When we read that Thiruvananthapuram (aka Trivandum) had one of the most impressive zoos in India, we made sure to include a stop in this capital city of the state of Kerala. And the best part was that it was even on our way! We haven’t been to a zoo since DusitZoo in Bangkok (Thailand) and the girls were so excited. Surprisingly it turned out to be one of the best experiences of its kind that we’ve had.
The Thiruvananthapuram Zoo was originally established in 1859 and is actually the oldest zoo in India--some of the original buildings still remain on the grounds. According to their literature, in 1996 the zoo through the support and aid of the government Kerala began a process of modernizing the enclosures to make them more natural and spacious. They also defined their objectives as a zoo to be: 1) wildlife conservation especially of species local to the state and especially those that are endangered, 2) education and nature awareness 3) wildlife research and 4) eco tourism. We found each of the displays were consistent with regards to format and have very thoughtful and clear descriptions, written it seem with the aid of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). We all learned quite a lot today! The extremely affordable entrance fee of $0.25 cents USD/Rs10 per adult, and children 5yrs+ was half that at Rs5, also seemed an impressive way to achieve their objective of education and nature awareness by making a visit to the zoo affordable for all. (To put it into local perspective, a cup of tea, which everyone indulges in, costs the same as the entrance fee for children) We paid 0.75 cents for a family ticket, then another 0.75 cents for a ‘camera fee’—in total $1.50 USD for a morning at the zoo! (The Melbourne Zoo would have cost our family over $60 USD.)
|And example of the great informative signage at the zoo.|
The zoo is described as the ‘...one of the most beautiful in South East Asia’. The grounds themselves were originally part of the surrounding botanical gardens so mature leafy trees and bamboo groves were plentiful and gave much needed shade. Most all of the vegetation bore descriptive labels about them. The grounds were a good size and the pathway well marked to ensure that you visited all the exhibits. And the best part was the animals—they were all so energetic. For the first time at a zoo, we even heard the lions (male and females) roar. We think this had to do with their new natural enclosures which all had a good amount of shade. For better or worse, we could also get very close to the animals due to design of the protective barriers—sometimes too close for ‘Western’ sensibilities! Many of the enclosures were only separated from the public by railings that were not even fenced—small children could easily walk under them and while not into the mouth of an animal necessarily but definitely into the ‘ravine’ which separated the animals from the public! Interestingly we have noticed that Indian families seem to keep their children very close and in turn, the children don’t seem as ‘naughty’ or ‘adventurous’ as ‘Western’ children can be!
|Notice the gap in the 'barrier'?!|
|Black Sloth Bear|
|Hippos--again, notice the 'barrier'?!|
|Spotted Deer--Imagine living in those houses--what a view!|
Just outside the zoo entrance was the Natural History Museum. Entry to that was an additional 0.12 cents USD/Rs5 per adult and children was again half that—we paid for a ‘family ticket’ for 0.50 cents USD/Rs25! The exhibits were very well presented. Its proximity to the zoo also made for a very complimentary visit as many of the displays were provided for by the zoo (i.e. deceased animals were ‘stuffed’, preserved or their skeletons were placed on display).
|Skeleton of an Indian Elephant|
Also set among the well tended grassy grounds outside of the zoo entrance itself is the original Napier Museum (circa 1880) in a beautiful brightly painted Keralan-style wooden building. A couple of other galleries together with a surprisingly good children’s playground and large mature trees from which rope swings have been attached round out this one-stop cultural complex.
We only spent 2 nights and 1 day in Trivandrum, although the city itself seemed like it could have kept us occupied for at least another. We had one of the cleanest and best value hotel rooms at the Princes Inn that we’ve had in a long time too. But after spending nearly 5.5 weeks in the state of Tamil Nadu alone, we are feeling a bit conscious of our remaining time here in India (we’re about halfway) versus the distance that we’ve actually covered! We’re in a new state now (Kerala)--now to explore its uniqueness!