Hamilton Zoo is a lot more than it first appears. It may not be as grand as Auckland Zoo, but it is certainly as good. Many say better. I went with my parents and boyfriend last weekend, and we found it more pleasant to walk around than Auckland Zoo. More intimate; more trees shading the paths.
Auckland Zoo has more animals than Hamilton Zoo, but Hamilton Zoo is almost twice as large as Auckland Zoo in terms of land area. In fact it feels deceptively large. Entry into Hamilton Zoo costs $22, which is an absolute bargain, and it’s wonderful to see the animals in such massive enclosures.
The Sumatran tiger exhibit was especially impressive. When we arrived, three of the tigers were sleeping all snuggled up together. It was a mother and two cubs, although the cubs were a year old and didn’t look like babies anymore! I spent a long time ‘awwing’ at them, but was soon reminded that tigers aren’t always so cute.
One of the other tigers looked like it was actually trying to stalk the keepers that had come to feed them! The keepers were safe on the other side of the fence, of course, but it was only a few months ago that one of the Hamilton Zoo keepers was mauled to death by one of the tigers.
Thankfully, the tiger in question wasn’t euthanized. It was just being a tiger.
Hamilton Zoo doesn’t have any lions, but it does have some rather majestic cheetahs.
It also has giraffes, rhinos, monkeys, meerkats, red pandas, chimpanzees and an array of other creatures, including native New Zealand birds and reptiles.
Hamilton Zoo has the largest free flight aviary in New Zealand, complete with pond and waterfall.
The meerkats were adorable. One of them seemed intent on digging a tunnel to Spain, (Spain being the antipode of New Zealand,) and was already well on its way.
The giraffes were spectacular, but their limelight was stolen by the rutting blackbucks that shared their enclosure, almost beneath their notice.
The kea were amusing – as if one could expect anything else. They are, after all, New Zealand’s funniest birds. One of them was playing dead right next to the fence. Very convincing. It even had a wing cocked at an odd angle!
And no, it wasn’t actually dead. It realised we were onto it and shook its head in annoyance. Apparently, it pretends to be dead a lot. Maybe it’s part of an elaborate escape plan.
All in all, we were walking around the zoo for three hours. We needed all day, really. We only just got round everything before the place closed, and we could have spent so much longer with many of the animals. I definitely want to go again at some point.
The gift shop and the café are nothing special, but there’s a playground and some okay picnic areas. The main focus is on the animals, which is as it should be.