When faced with five children and a hot muggy (but beautiful) Jozi day, I was looking for an outing that wouldn’t involve too much effort in the heat of the day, but that would be fun and appealing to all of us – from my father-in-law to my three year old son. My first thought was the Joburg Zoo (which I love), but in the interest of keeping the holiday suitably exertion free, we wanted somewhere that didn’t involve too much trekking around in the hot sun. Friends had spoken highly of the Lory Park Zoo in Midrand, so we piled into two cars and headed north to Midrand, hoping to leave the heavy clouds and the spitting rain behind us – we all needed a change of scenery, and we were not going to let the heavy clouds deter us!
It was a bit of a hunt to find Lory Park – there are signs, but there could possibly be more – but when we got there, it was easy to find parking in the secure parking lot. It’s a bit more pricey than the Johannesburg Zoo, at R55 per adult and R35 per child, but I guess if you’re not enjoying government subsidies, you are obliged to charge a bit more. This made it a bit pricey for our party of eight, but we weren’t disappointed once we were inside.
Years back I worked on a publishing project with the Johannesburg Zoo, so I have a bit of back knowledge about the signs of a good zoo – and Lory Park has a lot of them. The animals are healthy – well covered but not fat – and the design of their enclosures attempts to replicate their natural habitats as far as is practical. The tigers and pumas revelled in their ponds and waterfalls, while the tiger cubs had a lush ‘jungle’ where they could frolic and ever-so-gently maul one another, to the great amusement of visitors. There were a few animals that were pacing, but there was no clear reason for this – these animals are all very well fed and cared for, with all sorts of stimulation devices (like ice lollies for the lions) to keep them from boredom.
The zoo has a daily programme of interactive events which is publicized on its website and on handouts at the entrance, so I eagerly sought out the snake handler and his red boa. My boys were not keen to see a snake draped around their mother (and neither was my husband!), but I valued the opportunity to get close to a creature that we all normally shy away from. I was intrigued at how warm this cold-blooded snake was, and at how it just ‘parked’ quietly across my shoulders until his handler took him back.
There’s a wide variety of animals, reptiles and birds, which meant that there was something for everyone to enjoy. There are some rareties – it’s the first time I’ve seen a honey badger close up, and it was great to be able to see the black puma’s spots on closer inspection.
There’s a cafe that serves fairly reasonably priced hotdogs, hamburgers, chips and cold drinks, and a covered area to enjoy your purchases. There are also braai areas scattered throughout the zoo, and there are covered bomas, grassy patches, benches, tables and chairs at regular intervals where you can rest or enjoy refreshments – they seem to be completely ok with you bringing your own.
We all really enjoyed the zoo – just remember that the snakes and other reptiles are kept in their cool enclosures in the heat of the day, so we didn’t see many of them on our hot afternoon, and that the zoo closes at 4 every day. Visit its website for useful updates and opportunities to get involved in its conservation work: www.lorypark.co.za .