Location: Vaughan, Ontario
Highlights: Nile crocodiles, Tortoises
Children Friendly (7): For kids who love snakes, turtles, or any other herps Reptilia is their dream. Exhibits are at a great level for kids and being indoors you see the species up close. Even though the exhibits are close, quite a few species are tough to spot which could leave some children frustrated or disappointed. Little legs will be able to handle walking throughout as it’s not very large. Talks put on throughout the day allow children to touch interpretive pieces and ask questions.
Animal Diversity (2): As the name suggests, this zoo is pretty exclusive to herps. While their diversity in that area is pretty vast, don’t expect to see the big zoo sellers like mammals or birds.
Animal Viewing (9): Like mentioned above, exhibits are right along the pathway and nicely lit which allows for some great viewing. While for obvious reasons almost all the exhibits have a glass barrier, I didn’t find it hindered viewing. Many exhibits also had some great underwater viewing features. I did knock off a point as some exhibits did not seem to have anything on display (I did search for quite some time!) with no signage or reason given.
Animals Happiness (9): The exhibits were pretty stunning. They truly looked like the species were at home. Clean and well suited to each species, the exhibits really showcased the animal. The right environments were also evident – water, shade, heat, hiding spots all seemed to be addressed.
Photography (8): The above factors greatly contributed to this high score. Clean glass, close up species, stunning environments, and good lighting all contributed to being able to get some great shots. If you’re into photographing herps this is the place to do it (outside of the wild of course). Also a great spot to practice macro shots as many species are right against the glass for you. I did knock off some points as some exhibits have some badly marked glass from shells or claws which can hinder a photographer.
Layout/Map (5): No map was given upon arrival therefore no points were given for that aspect. The layout of the area was fairly straightforward, a one way trip through the exhibits. Like I’ve said about other zoos/aquariums with this layout, it can make bottlenecking an issue as well as more difficult for guests to choose which animals to visit when.
Hours (10): Great hours! Open every day but Christmas, and with consistent opening hours they definitely deserve this high grade. Evening hours during the week encourage family visits after school.
Price (8): Prices are fairly standard with discounts for children and seniors. Considering the size of the zoo and animal diversity it could be pricey for families.
Food (0): No restaurant or food located within the zoo building.
Website (10): Very impressed by their website. They have plenty of drop down menus making it easy to find the information you are looking for. Very well organized with pictures and info about some of their biggest attractions. It’s a great spot to help plan out events or see what other cool things the organization is up to as well.
Gift Shop (10): The gift shop was amazing. Think of it as a zoo gift shop combined with a pet store – that’s basically what it is! In terms of the shop part they had plenty of awesome reptile and amphibian toys, clothing, and educational books. I liked that they kept it mainly to their theme of the actual zoo. They also had a pet store within their gift shop. With experts on hand zoo guests or just people wanting to know more can stop in and learn. Considering the organizations commitment to conservation and awareness, I would feel much more at ease purchasing a new pet from them than any other pet store.
Quiet Areas (2): Seeing as it is an indoor zoo, there is less room to ‘get away’ from noise or other guests. While my visit was mid-day during the week and not at their peak times, I can see how a busy weekend could be overwhelming. There are some areas to take a seat but having a moment to yourself could be hard to come by.
Safety/Cleanliness (6): Overall I found the majority of the areas clean and safe. In the middle of zoo there is a feeding area which could be an issue for parents and children alike. No staff was present at it when we were there (could be different weekends/busy days). There are signs stating that animals may nip but the potential for children to become injured is definitely there – especially if children (or adults) are reaching across trying to touch the animals. During feedings often keepers enter into exhibits with the animals – I know they do training and spend time with them but it has the potential for keeper injury or escapes.
Extras (10): Probably some of the best extras I’ve seen at a zoo or aquarium – especially for one this size! They are truly for the cause of converting people into reptile and amphibian lovers! The extras are endless: feedings, birthdays, appearances, camps, and school programming. They do programming for classrooms, providing animals for the class to take care of and learn about. They do pet boarding, allowing a safe place with experts to monitor your pet while you’re away. Perhaps my favourite extra is the phobia courses they run. This program can have huge impacts on people which can ultimately help in conservation efforts – battling myths and helping people all at the same time.
Overall (6.9): All in all this was a surprisingly well implemented zoo. For everyone wanting to learn more about the slithering species of the world this is the place to go. The exhibits were stunning and they have live feedings every day. Perhaps their best features are the extras – their programming is phenomenal!