprised if you don’t have much interaction with the animals.
Prolong the experience
Get involved with your local zoo. Zoos offer many ways for you to contribute to their conservation efforts. Try sponsoring an animal, volunteering or even purchasing a gift at the zoo store and don’t just be an observer – make a difference yourself.
Most of all, go expecting to have a good time and you will. You’ll learn new things, get some exercise in the great outdoors and most of all have fun!