Newest Review: ... consider both how devastating the flood was and how much effort has gone into restoring it. Without these photos, you'd be unable to guess ... more
~~Floods Away ~~
Prague Zoo (Prague, Czech Republic)
Member Name: susie19
Prague Zoo (Prague, Czech Republic)
Advantages: An interesting and impressive zoo.
Disadvantages: Low lying position near river.
Prague Zoo was first opened to the public in 1931; probably before the flood of 2002 few people knew of its existence.
Many of you will remember the shocking floods in central Prague in the summer of 2002. The news pictures showed the famous Charles Bridge almost totally submerged. Much of the focus of attention was however centred on Prague Zoo which is situated to the north west of Prague just metres away from the banks of the River Vlatava. Prague Zoo was well and truly put on the world map overnight because of the flood. TV images of the rescue attempts of hundreds of animals and birds were watched avidly around the globe.
The flood of August 14th 2002 brought chaos to Prague Zoo. Some parts of the zoo were 10m deep in water. Many animals died as a result; some 134 drowned or died later from stress including many birds, an elephant, two hippos, a lion, a seal and a gorilla. A huge evacuation project had to be carried out to move 1029 animals that were affected by the flood. This included elephants, hippos, birds, big cats and more. Many buildings were also completely destroyed. Public debate began as to whether or not the zoo should ever be re-opened. However the public voted positively, raising 20 million Czech crowns to help restore and re-build the Zoo. Four years on, the Zoo is thriving once again.
This review is not on the rights and wrongs of whether zoos should exist at all, but on my experience of visiting the zoo. There is so much to write about Prague Zoo, so this review may be a little lengthy. It is split into sections, feel free to skip any that don't interest you.
++ Our trip to the zoo ++
On a recent three and a bit day short break to Prague with hubby and our four kids, we decided to spend some time visiting the zoo, more as a break from urban sight seeing than anything else. We expected the zoo to be quite minor and perhaps to occupy around half a day of our stay. However, we were in for a pleasant surprise. We visited in mid April, the weather was perfect for a zoo trip, a warm and sunny 17 degrees. In mid summer the heat would probably make the zoo trip a lot more uncomfortable. There is always a lot of walking to be done in a zoo, unless of course you are being chauffeured in a wheelchair or a pushchair.
++ Getting there ++
There are several options here. You can get to Prague Zoo by a variety of modes of transport :
## On foot. It would take a good hour or more to walk from central Prague, but a lot of this can be done through an urban park. However as you will be spending a lot of time walking around the zoo, I would not recommend walking there and back. If you are staying on the zoo side of the city, walking may be worth considering.
## By Metro and Bus. Public transport in Prague is very cheap (20 Czech crowns (Kc) per adult, 10 Kc for children aged 6+). This is equivalent to around 50p and 25p respectively and will allow you to travel on bus, tram or underground metro for 90 minutes. We caught two metros to Nádraí Holeovice and then the number 112 bus to the zoo. The journey took around 40 minutes in total including a 5 minute wait for a bus. It was not a difficult journey but we had no pushchairs, babies or toddlers to cope with. There are many steps required for access to the underground metro.
## By car. If you wish to experience the rather Italian style driving antics of the Czech people, you could always hire a Skoda (the majority of cars on the road). Mad doesn't begin to describe driving in Prague. If you like the thrill of driving 6 inches from the car behind and in front, then you might like to hire a car but I definitely would not recommend it unless you have nerves of steel. There are plenty of car parking spaces at the zoo.
## By Taxi. Probably a good option if you have pushchairs and young children.
++ Entry costs ++
Having only spent approximately £2 on transport to the zoo (for six of us), we were expecting to have to dig deeper to gain entry to the zoo.
April - September is high season and entry costs are:
Child 0-3 years Free
Child 3-15 years & students 60 Kc
Adult 90 Kc
Family (2+2) 270 Kc
Dog (!) 20 Kc
Map 5 Kc
In the low season (October - March) these prices are reduced to 40 Kc for children, 60 Kc for adults and 200 Kc for a family ticket.
