We recently made our first visit to Lagos Zoo in the south of Portugal. Despite the name 'Lagos' the zoo isn't actually situated in Lagos (it's just outside) and it's best to reach it by car. There are a few 'zoo' signs leading up to it but the actual entrance itself is quite concealed and not very obvious (look out for the big stone gorilla statue!). It has a small car park at the front. The zoo is open all year round (10am - 5pm October to March and 10am - 7pm April to September). Ticket prices are 16 euros for adults, 14 euros for over 65's, 12 euros for children (4-11 years) and free for under 4's. I feel that the ticket prices are quite reasonable and the under 4 allowance seems quite generous. We visited mid-week during UK school holidays and thought that the zoo would be busy but it wasn't. In fact throughout our visit we barely bumped in to a soul, it felt as though we had the place to ourselves! It's has a very peaceful and serene atmosphere, much different to many of our zoo's back home. I was quite surprised at the size of the zoo, it was much smaller than I thought it would be and didn't have as many animals as I had expected (no 'big' animals or big cats). It's not really a place where you can spend all day, two or three hours was plenty for us. Lagos Zoo is quite intimate, it doesn't do any shows or put on any displays like most zoo's tend to do (this might be disappointing to some but I think it's a nicer environment for the animals). The whole place is covered in lush vegetation and plants. It's quite pretty and there are plenty of shady places to take shelter from the sun. It wasn't built-up and commercialised, there wasn't even a souvenir shop at the end... although I think they were in the midst of opening one during our visit! There were 2 lots of toilets, we visited one lot of toilets by the farmyard which were unfortunately pretty run-down (they even had birds flying around in there!). There is a restaurant which is situated near the entrance of the zoo but we didn't even see it. There is also a snack bar where we purchased some drinks which seemed sufficient enough. Outside the snack bar was a small play park. There is also another (and slightly bigger) play park at the other side of the zoo.
Each enclosure we came across had information about each animal (translated in to English too) which was quite useful and interesting. The first animals we came to were reindeer. Most reindeer that I've experienced in zoo's tend to look quite tatty but these reindeer looked very healthy. The next selection of animals were birds. Lagos Zoo is home to an impressive number of different birds including Parrots, Macaws, Cranes, Hornbills, Owls, Flamingos, Vultures and Kookaburras. Our favourites were the Parrots, Mccaws and Rhinoceros Hornbills. I don't particularly like seeing birds in cages but all of the enclosures seemed quite spacious and many of them quite enriched so it wasn't too bad. There are a number of different ponds which have tortoises, fish and swans in them. Ducks and other birds (such as peacocks) also wander around the zoo. You can purchase food from machines for 1 euro to feed the fish, birds etc. Lagos Zoo is home to quite a few primates. Primates included Gibbons, Lemurs, Chimps, Marmosets, Squirrel Monkeys and Tamarins. I really liked the majority of the primate enclosures as they weren't caged. The smaller primates were caged but all of the bigger primates had islands to themselves (surrounded by a moat or pond) which seems like such a stress-free environment for them. Visitors can still get a good view of the primates but without invading their space. The downside to these enclosures is that they seem VERY escapable! Our favourite primates to watch were probably the playful gibbons. There were only a couple of areas which I weren't keen on - the first was the farmyard where you can pet the animals. None of the animals were endangered and I felt it was quite pointless having farm animals there. None of the enclosures were particularly big, most of them were overcrowded (I counted about 20 guinea pigs in one enclosure) and a lot of the animals were hot and panting (the sheep weren't sheered and had thick coats). Another thing that I was really unimpressed with was that there were a number of tiny baby goats in with a number of big rams (I have no idea why) - the rams were chasing and ramming the goats who were really scared. We had to tell a member of staff (we checked later on and they had been separated). The second thing I wasn't keen on was the Linx. The zoo had a lone Linx which was pacing around and looking very stressed. Other animals to see include Mara, Capybara, Wallabies, Prairie Dogs, Ocelot, Bobcat, a (small) crocodile, Iguanas, Porcupines, Snakes and Meerkats (my daughters favourites). My personal highlight was the Lyle's Flying Fox enclosure which you can walk through. The Flying Fox's are a type of bat and there were LOADS hanging from the roof of the enclosure. They were so intriguing to watch and you can get really close to them. As I've already mentioned, most of the enclosures seemed quite spacious and enriched which was nice to see. I especially liked the open enclosures. All of the animals looked healthy and most of them seemed stress free. The Lagos Zoo website does mention conservation, although I'm not really too sure what conservation efforts they make. They do seem to care greatly for their animals though.
Overall Lagos Zoo was a few hours well spent and I'm glad we visited. I probably wouldn't visit again for a while but I'd be happy to recommend this quiet little 'zoo' to others.
Lagos Zoo is not actually located in Lagos or even on its outskirts, but near the inland village of Barao de Sao Joao, about 15km north-west of Lagos. You probably need a car to get there, but if you have one, it's a good day out, and well worth a trip, especially if you have children with you.
Despite a large sculpture of a gorilla at the entrance, Lagos Zoo has no apes, but the biggest attraction of the zoo is its large collection of primates: lemurs, but particularly monkeys including Gibbons (common pale ones as well as black Siamang variety), Capuchins, Squirrel Monkeys and so on. The mild, subtropical climate of Portugal seems more suited to animals coming from warm regions and the monkeys look happy and well cared for in their spacious enclosures (gibbons have their own island) filled with trees and with ropes and walkways for play.
There are other mammals including coatis, procupines and wallabies, as well as some large tortoises, and the selection of birds is pretty impressive too, with macaws, swans, pheasants, toucans, cockatoos and wonderful ibises.
There is a petting zoo, with goats and other domestic animals that can be fed and stroked, and there is a teaching area with a classroom, drawing materials and information panels for visiting school groups, but open to individual visitors too.
The zoo has two snack bars with basic selection of refreshments, and there are two modern playparks, the one by Bar 1 is bigger and particularly good.
The zoo was only constructed in 1997 and opened in 2000 and this modern origins are reflected in the feel of the place. It's not a huge zoo, but it's beautifully laid out in a botanical garden of a parkland apparently populated by two hundred plant species.
Walking around is pleasant, and there are ponds and other water features and a lot of trees providing shade. The park is quite tranquil and intimate, and there is none of thise hordes of noisy children running down wide concrete avenues and screaming.
The park is open 10am to 7pm in the summer and 10am to 5pm in the winter season, and the tickets cost 12 Euros for adults and 8 Euros for children aged 4 to 11. Under 4's are free. It's not cheap, but it's very pleasant indeed and probably worth the money, especially if you come with children.
Quinta Figueiras,Sitio de Medronhal,
Barao de S. Joao
Telephone: +351 282 680 100