Location: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
Highlights: Red panda exhibits, Reptile house
Photos: August 2015
Children Friendly (9): There were plenty of children interactive areas throughout the zoo to keep little ones active and interested in the exhibits. There was plenty of viewing levels at the exhibits to allow for good views of the animals. The zoo itself is not overly large or spread out so children would be able to walk for most of it. The size also does not demand a full day visit.
Animal Diversity (10): I was impressed with the variety at this zoo as it did not appear to be overly large when looking at it online. I was even more impressed with the quality of their reptile and amphibian house considering they are not very popular in Japan. Birds were also well represented including a number of birds of prey.
Animal Viewing (9): This is a category that the zoo is clearly working on improving. During my visit they were undergoing major renovations which look to be almost complete and from what I could see are going to be some world class exhibits. Some areas are clearly also recently updated. These new exhibits feature multi-level viewing with fun natural type exhibits. The red panda exhibit was one that was truly well done, overhead walk ways leading to trees they could lounge in. There were some exhibits that the animals could not be seen, I only reduced their score by one point as they were clearly in the process of moving the animals to the new exhibits.
Animals Happiness (7): Again this ties into the above mentioned updates to exhibits. This zoo definitely used to be an old style zoo with pit style exhibits and less than spacious areas for the animals. These new exhibits they have constructed have corrected this problem providing new areas for elephants, giraffes, snow monkeys, lions, etc. I’m assuming once these exhibits have opened they will be moving focus to other exhibits in need of updating. While I applaud their effort in turning their zoo into a truly world class establishment I do have to rate what I saw on the day I was there. Their polar bear and seal exhibits should definitely be next on their list to renovate.
Photography (8): With their updated exhibits there were plenty of awesome photographic opportunities. Glass was decently clean and there were many areas barrier free for the camera. I was especially impressed with the reptile exhibit, the way they did the lighting and exhibit layouts greatly reduced glare and reflections on the glass. Some exhibit fencing was difficult to get good photos through but with the new exhibits opening many of these should be rectified.
Layout/Map (8): The map was decently accurate to the zoo layout and I appreciated the multiple map postings throughout the pathways. The layout was acceptable despite being slightly erratic. Having two entrances to the zoo makes it a little more difficult to organize the zoo evenly but I think they did a pretty good job considering.
Hours (9): The hours are consistent and they are open year round which is awesome. Similar to the other zoos in Hokkaido they have shorter working hours than I’m used to seeing but I did not punish them very harshly. I do think they could open earlier to counteract this though.
Price (10): Prices were absolutely amazing! Adults were 600 yen (around $6) and children are free, and by children they mean anyone under high school age!! You do pay for parking but again the cost is low, and with admission being so low I did not deduct any point. Year long memberships are also available for a whopping 1000 yen.
Food (9): There was food throughout the zoo, in many different forms. Restaurants, food stalls, food trucks, and even a convenience store! This variety of options in eating style and types of food is great for visitors.
Website (8): The website is pretty well done and appears to be kept fairly up to date. They do have multiple foreign language options which is great but it does not convert the entire website. The English site has the basic information but not much beyond that.
Gift Shop (9): There were a couple gift shops throughout, they weren’t huge but they did have good variety. They definitely know how to market themselves as I’ve seen Maruyama Zoo snacks throughout Japan. They also had a good variety of souvenirs for both adults and children. One thing that they showcased which I always enjoy at zoos is they sold products featuring animals they actually have at the zoo and a good variety of them too! They did focus heavily on the polar bear and I’m assuming that is their feature animal currently.
Quiet Areas (10): Multiple paths leading to and from exhibits meant there were plenty of spots to sit and take a rest. Large indoor buildings had benches and rest areas. There was more than one family area with tables, activities for children, and restrooms.
Safety/Cleanliness (8): Like most areas in Japan this zoo was quite clean. Safety was also pretty well done throughout the zoo. I did reduce the score for the petting zoo area as it always increases risk to visitors. Some fencing at exhibits would allow hands to go through as well.
Extras (8): There was a number of interactive areas and informational displays throughout the zoo. Keeper talks and feedings also seemed to be a common occurrence daily which always is great for visitors. On their website it seems to display plenty of events for visitors to attend.
Overall (8.7): I was thoroughly impressed by this zoo and would love to go back in a couple years when they’ve completed their updates. It’s great to see a zoo improving themselves and greatly enhancing both the visitor experience and the welfare of their animals.