Our entry ticket for 6 cost just 390Kc which is around £10! You might get one child ticket at an English zoo for the same price. So far so good! The zoo is open daily at 0900 hours and closes, depending on the season, between 1600 and 1900 hours.
++ First Impressions ++
Looking at the map of the zoo we suddenly realized that the zoo is huge and there would be loads of animals to see including penguins, giraffes, tigers, elephants and bears. At the entrance there was a café with a large area of outdoor seating and an ice cream kiosk. We bought some drinks as it was hot and found them to be pretty reasonably priced. Bottled drinks (0.5l) were 30 Kc (around 70p) and take away lattes the equivalent of 50p. (Nice as well)!
A quick look at the map showed us this was not the only eating place and that there were several refreshment areas scattered around the zoo. We also spotted from the map that the zoo was on two levels. The lower level where we entered was fairly flat and very close to the fast flowing river Vlatava; the upper level was significantly higher and could be accessed via cable cars or a reasonably long walk up a windy path.
++ Animals on the lower level ++
Prague Zoo is home to many species of birds and animals. On the lower level there are huge enclosures for many different varieties of birds including vultures, eagles and parrots. In some of the cages you were allowed to enter the enclosures which would allow you easier access for photography. I personally preferred to give this a miss!
Penguins and impressive flamingos were amongst the first animals we saw. The penguins were easy to see through a camera lens without annoying fences in the way. Throughout the zoo we found this to be the case when photographing most of the animals. The enclosures were spacious and there was good visibility without too many imposing walls, fences or glass viewing panels. However, the penguins were fascinating and we spent a good while watching them.
Also on the lower level were tapirs, antelopes, pelicans, monkeys, lemurs, small cats including jaguars, red pandas, gorillas, giant tortoises, hippos, elephants, lots more birds and more animals that I can't remember.
Particularly worth a visit on the lower level is the new gorilla house. There is a large outdoor area with grassy banks and ropes and tyre play areas as you would find in most zoos, as well as a large indoor area with glass viewing panels. Here you can readily watch the gorillas interact with each other. There was a specialist to hand to chat to the tourists but only useful if you speak Czech!
Interestingly, a Big Brother style reality broadcast on Radio Leonardo began in November 2005 featuring gorillas not humans. The gorillas that take part in this show are named Jodi and Chantelle (oops wrong channel); Richard, Shinda, Kamba, Kijivu and Moja. The aim of the reality programme is to raise money for the adoption of four gorillas which are in a conservation station in Cameroon where they have been rescued from poachers and are awaiting release back into the wild. This is one of the main conservation projects being carried out through Prague Zoo. The reality show allows viewers to vote for their favourite gorilla. The prize for the winner is 12 melons; the slang in Czech for plural melons is melouni which also means millions!
On December 13th 2004, the first baby gorilla to be born in the Czech republic arrived and was named Mojo. It is thought that Mojo is a girl but apparently it is very hard to tell the sex of a gorilla without carrying out a DNA test. He/she still seemed pretty small and very cute as we looked on. It was fascinating to watch one of the adult gorillas peering through the admin office window which backs onto the gorilla house. Our eldest remarked how human they seemed as he watched one picking something from his bits.
There are also walk-through enclosures on the lower level housing reptiles such as snakes and iguanas. Another houses a good collection of giant tortoises.
Also on the lower level are the elephants and hippos. The elephants have a large area which includes a series of steps because the area is not on one level. There is a walkway around the edge which allows you great access to watch the elephants and take photographs. At 1445 hours, in the summer months, there is opportunity to watch the elephants being bathed. Unfortunately we were visiting the African section on the upper level at this time so we missed it. In fact, sadly, we missed all of the feeding events (and there were loads). Actually no, we did see the owls being fed dead mice but this isn't even on the feeding schedule. You have to plan your zoo route very carefully if you wish to be in the right place at the right time to catch the feeding times! A baby hippo has just been born (April 21st) in the Zoo, we missed this as well by just a few days!
