Dad Recommends: Natal Zoological Gardens

Zoos. They’re not ideal. Having animals in captivity is never something you ever really want. I know that, I understand that. And this is important context because, well… we took Alice to a zoo.

It was April 27, mine and Megan’s 5-year anniversary. We wanted to spend the day together with Alice before we went out for dinner that night, so we had to think about the things that Alice loves. The answer was simple: animals. She’s crazy for animals.

One of the first things she could identify was a bird (or, technically, a ‘booidie’, as she pronounces it). She can point out a ‘gengin’ (penguin) from her books, a fish (she actually gets this one right), a zebra, elephant, lion (including with the rawr) and a whole host of other creatures. She loves her two doggos at home, even if they mutually cause chaos.

So taking her to somewhere with animals was a no-brainer. Megan suggested the Natal Zoological Gardens, recommended to her by a colleague who also has kids. We decided to check it out, and we weren’t disappointed (you can check out a video of the experience here).

Fascination. It’s the only way to describe how Alice felt at the Zoological Gardens.

Okay, so let’s start with the things you need to know:

  • Location – The Natal Zoological Gardens (which need a new name to reflect the new name of KwaZulu-Natal, for a start) is situated in Cato Ridge, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. You can find the directions on Google Maps here.

  • Price – Adults: R70; Kids: R50; Under-2s: Free.

  • Chow – There is a canteen with cafe on site. Meals will cost you between R20 and R50. But you can take a picnic basket in and eat there.

Alice got excited as soon as we walked into the gate. She could hear the birds squawking and chirping. She saw other kids running around. She was in her element. Taking advantage of this, we immediately set about checking out the animals – starting with the lions.

Clutching her lion stuffed animal in her hand (it fell out of her pram and we left it behind… so, I guess, it returned to the wild or something), she stared and pointed at the lions in their enclosures. Some were sitting on platforms, others in the grass and one started following Alice along the fence line. We picked her up into our arms because, well, it’s a lion following her. Caution is the better part of valour, or something.

From there we went to see emus (they’re ugly AF), tigers, leopards, primates of all varieties and, of course, her favourites: birds. She. Lost. Her. Mind.

natal zoo
Good call, Alice. Back away.

So, yeah, zoos aren’t ideal. But if you have a kid who loves animals and if you want to get them out of the house for a few hours to have a really cool experience, then the Natal Zoological Gardens is a pretty great place to do it.

Dad Rating  8/10 (but if you don’t like zoos, don’t go)


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