“ Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover / Adenauerallee 3 / D-30175 / Hannover / Tel (+49) 511 28074 163 „
Given the choice of exploring a city we didn't know and learning lots of new things, we chose to spend the second day of our short trip to Hannover at the city's zoo. I know - we could have gone to the zoo anywhere but I had seen a photograph of a very cute gorilla baby on the zoo's website and nothing could persuade me to contemplate any other activity until I had seen the baby myself.
Hannover Zoo is a short tram ride from the city centre and while there are car-parking spaces, most people come by public transport or cycle - I would say at least twenty per cent of the people there were carrying cycle helmets and there is a large and secure bike parking area in front of the entrance. The actual entrance to the zoo is about one hundred metres from the tram stop which, incidentally is the final stop on Line 11.
Just inside the entrance is a small enclosure holding rabbits and guinea pigs and all the children go racing to look when they arrive - seemingly forgetting that there are 'proper' beasts inside the zoo. You can buy your tickets in advance on-line but even on a busy Sunday morning we didn't have to wait long to buy ours and individuals and small groups don't save anything by buying online. They had run out of maps in English though this wasn't a problem for us and even once you are inside the zoo all the signposts are marked with drawings of the animals rather than the words. One odd thing is that even though you are given a ticket with a barcode and you could easily swipe it at the turnstile, there is someone at each turnstile to do that for you - which seems to me to negate the need for turnstiles, but hey ho.
Just inside the zoo is a big board on which the times of the various shows and the feeding times of different animals is listed. Your map also has an insert with this information. We were in luck, it was almost feeding time at the chimp complex! We found that for most of the feeding sessions you had to arrive early in order to get a decent pitch or risk seeing nothing. Call me mean but I was annoyed that lots of people sat their children on the top of railings so they could see but then stayed there the whole time when it would have been nice of them to move aside after a while and let others have a chance to see. Feeding sessions were accompanied by a commentary played through loud speakers and some people let their children shout all over this - especially annoying for people (me) trying to translate quickly for their fellow zoo-goer.
Hannover Zoo is described as an adventure zoo and there are different sectors that have been designed to give more a feeling for the place animals come from: animals are grouped according to continent of origin and the footpaths that join the enclosures are planted with appropriate trees and plants. There are also some interesting and quirky little things like half an aircraft that is embedded in a hillside to make it look like an Indiana Jones-type scene. You can also cut through the trees in some places if you wish rather than use the paths which might make children feel like 'explorers'.
One thing I did notice was that there isn't very much information on each species at the enclosures, certainly other zoos seem to provide more factual information. All information that was there was given in German only.
Here and there around the zoo were different stands selling refreshments and snacks which meant you didn't have to go all the way back to the entrance. There were also toilets dotted around the park. In the domestic animal sector there was a café, a restaurant and a childrens' play area.
Most people seemed to have brought food with them which is good for two reasons: first the food sold there is not cheap and secondly I can see that a family might easily spend a whole day at the zoo. Many people were pulling small wooden carts behind them that were packed with food and drinks - I don't know whether they hire them from the zoo or whether they own them but I haven't ever seen such a thing before. Another thing I must mention is how healthy the food appeared to be; mums were passing round plastic boxes of chopped fruit or carrots and I did not see one single child eating a packet of crisps. Bravo German parents!!
So what did we see? Everything - nearly. We didn't see the elephants because we wanted to get back to town to do other things but we did see the chimps, the gorillas (including the baby girl), rhinos, flamingos, baboons, giraffes, kangaroos, ostriches and loads more. We even sat through the rather tedious sea lion show that was compered by a very frightening lady ('Danke schon, Pepsiiiiiiii!'). For me the highlights were the chimps and gorillas but it seemed that most of the children were having the best fun in the domestic section where you can pet the animals including the pongy goats. Having a soft spot for goats I had to be dragged away eventually.
This is a really lovely zoo, probably the best I have been to in terms of design, but it does get very crowded and I would suggest getting there as early as possible to avoid the crowds for at least part of your visit.
Day ticket prices:
Adults (ages 18+): 19,50 EURO
Children (ages 3-17): 13,50 EURO
Dogs (incl. clean-up set): 8 EURO
March 1st - Oct 25th open 9.00 - 6.00pm
Oct 26 - Feb 28 open 10.00 - 4.00pm
Somewhere in the vast sub-continent, deep in the jungle, stands an imposing palace. What is perhaps more surprising is that this palace is to be found in Hannover.