The 10 Best Zoos in the World

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Bucket List Worthy  

Photo Credit: Kraig Becker
Photo Credit: Kraig Becker

There is nothing quite like watching wild animals in their natural habitat. Whether you’re on safari in Africa, hiking through the backcountry in North America, or visiting the tropical rainforests of South America, there are plenty of places to encounter amazing wildlife. But not all of us have the time, money, or inclination to go to such exotic places just on the off chance that we might see a lion, tiger, or bear roaming freely. Fortunately, there are some great zoos that can still allow us to see live animals, without spending a lot of money, or putting our lives at risk. Here is a list of ten of the very best zoos in the world. 

San Diego Zoo (San Diego, CA)
One of the most legendary zoos on the planet, the San Diego Zoo is home to a host of rare and endangered species. Visitors can wander through ten climate zones, as they spot panda bears, koalas, Komodo dragons, and many other animals. In fact, there are over 4000 individual creatures, divided across 800 species, on display. This was the zoo that first pioneered open-air exhibits, which are now common just about everywhere else on the planet, and the San Diego Zoo still leads the way in conservation and preservation efforts as well. While there is a lot to see and do here, make sure you don’t miss the impressive Elephant Odyssey display.

London Zoo (London, England)
Having opened in April of 1828, the London Zoo stakes its claim as the oldest zoo in the world (although Vienna Zoo disputes that claim). Located in Regent’s Park, right in the heart of the city, it is home to an impressive 755 species, and more than 16,000 animals. Visitors will be enchanted with Tiger Territory, a section of the park dedicated to the conservation of the highly endangered Sumatran tiger. The Penguin Beach display is also quite popular, allowing visitors to observe the flightless birds from both above, and below the water.

Photo Credit: Lionel Leo
Photo Credit: Lionel Leo

Singapore Zoo (Singapore)
Billed as the “world’s best rainforest zoo,” the Singapore Zoo boasts approximately 315 species on its modest 69 acre plot of land. The animal displays are modern, spacious, and built to resemble their natural habitat as much as possible, with a nearby natural rainforest helping to aid in the ambiance. The zoo’s signature display features the largest colony of captive orangutans in the world, all living in a free-range environment. The nearby Night Safari is also a popular draw, offering a nocturnal zoo experience that is incredible in its own right.

Bronx Zoo (New York City, USA)
Spread out over 265 acres of land, the Bronx Zoo is one of the largest metropolitan zoos in the entire world. Home to more than 6000 animals, and over 650 species, there is plenty for visitors to see and do there. Nestled in the heart of New York City, the original architects of the zoo cleverly incorporated the Bronx River into its design, with that waterway winding its way through many of the park’s displays. Operated by the Wildlife Conservation Society, the zoo takes a leading role in animal rehabilitation and conservation. Its most recent additions to the family are a pair of snow leopard cubs, a species that the organization has had an instrumental role in helping to save.

Photo Credit: Dieter Brügmann
Photo Credit: Dieter Brügmann

Zoo Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
If you plan on visiting Zoo Berlin, make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to take it all in. This zoo – the oldest in Germany – is home to more than 20,000 animals, spread out across 1500 species. Popular displays include the Carnivore House, where many predators, large and small, can be seen, as well as the Bird House, a large aviary that visitors can walk through, with the birds flitting about overhead. Be aware that the crowds at Zoo Berlin can get quite large. It welcomes more than 3 million visitors per year, making it the most popular in all of Europe.

Toronto Zoo (Toronto, Canada)
The massive Toronto Zoo covers 710 acres, and is subdivided into seven different zones, each representing a distinct geographic region from around the globe. It is home to more than 5000 animals, representing 500+ species, with many of the displays set up to allow visitors to view the creatures from multiple levels. With over 10 km (6 miles) of walking trails, its best to bring a good pair of shoes. But don’t worry if you start to feel a little tired. You can always catch a ride on a camel. If you go, be sure to visit the Great Panda Experience, as well as the Tundra Trek, two of the more popular attractions.

Photo Credit: Cburnett via WikiMedia
Photo Credit: Cburnett via WikiMedia

Henry Doorly Zoo (Omaha, Nebraska)
Located in America’s Heartland, the Henry Doorly Zoo is an amazing experience for visitors of all ages. It features buildings dedicated to specific climate zones (desert, rainforest, etc.), as well as an outstanding aquarium. It is also home to the largest big cat complex in the world, and the largest nocturnal exhibit as well. And that is just the tip the iceberg for what this zoo has to offer. It is home to  more than 960 species, and 17,000+ animals, including mountain gorillas, elephants, giraffes, lemurs, and so much more. The Henry Doorly Zoo is a world leader in terms of conservation efforts, and it plays an active role in attempting to save a wide variety of species from around the globe.

Loro Parque (Tenerife, Spain)
Located on the Spanish Island of Tenerife, Loro Parque is an animal preserve that is unlike just about any other. Originally conceived as a sanctuary for parrots, over the years the zoo has grown to include a wide variety of animals of numerous species, including gorillas, jaguars, tigers, chimpanzees, and a host of others. Perhaps the biggest draw are the massive orca wales, which put on quite the show for visitors on a daily basis. The wonderful setting in the Canary Islands only adds to the atmosphere and mystique of the place, presenting a beautiful backdrop for travelers.

Photo Credit: J. Patrick Fischer
Photo Credit: J. Patrick Fischer

Beijing Zoo (Beijing, China)
One of the most popular zoos in the world, at least in terms of attendance, the Beijing Zoo welcomes more than six million visitors on an annual basis. Its animal population includes more than 14,500 creatures, representing 950 species from around the globe. Not surprisingly however, it is the animals that are indigenous to China that are the most popular. The zoo’s large population of Giant Pandas are big draw, with thousands of international travelers visiting on an annual basis, just to see the cuddly creatures in the flesh. Other popular animals include golden monkeys, South China Tigers, and the Chinese Alligator.

National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria, South Africa)
The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa houses more than 9000 animals, representing roughly 700 species, many of which were actually born on the premises. As you would imagine, African wildlife plays a prominent role, with cheetahs, black rhinos, lions, and elephants on display. But the zoo has quite an impressive collection of creatures from other parts of the world as well, including red pandas and marmosets. If you’re in South Africa, and you don’t get the chance to go on Safari, this zoo will still leave a lasting impression.

About the Author: Kraig Becker

Kraig Becker is a freelance outdoor and adventure travel writer who covers extreme sports, mountaineering and active travel. Based out of Austin, TX he writes about his own travels while encouraging others to seek their own opportunities for adventure where ever they go.

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