Johannesburg Zoo in December – Travel review

Whether you call it Johannesburg Zoo or Joburg Zoo, the zoo in Johannesburg can be a good spot for a family picnic. How do I know? Well, my husband and I recently visited Johannesburg Zoo for the first time.

Pitori to Jozi

We are still new to Johannesburg so it took a while for us to start exploring it. Phela growing up in Pretoria (Pitori), we were told horror stories about Johannesburg (Jozi). Those Jozi crime stories were enough to keep me away from the city of gold. If it wasn’t for my job and husband, I doubt that I would left Pretoria for Johannesburg.

Entrance and parking fees at Johannesburg Zoo

Enough about Pretoria. We’re in Johannesburg now so let me tell you about our first trip to Johannesburg Zoo. We went to the zoo on a Monday afternoon in December. The first thing we did after parking, was to escort our son to the restrooms. We used the restrooms near the zoo’s covered multi-level parking, which is spacious, ample and secure. After paying for parking (R16 per car) and entrance (R80 per adult and R55 per child), the unfriendly zoo staff granted us access. The zoo staff and security guards didn’t feel like being helpful on that day. To add to that, the signage was faded and confusing.

Johannesburg Zoo
The Johannesburg Zoo entrance

Joburg Zoo has ATMs, food trucks and picnic areas

Despite the cold welcome, we enjoyed watching and (in some cases) interacting with different animals. We started by the birds section so we saw birds, birds, birds and more birds. It was getting boring for me. Luckily, my two favourite people (Akin and Akin) didn’t mind much. Johannesburg Zoo has several food trucks that sell food but I packed a picnic bag full of food. My husband generously carried the heavy picnic backpack everywhere we went. Unfortunately, I forgot the picnic blanket so we had to sit at the concrete bench and chair sets. Luckily, Johannesburg Zoo has a lot of those sitting arrangements – chairs, benches and tables. I was happy to see that Johannesburg Zoo had ATMs on site and rubbish bins throughout the zoo. We bought ice cream from one of the food trucks that had a card machine before venturing off again.

Tiger, woods and a lonely elephant

Eventually, we saw a tiger. It looked exactly like the tiger on the Tiger Brands logo but it was a lot bigger than I expected. We also saw one lonely-looking elephant. The elephant’s home was surrounded by peacocks that appeared to be ready to reproduce. They were running around freely everywhere – some didn’t have their colourful feathers anymore. That was a sad sight. On a brighter note, we also saw a rhino, lemurs, monkeys and antelopes.

Peacocks at the Jozi Zoo
The peacocks at the elephant house

Late for the Amazon Exhibition

However, the Amazon animal section, where marine animals, are kept was closed. It was our fault, we arrived a bit late to the zoo. The Johannesburg Zoo is open weekdays and weekends (Monday – Sunday) from 08:30 – 17:30 but the Amazon section closes around 3pm. Trying to get my family to leave the house early (together) is like pulling teeth. It is painful to endure and horrifying to watch (all at the same time).

The tale of the fighting zebras

Speaking of horrifying moments, we came across the zebras. I have always found zebras to be peaceful and uneventful but not this time.

Zebras fighting
The infamous fighting zebras

Yoh! The zebras at Johannesburg Zoo were wild. They were so wild that even my son (who can also be wild) was a bit scared.

African zebras fighting at the zoo
Another angle of the fighting zebras

The boy and zebra

We walked through a narrow passage and passed some white cranes (and squirrels) on our left. The zebras were on our right hand side. My son and I were walking ahead of daddy (who was admiring the cranes even after having seen a billion birds). My son then decided to run and to my surprise the zebra ran along him (behind the mesh fence). This boy showed no fear and continued to run with this wild zebra.

A boy with a zebra at the zoo
My son and the zebra he tried to befriend

After I asked my son to stop playing with the zebra (in a not so quiet tone), we proceeded to the other side to see more zebras.

This time, we saw sets of zebras, two of which were fighting like wild animals

Yes, I meant to write that!

The end and the beginning of the next visit

The smallest zebra kept on going back for round after round of kicks, bites and what sounded like insults from the bigger zebra. It was interesting to watch at first until the small started zebra crying. This was my first time hearing a zebra cry over and over. These fighting zebras went at this for almost 20 minutes. They were still fighting when we left them.

On my next visit to the Johannesburg Zoo, I am going to check on those fighting zebras. Wish me luck!

To find out more about Johannesburg Zoo, visit their website. We have more travel reviews of places in Jozi – e.g. Westdene Dam in Johannesburg – Travel Review.

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