For those who don’t know, Al Ain is just over an hours drive from Abu Dhabi, along a well maintained highway passing through the desert. We made good time (but watch out for the point where the limit goes down from 120kph to 100kph, I’ve been caught out there before) and then it was just a matter of following the brown tourist signs to the zoo itself.
Like many places in the UAE the zoo has a dress code, basically knees and shoulders to be covered. We made sure we were in compliance with this, but did see a handful of people who hadn’t complied. They weren’t refused entry but I would recommend that if you are going, you should follow the rules just to be safe. I understand they may have scarves available for any ladies who forget to cover their shoulders.
Entry is cheap at AED 20 (just over £3) for adults and AED 15 for children. You really can’t complain at that. There was a bit of a queue to pay, but some people seemed to be walking straight in so I assume you can buy tickets in advance. If this is the case, and you are visiting, you may want to do this to save some time.
Once we were inside the zoo was very much like any zoo in the UK, broken up into zones for different “types” of animals. We started with the big cats, to the right as we entered the zoo, and then worked our way around anti clockwise. We had read some reviews commenting on how far you have to walk between enclosures but to be honest we didn’t think the distances were unreasonable at all (maybe we would feel differently in the hotter part of the year).
The animals themselves looked well cared for, not that I am an expert. It’s fair to say that most of them were fairly inactive but I’m sure the same would be true in Blackpool Zoo if the temperature was 30 degrees. Most of the enclosures had boards giving useful information about the animals, although some of these were missing and at least one was wrong (they seemed have mixed the lions and tigers up).
The zoo has a central area with a cafe and a grass area where you can eat a picnic, although I don’t think you can take your own food in. The cafe does a good selection of sandwiches, pizzas and other hot food. The prices are very reasonable, particularly when compared to what you would be charged in the UK, and the quality was reasonable. It is worth noting that there were a lot of flies about so you may want to try and get a table inside.
After lunch we worked our way round to the play area where Archie and Flossie spent a happy few minutes. We then went to the children’s zoo area where they both had a short ride on a horse and enjoyed feeding a lovely chocolate colored camel. These activities cost extra, but only AED 10 or so, which isn’t bad at all. You can also pay to feed the giraffes (and the budgies I think) but we didn’t do this.
For those who don’t want to walk there is a “train” which does circuits round the park, stopping off at various points, and we also saw a few families being transported round in big golf buggies, stopping every now and then for everyone to clamber off and take a photo before dragging their weary legs back to the buggy. This seemed like the height of laziness but who am I to judge?
All in all we had a very enjoyable day. There aren’t as many animals as in a zoo like Blackpool, and some favorites are missing (elephants in particular) but it was a very pleasant and cheap way to spend a few hours.
You can find the zoo’s website here.