At a ten-minute walk from Rotterdam Central Station (or a ten-minute bike ride from my home) is Rotterdam Zoo (Dutch name: Diergaarde Blijdorp). For me it's a bit of nostalgia, but this is also one of the most beautiful zoos in Europe. The enclosures are spacious and green, there are almost no fences (especially ditches) and the amount of animals is enormous.
The Rotterdam Zoo was established on May 18, 1857 and is one of the oldest zoos in the Netherlands. During World War II, the zoo was also affected by the bombing of Rotterdam. Many animals were killed and a lot of them escaped. The sea lions for example, were swimming in the canals of the city. At that time, people were already working to move the zoo to its current location, where there was a lot more room to expand.
Most people will know the zoo mainly by the relatively recent escape of Bokito, the male gorilla who decided he could no longer take that a woman was bullying him. Although the extra security measures to the gorilla house did not make it prettier, it’s still great fun to visit. The monkeys and apes regularly have young offspring and are very active.
Although sunlight in general is better for taking pictures, especially with the Fisheye, the zoo is also really nice during some autumnal weather. First, it is much quieter, and second, you can have a whole day wandering around in the Oceanium, where you can view sharks and turtles from below and have the penguins swimming underneath you.
I actually usually walk the same route. I’ll arrive at the Oceanium side of the zoo, but walk around it, to avoid crowds. Especially between 9-10am and 4-5pm it is quiet inside, so I usually save it for last. Or I will skip it all together, when the weather is especially nice. Then you walk past my favorite photo subject, the prairie dogs, towards the old part of the zoo. Here I take a left turn to see the okapis (the coolest animals on earth) in Africa, where I wander around among the giraffes and crocodiles, through the bat cave to end up in Asia, at the elephants. And in between, there is always time for an ice cream or a cup of coffee.
Maybe not everyone likes zoos as much as I do, but I think it’s very important that places like Rotterdam Zoo exist. Like many zoos, this one is doing a lot to educate the public, raise awareness on nature, and try to help with the conservation of various species by setting up breeding programs. This way, children, but also adults, learn to appreciate nature more and they will realize what will be lost if we continue living as we do now.