Chiang Mai Zoo
Chiang Mai Attractions
Although not the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of the city, the Chiang Mai Zoo is surprisingly interesting. Covering 200 acres of land in the foothills of Doi Suthep and providing excellent views of the city in addition to its fascinating wildlife exhibits, Chiang Mai Zoo is certainly worth a visit, especially if you've had your fill of temples.
The Animals in Chiang Mai Zoo
Nearly 400 different species of animal are kept at the Chiang Mai Zoo, including elephants, tigers, chimpanzees, hippopotami and rhinoceroses. The zoo also features some outstanding special attractions such as the walk through aviary, a fascinating freshwater aquarium and the zoo's stars - Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui, two young pandas who were sent as goodwill ambassadors from China in 2003.
The emphasis here is on creating a natural feeling environment, an illusion of being out in the wild. Many of the enclosures, such as the giraffe and zebra exhibit, have ramps and walkovers that allow visitors to get up close and personal with the zoo's furry residents.
Conservation and education are top priorities at Chiang Mai Zoo; the animals are well cared for and quite happy and healthy. The animal population of the zoo is as diverse as the human population of northern Thailand. Here you will find a wide variety of Southeast Asian species, such as the Giant Mae Khong Catfish, the Tiger and the rare Serow, which has existed almost unchanged for 7 million years.
In addition to these regional species, the zoo is home to creatures from all corners of the globe, including the Alpaca from South America, Giraffes and Zebras from Africa, Kangaroos and Dingoes from Australia and Scops Owls from Europe, among many others. A truly unusual sight is the Humboldt Penguin exhibit. Seeing birds traditionally associated with the frigid Polar Regions thriving in balmy Thailand is definitely one to file in the something-you-don't-see-everyday column.
Chiang Mai Zoo Layout
Covering as much land as it does, Chiang Mai Zoo can be quite a hike to get around so make sure to familiarize yourself with the exhibits on display to ensure that you get to see everything you want. Near the entrance is the Cage Area, where smaller animals are kept in traditional zoo cages amid a colourful profusion of tropical flowers. Beyond the entrance area you will find the Open Zoo, a 40 acre, walled enclosure where numerous species are allowed to mingle and roam free. A pedestrian walkover allows visitors a unique perspective from which to observe the behaviour of the animals. The Breeding Area and Recreational Areas are located towards the back of the zoo, near a pleasant lake that makes for perfect picnics.
Getting Around Chiang Mai Zoo
The zoo's main areas are connected by a long road that runs in a loop from the entrance to the lake and back. And when we say long, we mean long. Remember that the zoo covers over 200 acres of land. After walking half of it you might feel like roping an antelope and riding it to the next exhibit. Take heart, however, as vehicles are allowed in the zoo, so if you're pressed for time or simply don't feel like walking you can still cover all of the attractions. There are also open air tram busses that take occupants to various exhibits, with tours narrated by the drivers. The park staff is very knowledgeable but their English is not always the best.
While the Latin names of the animals are written in English, the common names are almost all in Thai. You won't need a translator to tell you that the huge predator marked Panthera Leo is a Lion but you might have trouble figuring out which is a Trichosurus Vulpecula (Brushtail Possum) and which is a Myrmecophaga Tridactyla (Giant Anteater).
Although there are plenty of exhibits to see, there are a few that stand out above the rest. The highlight is, of course, the panda exhibit. Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui (or Thewan and Thewee as they are known to the Thais) are easily the zoo's most charismatic and photogenic residents. Their multi-million baht enclosure is designed to accurately simulate the cool mountain climate of their natural home, making it a great place to come and seek refuge from the heat.
The pandas are at their most active in the morning, romping, wrestling and playing on the structures in their spacious home. If you go in the afternoon they'll spend as much time watching you as you do watching them. Visiting the pandas is an extra 100 baht for adults and 50 baht for children but the fee is worth it and no visit to the Chiang Mai Zoo is complete with stopping in and observing these fascinating and gentle creatures.
The Aviary and Other Attractions at Chiang Mai Zoo
Also popular, and with good reason, is Chiang Mai Zoo's Nakornping Walk Through Aviary. This massive exhibit consists of a 2.5 acre enclosed space that is home to over 800 birds. After passing through the doors and gates you will arrive inside a huge artificial forest filled with trees, flowers and, of course, birds. At the forest floor it is almost impossible to see the metal netting high above and you really feel as if you are deep in the jungle, complete with river and small waterfall.
The aviary was renovated in 2004 and now has more paths, pavilions and open spaces for visitors to relax in. Along the pathways you will find the large ground dwelling birds, such as peacocks, emus and flamingos. As you proceed through the aviary you will find walkways that ascend up through the trees, eventually emerging above the canopy. This multi-level approach allows you to get a first hand look at the birds that occupy different areas of the forest cover.
Other popular attractions include Gibbon Island, a series of enclosure-less islands where Gibbons are free to live and breed, the Freshwater Aquarium, home to 60 species of tropical freshwater fish and the Cape Fur Seal Exhibit. A special treat that has recently become available is the Twilight Zoo, a chance to see many of the animals during the time when they are at their most active.
Chiang Mai Zoo
- Opening Hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
- Address: 100 Huay Kaew Road
- Tel: +66 53 210 374