Pack your binoculars and put on your camouflage, we’re going on a safari!
Of course, we’re not in Africa. That would kind of defeat the point of Destination Germany. But perhaps the closest you can get to both the African Savannah and Asian rain forests without actually going there is at Leipzig Zoo. It’s located in the state of Saxony, and I got a private tour with one of their animal curators, which you can hear in the audio file above.
Leipzig Zoo is among the most bio-diverse in Europe, with over 850 species and 10,000 animals. That, plus the theme park style of the different zones makes it popular - almost 2 million people come here every year.
While the park is very old, it’s far from stuck in the past. In fact, Leipzig Zoo describes itself as the 'zoo of the future'. It's an effort to bring the visitor experience out of the stuffy old notions of cages and badly thought-out exhibits. A lot of people criticize zoos for being inhumane but Leipzig Zoo takes the idea of a emulating a natural habitat seriously. So, for the public and the animals it feel less like a caged exhibit.
The zoo is split into several key global habitats. There's the Savannah, the aquarium, Pongoland where all the monkeys are and, my favorite, Gondwanaland. That’s the rainforest and probably the most impressive part of the whole place.
Gondwanaland has a realistic tropical climate and is filled with plants and animals. It's as realistic as an indoor rain forest can get and it's teeming with life.
A highlight for visitors is the river running through Gondwanaland. On that river, they can take a 15-minute boat tour to learn about the ecosystems of real rain forests. They have the tour in both German or English so that’s a plus for tourists or people who’re still learning German like me!
The Leipzig Zoo seems to have some great ideas to give visitors a different experience that they might not find in most other zoos. I really like their “zoo of the future” idea by blending all these themed worlds together but keeping the experience authentic for both visitors and animals.
The layout gives you the experience of moving from one continent to another, like you are traveling around the world.
Leipzig Zoo is a top German destination for animal lovers!