++ The Upper Level ++
Near the main entrance is a windy path which takes you up to the upper level of the zoo. This can also be reached by cable car. This is very much like a ski lift and only takes a couple of minutes to reach the top level. For those who suffer from vertigo, you may wish to walk up instead as the ascent is steep and you have only a loose chain over your waist as a rather flimsy effort at security. Young children are allowed to sit with an adult for the ride up but if you have a wriggly toddler you may feel this a little too scary. The cable car requires the purchase of a ticket and you will need low value Czech crowns for this. A ticket machine is located near to the base of the cable car ride. I think it cost 20 crowns for adults (roughly 50p) and children 10 crowns (approx 25p). Great views going up but don't look down if you don't like heights!
At the top of the cable car you jump off at low speed, helped by a person at the top. From here you can turn left or right to explore the animals on the upper level. This level incorporates the African experience, the Malaysian jungle and many other animals including tigers, antelope, elks, wolves, hyenas, bison and owls. The enclosures of most of the animals are a field in themselves so walking around this upper level is quite a long one if you want to see everything. We missed out a bit in the middle as there are a large variety of deer/ antelope/ horse /bison / 4 legged creatures which all seem a much of a muchness when you're in need of another coffee or ice cream. The moose or elks are worth a look though, such strange looking creatures! A trip to the far north of the zoo for the African experience is also worthwhile. Here I was hoping to see giraffes wandering around safari style but unfortunately they were all in the indoor section. You could still get a good look at them through the glass. Zebra could be spotted in the vast expanse of field. Here also the Surikaty (which I think translates as mere cats) were fascinating to watch close up.
Walking back towards the main entrance we then passed the otters and then saw the polar bear(s). I only spotted one and it was the only animal that looked sad to be in the zoo, pacing up and down a stretch of his enclosure. There was a lot of space and water but he didn't look happy.
After this, we went into the Indonesian jungle; a large glass house, very similar in style to the Eden project glass houses in Cornwall. On entry you find yourself in the midst of canoe style boats carved from tree trunks surrounded by loads of information on Indonesia (which we couldn't read as it was in Czech). Inside the jungle it is hot and humid as would be expected. Birds flew around and you had to play 'spot the creature' as it seemed most of them were in hiding. However, the next part was the Twilight Zone and passing through a stringy curtain we found ourselves in semi darkness. It was hot and humid and a little eerie. All of a sudden hubby shrieked as a bat flew into his hair. 'Eeer it's peed on my eye' he cried. Hmmm there's nothing like bats in your face to get-me-out-of- there quick. I did see a few bats on the way out. I used to like bats as well.
Making your way down the windy slope towards the main entrance you pass the red pandas with their long bushy tails. We had seen enough at this point and decided to walk halfway back to the hotel through Stomovka park.
++ Feeding Times ++
These differ between summer and winter. There are a lot to choose from in the summer:
10:00 Meeting at the big parrots
11:00 Feeding of the penguins
11:00 Meeting the peccaries
11:15 Meeting the birds of prey
11:30 Introduction to the gorillas
11:30 Feeding of the pelicans
12:00 Meet the camels and black-tailed prairie dogs
12:15 Feeding of the kangaroos
13:00 Feeding of the otters (apart from Tuesdays when the pool gets cleaned)
13:15 Meeting the coatis
13:30 Exercising with the sea lions (apart from Tuesdays when the pool gets cleaned)
13:30 Introduction to the giraffes
14:00 Feeding of the Przewalski's horses
14:30 Feeding of the lions and tigers (apart from Sundays when they fast)
14:45 Exercising or bathing of the elephants
15:00 Feeding of the leopards and jaguars (apart from Sundays when they fast)
15:00 Introduction to the wolves
16:00 Meeting the hippopotamuses
16:30 Introduction to the hyenas
++ For little kiddies ++
A fun way to get around the zoo for toddlers or young children is to cart them in a zoo trolley. Basically this is like a wooden cart on wheels with a steering handle. (I presume there is a small hire charge). We saw several parents towing children and picnics in these wooden carts. They looked great for tired little legs, not so great for adult backs, especially with two nippers and luggage in one cart going uphill!
There are several play areas within the zoo for young children too. Each area is tastefully laid out to blend in with the natural environment. Most of the play areas are made up of wooden animals to climb through, sit on or slide down.
There is also a children's zoo, containing farm type animals and pets which can be handled. Food can be purchased to feed these animals.
