“ Artis Zoo in Amsterdam. „
Before our recent holiday in Amsterdam, we discussed what we wanted to go and see while we were there, and there was one place which was an absolute must-visit for us: Artis Royal Zoo. The zoo was founded in 1838, and is located in the city centre of Amsterdam, only a short tram ride from Centraal Station. Admission to the zoo was Euro18.95 each, which is comparable to London Zoo. We visited on a weekday at the end of July, arriving late morning, and there was quite a queue already. We went to a cafe across the road for some lunch, and realised that the queue was moving quite quickly. Armed with a map, we set off into the zoo. The layout of Artis is quite relaxed, with meandering paths between the exhibits and buildings scattered throughout the zoo. The buildings themselves are quite impressive, some dating from the 19th century. The majority of the zoo is wheelchair accessible, with only a few exhibits which are not. The most important thing about a zoo is how it cares for its animals. At Artis all the enclosures were clearly well maintained, the animals all looked healthy and lively (well, relatively speaking - a lot were napping during the day but that is to be expected), and the enclosures were all of appropriate sizes for the animals they held. The enclosures had features you would expect for each type of animal - such as rocks for apes, burrows for meerkats and the appropriate vegetation for each animal. Throughout the zoo we found information about the conservation and research projects they undertake. There were a number of exhibits and experiences at the zoo which were memorable for us, which I'll now focus on rather than writing about every animal we saw. The current "star" of Artis is Mumba, a baby Asian elephant born in June 2011. At the time of our visit she was just over one month old, and there were a lot of posters of an ultrasound of her shortly before her birth. She was absolutely adorable, happily wandering around her outside enclosure, sticking close to her mum while the adults watched over her. Meerkats are always a favourite, and we could have spent quite some time watching them! They are quite fascinating little creatures - it was easy to spot the lookouts and the sentries - there were a few standing still on their rocks, while a couple of others were circling the enclosure and stopping every so often to keep an eye on the surrounding. They are very cute animals, and at Artis you can get quite close to them - their enclosure has a wall around it with windows, so you can see the meerkats as they run around on the ground, and you can see the ones on the rocks very clearly. Seeing them so close really made it clear just how well the comparethemarket.com adverts portray meerkats! We watched a pair of gibbons as they climbed the trees on their island, and then swung over the water on a rope bridge to their shelter. They are very fast and agile, and it took them only seconds to cross the rope. As cat lovers, we always love to see big cats - whether lions or tiny little domestic kittens, all cats have similar recognisable behaviour. The lions at Artis were behaving as our little cats do all day, by napping! They have a shelter in the corner of their enclosure where they were all lounging about, and actually posing quite nicely for photos. There was also a little lion cub which was easy to miss at first glance in the mix of tawny fur! There are some other big cats at Artis, and I always love seeing the black jaguar - they remind me so much of my own black cat, just larger! Artis has a few areas which to me seemed quite innovative, and another aspect of the zoo which made it seem quite relaxed. There was lemur island, where you can walk freely among the lemurs. You walk onto the island over a metal bridge, similar to a cattle grid, which presumably the lemurs won't cross - there was no sign of the zoo being overrun by lemurs at any rate. We didn't get very close to the lemurs on the island as they were in their shelter or high in trees, but I really liked this area. Another experience was in one of the greenhouses. The butterfly house was next door, and as we entered I think I was expecting butterflies. At first it appeared only to be a rainforest greenhouse, but we rounded a corner and were confronted with a ring-tailed lemur sitting having some food! It was right beside the path, and was not separated from visitors at all. It carried on eating and ignored us while we took photos. All the exhibits were very good - the African Savannah with giraffes and zebra, the camels, apes, sea lions, and all the others. There were very few where we didn't see the animals - which always happens at a zoo, some are very good at hiding. We went into most of the buildings, which were all well laid out. My favourite building was the small mammal house, because its inhabitants were cute and furry compared to those of the aquarium or insect house. The zoo runs talks and presentations throughout each day, although we didn't attend any of these. We saw some keepers feeding an impressively large tortoise, and they were chatting with the onlooking kids, but they were speaking in Dutch. We had a really fantastic time strolling around Artis, and it is an attraction I would be happy to return to on a future visit to the city. It is quite large and took use a while to cover. I loved the layout of it and the exhibits. I haven't visited London Zoo but I expect it won't match up - I like the smaller, relaxed feel of Artis.