When I was a kid the only popular zoo is Manila Zoo in Pasay. I've been there only twice (if my memory serves me right) and could only recall the huge ageing elephant immediately after the entrance. I guess I wasn't much of an animal lover that I couldn't even recall asking my parents to take me to a zoo.
Fast forward to today that I am already a mother, I have been to zoos more often than I've been to spas. Seriously! Exactly the opposite of me, The Hubby likes animals and Eone probably took after him. In the last 4 years, we've been to all the zoos we know that exist in Manila and nearby provinces (Malabon Zoo, Zoobic Safari in Subic, Ark Avilon, Residence Inn in Tagaytay to name a few).
A couple of weekends ago, we decided it's time for our little boy to see live animals so he'd appreciate those he see in pictures better. Where's the best zoo to go? I'd say Avilon Zoo without second thoughts.
Avilon Zoological Park is a 7.5-hectare animal haven located in Montalban, Rizal. It's a good one hour trip from Marikina passing through San Mateo. This zoological park is considered the largest in the Philippines and by my standard the best maintained one.
This is my third visit, the first two were with Eone when she was just around 2.
Entrace fee for adults is Php300 (20% senior citizen discount applies if ID is shown) and Php200 for children below 3 feet. Entrance fee for my Enoe for whom we are making this trip for is free. Yey!
They offer guides (Php400 per family) to help visitors roam around the zoo. They are knowledgeable about the animals on display and can be quite entertaining as they tell you some useful information about them.
We didn't hire any tour guides this time as The Hubby and I feel confident we already know the way around. We also thought that at least some directions (like arrows and labels) are in place around the area to help visitors in and about. We were wrong. It's a bit frustrating to go around in circles looking for the pit stop (canteen that sells drinks and snacks) and there's not even a single signage pointing to that. Also, it's as if they really want visitors to avail of the tour guides (or feel sorry they didn't hire any) as even the caretakers couldn't tell you the correct direction.
Anyway, my favorite part of the tour around the zoo is the chance to feed the arapaimas. Effing huge fishes they almost look like crocodiles!!
Buy 5 pieces of chicken heads for Php20 and you also get 5 chances to startle yourself. The moment the chicken hits the water, the monsters scramble to get it thereby creating lots of splash. The sound of the fishes hitting each other and themselves against the water is pretty scary, even for a grown up like me.
|see those huge head and mouth beneath the surface?|
It was only in this zoo that some pigeons and other birds roam freely. Also on our previous visits, Trixie is on duty. She is a sosi orangutan dressed in designer shirt, pants and wears Crocs. Her caretaker took the day off when we visited, thus, we weren't able to see Trixie. Too bad, she could have been the highlight of our visit.
|white tiger - only at Avilon Zoo|
For those who want their kids to have some personal or close encounters with select animals, the feeding house is the place to go. Children can choose from a list of vegetables to feed rabbits and guinea pigs.
Avilon is so huge and we know the enormous amount of walking we will undertake so we brought with us Eone's scooter while Enoe had the luxury of being pushed like a king in his stroller. The spacious walkways and paths are ideal for those bringing 'wheels' to make the tour less stressful for the kids.
Strollers and bikes are also availble for rent (by the hour) at the zoo. I think the fee is around Php100 per hour.
A few tips:
1. Bring a hat or umbrella.
2. Don't forget to bring water or drinks during the tour. Drinks are also sold at reasonable prices at the zoo.
3. Wear comfortable shoes. 7.5 hectares is a huge area to walk around. An extra shirt may also be useful especially for children.
4. I saw some families eating their packed meal at the dining area by the lagoon so I reckon bringing of food is allowed (but maybe up to the dining area only).