Ok, so Rio’s zoo isn’t up there with the best in the world, and anyone who objects to seeing animals in captivity won’t be adding it to their list of Rio ‘must-sees’, but as a fun and educational family day out it’s well worth the Metro ride to Rio’s Zona Norte (North Zone).
With an entry price of just R$6 for adults, and R$3 for children, the zoo is an affordable option for almost everybody in the city, and local families flock here at weekends. One word of advice – set off early, as the zoo is vast, and you’ll need to set aside a good few hours if you want to see everything.
One thing that sets Rio Zoo apart from the zoos of my native England is the impressive collection of non-captive wildlife dropping by to pay their distant relatives a visit. Flocks of vultures sit among the treetops, herons swoop above the man-made water features, and parakeets chatter happily above the parrot enclosures.
A few of the larger species, most notably the brown bears, could unarguably due with more freedom to roam, but generally the zoo is well-kept by South American standards, and there is a wealth of information about endangered species and animals native to Brazil.
Cash-strapped backpackers can snack on inexpensive pizza, popcorn and other such items of dubious nutritional quality, although it’s worth taking a picnic if you’re looking for something a little more substantial.
The easiest way to reach the zoo (known as the Jardim Zoologico is to take a Metro to Quinta da Boa Vista, where the zoo sits within the extensive park grounds of the Museu Nacional , a former palace that is well worth a visit in itself.