++ Facilities: Cafes, toilets and disabled access ++
There are two cafes serving hot and cold food within the zoo. One is located near the main entrance and the other near the base of the cable car. Both cafes are very Czech and serve a variety of hot Czech dishes including their famous dumplings (which look like slices of white polystyrene). At the smaller of the two cafes, the items available for purchase were written in Czech and we had no idea what they were. You had to order at the bar so we decided to go back to the main café where a self service selection of dumplings, meat and gravy etc were available (motorway services style). Notices were in Czech but you could point to what you wanted. There was also a cold selection of baguettes filled with ham, cheese and salad which were huge and cost 35 Kc (less than one pound each). The kiosk outside the café also sold the most delicious ice creams which are also worth a try. Waffle cones filled with soft whippy ice cream and then dipped into liquid chocolate or strawberry, very nice and also cheap at 25 Kc (60p).
Toilets can be found in several locations around the zoo. The ones we ventured in were clean and free (unlike most Czech public toilets).
There were no specific signs for disabled access around the zoo. A rather steep set of steps near the entrance did have a smooth ramp (which looked around a slope of 1:3). I presumed this would be for zookeepers pushing wheelbarrows up. I did however picture a wheelchair flying down the slope at high speed surely it couldn't be meant as a disabled ramp? I suspect most of the zoo would be accessible for wheelchair users by taking longer windier paths but it would be wise to check this beforehand if you require disabled access.
++ Miscellaneous ++
This zoo is very Czech as would be expected, but there is not a great deal of English information to be found in the zoo. Most of the signs and information were in Czech and you had to sometimes work out for yourselves what species of animal or bird you were viewing. It was pretty obvious most of the time but if you like to read all the associated information about each animal you had better learn Czech or bring a translator! This wasn't a problem although I did find it frustrating not to be able to read the information boards about the effects of the flood. The pictures told the story well enough though. And would you really expect Czech translations in a British Zoo? I think not.
I was surprised that dogs are allowed into the zoo (on a lead). There were water points for dogs near the vending machines. As one not particularly fond of dogs this didn't bother me as there were very few dogs there on the day we visited.
There was no litter to be seen, the zoo seemed to be immaculately kept.
Education seems to be a strong point for this zoo. There is a small ampitheatre within the grounds with wooden seating which is used for educational talks. There is also a large information / education centre which is used by visiting school parties.
As in most zoos, the public are able to adopt animals to help with the cost of their upkeep. Prague Zoo have a modern slant on this idea, allowing anyone to text a donation to their favourite animal. An SMS text sent to the zoo donates around £1 to the fund of the animal of your choice.
++ What the kids thought ++
Our four children have been to several zoos including Chester, Blackpool, Jersey and Twycross. They all decided that Prague Zoo was the best so far. This was even without a visit into the zoo shop! So a definite thumbs up from them.
++ What we thought ++
Hubby and I were both impressed with the size and layout of the zoo. What particularly stood out was the harmonious nature of the environment within the zoo. The fences were made from roughly cut branches, there were numerous huts with a thatched style roof; vending machines were housed in wooded frontless huts to make them less of an eyesore and information displays and maps had unique wooden surrounds. There was little gourdy plastic to be seen anywhere. Even the kiddy play areas were made up of sculptered wooden animals, sand with paddling pools alongside. The animals seemed to have larger enclosures compared to other zoos that we have visited. It was not over touristy.
++ Recommend? ++
If you are visiting Prague and can spare a full day to visit the Zoo, I would highly recommend a trip there. Despite the devastations of the flood of 2002, Prague Zoo has been rebuilt into a very harmonious zoo with plenty of space for the animals. Enormous public support has contributed to the success of the zoo which has been enhanced by the Gorilla reality show. Let's hope the Czech government have implemented plenty of flood defence schemes to prevent such a flood happening again.
Prague Zoo has such a lot to see and do at a very reasonable price and would make an enjoyable day out with or without kids. Don't forget your camera or camcorder, oh and a translator!
Further information can be found at:
Thanks for reading.
Summary: Well worth a visit if you have afull day to spare!
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