Khao Kheow Open Zoo Directions:

Opening times: Daily 08:00 - 18:00, plus a night safari.

KHAO Kheow is a clever zoo. It’s not the sort of place where the animals prowl up and down looking bored out of their skulls. Here you can get as close to the animals as you’d probably want to. The animals’ homes are cleverly woven into the stunning natural surroundings, so at times it’s more like you’re on safari. There are elephants, penguins, hippos and big cats, everything you’d want from a trip to the zoo. Launched in 1978, Khao Kheow was a part of the Zoological Park Organisation of Thailand. It is now one of the biggest open zoos in Thailand, with more than 200 different kinds of animal. Away from the main collection of animals, there’s a wilder side to the park, which includes a nature trail. A chocolate-coloured lake is home to herons, while the land around rises smoothly upwards until the domed-tops of the hills are reached. In the middle of all this is the big cats’ complex.

Created as a little village of its own, it is home to jaguar, cougar, fishing cats, and of course, tigers and lions. The white tigers are particularly impressive, not just for their sheer size but also because of their rarity. They barely exist in the wild anymore, and seeing one in captivity is hardly common. Each area has signs in Thai and English to explain what you’re looking at, and there are several hands-on features for youngsters and longer explanations for adults. The cats’ complex is particularly well presented, with lots of detail about each animal’s natural habitat, diet, and life expectancy It’s possible to walk around the main zoo section (although you’ll need to use your car or the visitor bus to see the cats), and an easy-to-follow map is provided when you arrive.

Although it’s not quite a safari park, the animals all have plenty of space and the bigger beasts are surrounded by moats, so there isn’t the feeling that they are hemmed in. Asiatic elephants will appear in an instant at the sight of bananas or bamboo sticks, which you can buy and then place into their reaching trunks. You can also take a short ride on them for a few baht. Over in the African kingdom, zebras, giraffes, antelope, and ostrich, stroll past each other in their pseudo-savannah. At night-time it’s possible to go on a night safari and see the animals after dark, which is when most of them come to life. The hippo section allows visitors to walk across a wooden bridge and look down on the giants as they wallow contentedly in pools of mud. There’s usually a handful of baby hippos playing, or fighting, with each other.

Birds are a large part of the zoo, and Khao Kheow’s largest structure is reserved purely for them. The walk-through aviary is an enormous dome of mesh that houses hornbills, peacocks, ducks, and dozens more birds. Looking around involves climbing up and down several sets of stairs, so be prepared for some physical exertion. The whole experience can be tiring, so taking a car or the visitor bus is advisable. Refreshments are available at any of the multiple stalls throughout the zoo, and you’ll be grateful for them. It’s possible to see everything in a day but you’ll have to keep moving.

I stumbled across the Nocturnal Garden which, as you’d expect, was hard to spot, and away from the main animals. Amid the gloom were snakes, lizards and other things that you wouldn’t want to find in your bathroom. Other attractions include a walk around the deer park, a chance to watch gibbons languish in trees, a beautiful flamingo pond near the entrance, and a couple of crocodiles, who idly warm themselves in the sun. Khao Kheow offers incredible value for money, and is a thoughtfully-designed, environmentally-friendly zoo that obviously looks after its inhabitants well.

Preis 1200,-Baht per Person