Growing up in Nigeria, I get the “what are lions, and tigers, and gazelles, and so and so like” question quite often. I always surprise people with my answer. Tigers aren’t in Africa, and the first time I saw any of those animals were in zoos on other continents. I’ve hopped around the globe enough and been to quite a lot of zoos. My love for animals has grown over the years, and some of my favorite memories and photos are of animals in the countries I’ve been to. Here’s my list of my favorite zoos:
I’ll start with my hometown. The Lekki Conservation Center [LCC] in Lagos, Nigeria, which is not quite a zoo, but it really is my favorite on this list. It’s located on the Lekki Peninsula close to the Chevron Estates. The grounds are amazing. There’s a small building where guests go to meet their guide and get some information about the place. I remember a gigantic tortoise that lived right outside of the main building that was over 130 years old. The last time I went I was 12, so I’m sure a lot has changed since then.
The LCC completely immerses you into the different natural terrains of my country. Your tour is mostly on a wooden walkway through a forest, with some time in what looks like a miniature serengeti. I’ve seen squirrels, monkeys, poisonous snakes, and other animals in a natural environment. If you go early enough, you can maybe see a lion or antelope or two, though I never did. I did go during a time of year when the crocodiles were about. Our guide was brave enough to come off the wooden trail to show us a family of playing crocs. There’s definitely more fascination than fear if you ever choose to go to Lekki.
Fundação Jardim Zoológico De Brasília in Brazil is the next zoo on my list. It’s about an hour drive from Lago Sul, which is where I was staying. This zoo is huge! Every animal has its own habitat, which was very much appreciated and reminded me of the LCC. There are so many unusual animals. There are even birds, monkeys, and capybara roaming free. There’s a taxidermy section and library too if you care to learn some things. You can take the tour by car too!
The London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo, and it’ll always be a favorite of mine because of the penguins. I also saw my first baby giraffe there, and it was still taller than me. Not only is the zoo fun, it’s close enough to Madame Tussaud’s, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and the Museum of London. There’s so much to do in this part of town. The London Zoo has about 755 species [the Zoo in Brasília has 253], and it’s a great place to explore with family.
The Bronx Zoo is one of the largest zoos in the world, and it’s about a half an hour drive away from Manhattan. There is a section where birds fly all around you, and they’re the most exotic looking birds ever. That and the reptiles were my personal favorite part of the experience.
My new favorite zoo is Hope Zoo, located in my new home of Jamaica. Hope Zoo is very close to The University of Technology and The University of the West Indies. It’s tucked away inside Hope Gardens, which is gorgeous and perfect for picnics and weddings. Hope Zoo is relatively small, but it’s growing and getting more beautiful. The last time I went I had won a contest to name one of the 3 new zebras [he’s the smallest, and his name is Zaci]! You can take a golf cart around the zoo that starts with two beautiful macaw. Some birds are trained to say cute phrases, so talk to them!
I’ve had a lot of fun at zoos growing up. I’m always drawn to wildcats and reptiles, but a certain tiny monkey will steal my heart, or a wildcat. Go explore more than the regular tourist attractions when you travel! Animals are wonderful, and conservation centers and zoos remind us that there’s a wild wide world out there.
This was a contest submission by Alana Igbe.
Updated: August 19, 2015