Re-visiting the Johannesburg Zoo

I much prefer animals to be in their natural habitats than in enclosures. The joy of seeing animals roaming freely on safari far exceeds that of seeing them in captivity and of course the animals are usually much happier. However not everyone can go on safari as it can be quite expensive and far to travel to. That’s where the zoo comes in. It is much cheaper and easier to visit. It also houses animals that aren’t indigenous to South Africa, like tigers and bears.  So after all is said and done, it is an educational experience, as long as the animals are well taken care of.

Johannesburg Zoo Ferry

The Zoo Ferry

The last time I visited the Johannesburg Zoo was when I did the Zoo Trot in 2013. So when Groupon had a deal on tickets, we decided to buy some tickets and go with friends.  Our friends had small kids and their excitement at seeing the animals was infectious.

The Johannesburg Zoo has had some problems lately with workers being on strike. The main parking area is also being renovated which means that we had to drive to the Anglo-Boer War Memorial Museum entrance. This memorial was erected in memory of the men, women and children who died in the Anglo-Boer War between 1899 and 1902.

War Memorial Johannnesburg

Anglo-Boer War Memorial

The Zoo seemed to have deteriorated since my last visit. Several of the enclosures were empty. The polar bears both died in 2014 and will not be replaced.  Most of the remaining animals seemed to be sleeping except for the leopard who was pacing up and down. Despite the problems, we still enjoyed our day. However, I hope that the next time I visit, the zoo will be restored to its former glory.

Leopard Johannesburg Zoo


The Amazon exhibit was introduced in 2014 and resembles an ancient Mayan temple. There is a dome-shaped freshwater aquarium with a walk-through tunnel inside it. The upper section was being renovated so we didn’t get to see it.

Amazon Exhibit Johannesburg Zoo

Amazon Exhibit

Makoko, the German gorilla looked like he was sulking. He replaced Max who died in 2004. You may remember that Max was famous for his crime-fighting antics. He grappled with an armed robber who strayed into his enclosure in 1997. There is a memorial to Makoko on the zoo grounds.

Gorilla Johannesburg Zoo

Makoko The Gorilla

The zoo offers ferry tours, night tours, overnight camp-outs and behind-the-scenes tours.

For more information visit

When last did you visit a zoo? Tell me below.

See more things to do in Johannesburg here.

More photos from the zoo:

Rhinos - Johannesburg Zoo

The rhinos

Sable Antelopes - Johannesburg Zoo

Sable Antelopes

Elephants - Johannesburg Zoo


Lion - Johannesburg Zoo

Sleepy lion

Playground - Johannesburg Zoo

Playground area

Puma - Johannesburg Zoo


Crocodiles - Johannesburg Zoo


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stunning pics as always! Zoos are contentious places and personally not a place I am fond of. Animals in captivity definitely not the way the earth was meant to be. We have quite a few renown zoos here in OZ too! But have to say Africa’s array of animals top them by far! Love your work Sara!


    Thanks Samanthra. I’d love to visit Oz someday. I’ve never been there yet.


Thanks for dropping by Sula. There are a lot of conflicting opinions about zoos but I also feel that is important for educational purposes. The most important thing is that the animals are cared for properly.


Some feel that zoos are cruel but my feeling is that they play an important role in education which can lead to protection of wildlife. I’m sad to hear that the zoo has gone downhill, we last visited last year

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