I played hookey from work today to chaperone Jonathon's class of 1st graders to the Vandalur Zoo. The entrance has an almost Jurrasic Park feel to it, and the variety of animals was pretty impressive. The grounds themselves were on the surprising side as well, wide areas to walk, clean*, several open areas for animals with moats rather than fences. The fact that the moats were 1/2 empty and the water was a thick, soupy green, well... this is still India.
I don't want to sound negative about the place. For being Here, the park is quite a feat. Some Asian elephants, a hippo or two, albino peacocks, giraffes, Bengal tigers, Sumatran tigers, leopards, baboons, American alligators, aquarium, snake house, butterfly garden, cranes, pelicans, chimpanzees, jackals, a claimed otter (we didn't see it, the glass was so scratched and dirty and the water was just as murky).... the list goes on. The park is large, with electric "trains" available for hire. It would seem that it's only a 30 minute hire though as we scooted passed the white tiger, giraffe and other animals it would have been nice to spend time with. And a lion safari did indeed bring us into the lion enclosure, but the animals were so worn out. Two lions walked along the road in front of us while the driver yelled and banged his hand on his door. Somehow, I was embarrassed. The lions looked so tired. Our safari lasted no more than 10 minutes, the next group started piling in our vehicle before we're even gotten our crew of 6 and 7 year olds out. Yup, still India.
Morning is the only time to go as it's still cool, and the crowds haven't arrived. But when the crowds do arrive, watch out. We had to count heads over and over again to make sure our 16 charges weren't grabbed and photographed and pinched and smacked. Yup, smacked, one poor little girl had her arm whacked as she was walking by and the old guy just laughed and laughed. The teacher and the chaperones often commented that we were the mobile exhibit. That was exactly right.
I haven't decided yet if I want to bring the family. The zoo is an hour away through steady "city" so it's not exactly a pleasant drive. Oh, who am I kidding. There are no pleasant drives. This is India.
P.S. A few photos can be seen over at the Flickr site. Just click here.
*"Clean" by typical India standards. Litter bins were plentiful and the area was swept clean, but everything was still very run-down and grungy. It took two washings with soap before my hands were clean.