The Prague zoo has had some pretty exciting news as of late and so we decided to pay it a visit this week. A few weeks ago, a baby elephant was born, making it the first elephant to be both bred and born here. And a little while after, a surprise baby gorilla was born. Surprise because nobody knew the adult gorilla was pregnant. And yes it would be easy to blame the caretakers for not knowing, but if you factor in the fact that the gorilla was old, had been treated with hormones in the past and was never able to carry a baby to term, it makes it for a highly unlikely event. Alas, the baby was born and is now one of the Prague zoo’s prized possessions. And we just couldn’t pass up all the cuteness.
We decided to go on a work day to try to avoid crowds – and we partially succeeded. When we walked into the zoo, there were only about 3500 people. We immediately made our way up the hill, into the upper portion of the zoo and towards the elephant enclosure. On our way, we stopped by in one of the newer and cooler pavilions – the Indonesian jungle. You walk in and you’re transported into a jungle – you see the monkeys, walk through a path between ponds and around tree trunks. The walk ends with a walk through a darkened “cave” where they have bats flying freely.
Between the Indonesian jungle and the elephant enclosure, we stopped by to see polar bears. First, we saw two, who were just lying there, one using the other as a pillow. We honestly had doubts whether or not they’re alive, but then they shifted slightly. Around the corner was a third polar bear was significantly more active. It was swimming around, then pacing. We were surprised how crazy fast its fur dried.
We then finally made it to the elephants, where it was crazy busy. We managed to snag a pretty good spot to watch the baby frolic around its mother. It’s still too small to go off on its own, but it definitely wants to. We stayed there quite a while, watching.
From here, we went across a bridge, towards the giraffes and meerkats. The giraffe viewing area was crowded, so we continued along the path to the meerkat enclosure. It’s open on top and glass all around, so you can see the meerkat’s clearly. Since it’s definitely a favorite of the little kids, the open top makes it nice for adults to look over and see things nicely. We couldn’t tear ourselves away because the most recent additions to the meerkat family were born on April 1st, so they were still tiny and cute. We then slowly made our way back around the giraffes and elephants and stopped by for food.
Right next to the elephant enclosure is a restaurant with outdoor seating. You go up to the counter, order and pay and then carry your food to a designated table. They have a great selection of food, so even we, both picky eaters, were able to chose something. They have european, middle eastern, and typical Czech food. A tip for non-Czech speakers – the boards on top of the counter are written in Czech, but they have english menus near the register, so keep an eye out for those. We got an order of fried cheese and fries (a staple in Czech food establishments) and gyros and were pleasantly surprised at how good both meals were. Finally, if you have more people in your party, decide on your orders and have some people stand in line, while other scout for a table. We were there on a weekday off-season and had trouble finding an open table outside (there were tables inside, but we didn’t want to sit there).
Tip # 2: Go for the draft drinks – beer, Kofola or Malinovka (a local raspberry flavored soda).
From here, we continued to circle the elephants and make our way towards the lonely big cats in the back. Warning – there are two locations for the big cats, so keep an eye out on where you’re going. The zoo is pretty big so you might have to make choices on what you see and what you skip. We saw the leopards and tiger (which was far) and walked back past the wolves and other animals.
We then took the cableway down and didn’t have to stand in line (since most people prefer to take it up and walk down). It can be a bit daunting if you have a problem with heights, but it’s completely safe.
The lower part of the zoo seems smaller, with everything closer together. We saw monkeys (where we stopped by for quite a bit, watching them climb trees and seeing how far up they can go).
When we finally made it to the big cats, it was feeding time. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t feel too well watching the tiger devour the giant piece of meat he was given. In a separate enclosure was a different tiger, who received food last and you could tell how nervous he was by his fast pacing and general reactions to the people watching him. I normally like big cats, but this was too much – I preferred the snakes and lizards on the other side of the building.
Because the weather was nice, the lions were in the outside portion of the pavilion. The lion and two lionesses were clearly done with lunch by the time we got there, so they were significantly calmer than the other cats. The lion was asleep and while the lionesses were awake, they were just sitting there, watching the goings on.
After a short break by the lions, we went to the gorilla pavilion, which has a restricted entrance right now because of a recently born baby. One of the gorillas gave birth a couple weeks ago without anyone knowing she had been pregnant (due to old age, past fertility issues and her being overweight). There was a ZOO employee at the entrance, letting in groups of five or so at a time, warning visitors to be quiet and telling everybody to move on if they lingered too long. So we only stayed for a little bit, but still saw the baby and it’s mother, which was adorable.
From there, we walked through the water world and monkey gardens, where you walk on wooden paths between ponds and see stuff like ducks and flamingos and everything else that lives in or around water. This is great for kids because they can run around and have fun. You can also go inside a small pavilion and see gavials, which were scary looking.
If you have kids, there’s a petting zoo nearby, which we decided to avoid, but it should be worth visiting.
Our last animal viewing stop was for the penguins, which were being their adorable selves. You can watch the time lapse Pav took to see their shenanigans. Unfortunately, the seals weren’t in their enclosure due to cleaning, but normally they’re great to sit down and watch.
We were then in desperate need for refreshments, so on our way out, we stopped by a food stand, where we got iced coffee and ice cream, which was a perfect way to end the day. We rested our feet a little, went up to see how many visitors there now were (at that point 6624) and headed out to the bus. Warning! The exit is near the entrance, but not exactly in the same spot, so watch the arrows pointing you there, you can’t leave through the entrance. A great thing is that the buses are outside the zoo, between the entrance and the exit, so you don’t have to walk far.
We definitely had a great day at the Prague zoo and recommend it to anyone who’s visiting Prague, it’s no surprise it’s been ranked 4th best zoo in the world by TripAdvisor.
Final tip: it’s better to take public transportation than to drive to the ZOO, the traffic gets pretty crazy and you have to walk pretty far.