Porto zoo - Zoo da Maia
Travelling to Porto? Don't forget Zoo da Maia!
If you are an unsuspecting tourist in Porto, Portugal, the zoo won't be an obvious place you'll be pointed to. Everybody will try to sign you up for one of innumerable Douro cruises, or wine cellar trips, and if you ask in the tourist office, all you'll get is a sad head shake. But be brave and resist them all! Zoo da Maia is easy to get to, inexpensive and much more fun than all the wine cellars in the world!
Porto as a holiday destination
There are three main reasons to visit Porto:
- it's inexpensive
- it's beautiful
- it's got gorgeous weather
Those three are enough to guarantee you total satisfaction with your stay, but there's many more. There's cheap Ryanair flights to get you there. There's still undeveloped tourist market, which means that you can actually meet some locals instead of never ending crowds of foreigners on holidays. There are kilometres of beautiful beaches with huge waves and water warm enough to bathe in but cold enough to feel freshened after the dip. There is the best tasting espresso in the world. I could go on.
So get your bag packed and book your ticket to Porto RIGHT NOW!
Now, let's get to know each other better. I've been to Porto once, only recently, and have a head still full of fresh memories. How about you?
Have you ever been to Porto?
Real life story
or how to get there
Let me share a little story with you.
I did some research before the actual trip and I knew there's a nice zoo near Porto. I went to the tourist office to ask for directions. The girl behind the desk looked surprised and said there is no way to get there by public transport, that the locals get there by car, that it's not interesting and in another city altogether. I nearly gave up at that point.
Now I think she was being paid by some Douro cruise companies, because none of what she said proved to be true. See, I decided to chance it anyway. Here's what I found:
- the zoo is located in a suburb of Porto called Maia, easily accessible by metro
- take a metro train in direction of Ismai and get off at Forum Maia stop. It will cost you about 2 euro.
- go alongside the metro track for about 300 metres until you reach a large roundabout. Take the second (or possibly third?) exit on the left, it will take you round a fenced off private park. After 200 metres or so you should see first road signs pointing you in the direction of the zoo. Walk another 300 meters and you're there.
- altogether you can get there in less than one hour and you don't need the car at all
- zoo ticket for an adult, including all the attractions, costs 7.50 euro
- the zoo itself is delightful. I like to visit zoos wherever I travel and Zoo da Maia is one of the most pleasant zoological parks I've seen. It's full of trees and water, which means you spend your day in refreshing coolness.
- it may seem like an unusual compliment, but it's the least smelly zoo I've ever been to. How do they manage that considering the temperature outside???
Moral of the story: don't trust girls in tourist office :)
What kind of tourist are you?
Here's another little poll to lighten up the mood.
When travelling, do you:
Zoo da Maia residents
So, which animals can you meet on your visit to Zoo da Maia?
For a full list, go to the Zoo's website - http://www.zoodamaia.pt/bio_lista.php?classe=todos... It's in Portuguese, but it's easy enough to decipher for English speakers. Besides, if you click on any name, you'll open a new window with closer description and A PICTURE.
Seal show is definitely worth paying this bit extra for it (it's included in your 7.50 ticket price, but you can also choose a cheaper option).
The most interesting creatures include lions, black panther, hippopotamus, brown bear, zebras, kangaroos (and they have an albino, too), various monkeys and an ostrich (which by the looks of it is totally insane), but this list is by no means full.
Whatever the animal, in Zoo da Maia you really feel close to it.
I have to confess something - that was the first time I've ever seen a live seal show, and I was excited like a child. It was so much fun! I never knew that seals are so extremely bright! The sea lion on stage was as intelligent as any dog or even more. Hey, if you're lucky you can even get kissed by a seal!
During the show the marine performer sings, jumps, bounces a ball, fetches lifebuoy to its 'drowning' trainer, gracefully slides all over the stage and even shows how to segregate your rubbish properly! It's fantastic, and you can't help admiring the animal.
If you arrive early enough, you can get front row seats, which are red plush cinema-style chairs. Highly recommendable!
If I was to change anything, I would ask for more of the seal and less of the trainer, but all in all it's an amazing show.
Bear prison break
I was treated to some extra adrenaline highs during my visit.
Zoo da Maia has a fantastic bear enclosure, where only plexiglass sheets stand between you and the powerful animal. During my visit one he-bear came right up to the glass and started toying with a huge chunk of wet wood, seemingly without any effort at all. Quick maths - an adult brown bear can weigh as much as 780 kg, add another few hundred kilograms for the wood and think hard how resistant is the plastic keeping you safe from this huge animal. A bear can look sweet and cuddly on a picture, but seen up close it's a really scary bastard and you have no doubt it could kill you with one swipe of its paws.
My bear didn't take his prison break attempt seriously, so here I am, still able to type this invitation to go to Zoo da Maia and see for yourself :)
There's something magical in a good picture of a powerful, magnificent animal. See for yourself
It goes hrrrumpf! It's a hippopotamus!
I couldn't resist inserting a charming quote from Terry Pratchett as a title for this module.
Do they have a hippopotamus in Zoo da Maia? Oh yes, they do.
It's close enough for you to touch it, if you're prepared to lose your hand in the process. Well, you could just get away with it, but let's not forget that hippoes are wild animals, with pretty mean reputation, so I'd advise you not to take your chances.
Still, the sight of a hippo a meter away with his jaws wide open is pretty impressive. And man, it has really BIG teeth.
I caught a sight of an old man feeding the hippo with carrot peelings. He had bags of the stuff so obviously he was a local helping the zoo out. The hippo got excited at the very sight of the old man, spread its jaws wide open and waited for the goodies to arrive. I couldn't help smiling and you will smile too if you happen to meet them on your visit.
Let's use our imagination and picture a battle of the giants!
If you pitted a brown bear against a hippopotamus, who would win?
Birds! Birds! Birds!
Zoo da Maia is not only about the big game. They also have plenty of feathery creatures. From an ostrich, peck-peck-pecking its cage in frustration, through the colourful display of large parrots (I couldn't get them to talk, although I tried), all the way to the graceful black swan.
The most extraordinary thing about some of them was that they didn't have any cages, yet they didn't run. I still don't know how the zoo guys managed the trick. Tiny fences around birds' enclosures were more for keeping the people out, not the birds in. I suspected the zoo keepers of crippling some wings here and there, but the birds looked healthy and agile, so it's rather unbelievably good training than torture.
Either way, it's quite a sight.
Ostriches - are they all insane?
I have to yet meet an ostrich who doesn't look totally mad. Just look in its eyes - insanity lurks there and doesn't even try to hide! What do you think?
Are all the ostriches insane?
Everybody knows that when it comes to filming wild animals, National Geographic is the best. Those guys do know their job, and they are passionate about it, too. So if you:
a) hate the very sight of caged animals and want to watch them free
b) can't have enough of watching animals and want to take them home
go for this DVD collection. You'll find all the giants of the animal kingdom there, bears, whales, jaguars, lions and more.
All filmed by the experts and presented to you in a handy box set.
Check out my other lenses!
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Did you like my zoo lens? Or not? Or maybe you have another great zoo to recommend? Whatever you want to say, say it now :)