I spent 20 years in the Canadian school system and it never fails to amaze me how much I didn’t learn. No, not about animals – I feel my biology was fairly well covered – but on basic knowledge of world geography, cultures, economics and politics. For example, Guadalajara is Mexicos second largest city. It is a clean, modern, vibrant city with over 4 million people and I had never heard of it before this trip. And – I’m sure I am not alone.
Guadalajara is a wonderful city to visit and is very tourist-friendly. It has with a beautiful old spanish city centre, plenty of museums, artisanal shopping, and the biggest market I have ever seen. Not to mention the constant free music/dance shows outside in the plazas.
On this visit though, the highlight for all of us was the Zoologico Guadalajara. The infrastructure at the zoo rivalled Disney world. Every single enclosure was done with increadable attention to detail and it was as interactive as a zoo can safely be. We knew it was the largest zoo in Latin America (over 360 species and 2000 animals), but it is the beautiful grounds, walking paths, stunning views and superb activities that make it deserving of its title as one of the best zoos in the world. It is so well maintained, I thought it might have been new, and was suprised to learn it opened 27 years ago.
Some of the highlights included:
* monkey-zone – over 10 different species including monkey relatives (lemurs, orangatans, gorillas, baboons). They have a huge circuit of clear pipes that they can run through with obstacles, ropes and ladders. The system spans over the park and they give access to it to each monkey group one at a time throughout the day. So as you are walking along, the monkeys are running overhead! Also- two of the monkey cages are walk-in. Meaning we are in the cage with them. I could have spent hours watching them.
* vet for a day - all day long there is program where the kids can become a vet for 20 minutes. My kids put on kid-size vet coats, hung real stethoscopes around their necks and had the chance to examine a real animal (rabbit – too bad I was hoping for the lion). The vet showed them what to do and how to write in the chart. The loved it!
* safari – this probably would have been a whole lot more fun if we hadn’t done the Disney one last fall. But the giraffes eating carrots from our hands while in the safari vehicle was a highlight. It was awesome to see these beautiful animals so close.
* shark tunnel - Andy’s favourite of the day! It was very cool to have the sharks swimming over our heads and all around.
* bird show – for 30 minutes the parrots showed off an array of tricks including playing basketball and riding a parrot size bicycle!
The animals and attractions span over 2.5km and we didn’t have time to see it all despite spending the full day. Our family for the day (including all activities) cost $45 CND. Probably the most expensive Mexican activity we have done, but still significantly less than this kind of expertise would cost North of the border. Guadalajara is definitely worth the trip for anyone – of any age and the zoo is a fantastic bonus for this great city.