Posts Tagged ‘summer’

Location: Itsukushima, Hiroshima, Japan (Miyajima)

Website: https://www.miyajima-aqua.jp/english/

Highlights: Oyster Farming Rafts, Otters

Photos: August 2016

Children Friendly (9): Being a smaller aquarium this is a great place to take little ones for a break from the heat. Being completely redone recently means everything is clean, new, and well signed. Exhibits are floor to ceiling, creating great viewing spots for children and plenty of opportunities to see things up close. Plenty of interaction also available with hands on opportunities and activities.

Animal Diversity (5): Being an aquarium that automatically means less diversity (for the most part) and this one being a smaller aquarium their diversity certainly took a hit. That being said they state they are focusing in the Seto Inland Sea, the waters surrounding the island itself, and in that sense they do a great job. Go here to learn about Japan and its animals not a world encompassing aquarium.

Animal Viewing (9): Like I’ve said, they’ve completely redone it recently and the new exhibits are great. Plenty of interesting exhibits which makes viewing the animals more fun. No animals were off display during our visit and for the most part were easy to spot or find. Great multi-level displays also.

Animals Happiness (8): The vast majority of the exhibits were very well done – natural looking, spacious for the animals, and plenty of natural enrichment. Interactive aspects are only done at certain times/days which gives the animals a break. The finless porpoise exhibit was an extreme letdown though. While we got good views of them their exhibit was bleak. Small with zero enrichment and it doesn’t appear to have any other exhibits for them, definitely a disappointment after seeing all the other well done exhibits.

Photography (8): This category was ok but not amazing. The exhibits were great with all the natural settings and interesting set-ups making for good photos. Multiple levels and viewing windows provided plenty of angles for pictures and spots to see animals. The lighting for many of the exhibits were dimmer, making the pictures sometimes appear lackluster or blurry as the exposure was longer. This isn’t awful but for the average photographer or tourist this might be tricky.

Layout/Map (6): Due to its multiple floors, the map of this aquarium is more confusing than most. The fact that the assigned route switches between the floors without completing all of one first makes it even more difficult. Arrows on the map help as does the general flow of the aquarium once inside but overall it’s not completely easy. Many exhibits are also multi-level which can throw some people off in terms of orienting themselves to the map.

Hours (7): A standard 9-5 opening hours means consistency which is great. I do feel like on weekends or in the summer time those could be extended, especially since most of their attractions are indoors and they’re near a HUGE tourist draw of Japan.

Price (7): Cheaper than your standard North American aquarium and some others in Japan but I wouldn’t consider it a deal, especially since it’s smaller than a lot of other aquariums I’ve been to. Discounts for students, children, and seniors helps as would a membership but you’d need at least three visits to start saving money.

Food (8): What I’ve come to associate with aquarium restaurants, quick easy meals which won’t break the bank but satisfy the majority of the population. Some ramen options, curry rice, and fun aquarium themed desserts. The prices were decent and plenty of children’s options but nothing to rave about.

Website (8): Again a satisfactory English version website. Gives all the necessary information right off the bat with times and prices, easy to navigate as it’s all on one page with skip down options. I thoroughly appreciated the photos of each exhibit right on the website which helps you get an idea of where you’re going and whether or not it’s worth your visit. Some more up close animal shots would be appreciated or information on any seasonal events or promotions.

Gift Shop (10): Another great gift shop! Japan seems to excel in this category, which is probably helped along by the type of consumers Japanese tourists are. Great themed merchandise with plenty of appreciation for many species they carry. Great souvenirs for adults and children alike with toys, food, and clothing all options.

Quiet Areas (8): At first I wasn’t going to give this as high but it turns out they have an outdoor picnic area which would drastically increase their opportunities to take some time to the side or have a lunch break. It wasn’t overly crowded when I visited towards the end of the day which meant plenty of space and time to spend in front of the exhibits.

Safety/Cleanliness (7): If you don’t join into any of the extras this would be a point or two higher actually. The aquarium in terms of cleanliness if quite high scoring. They recently redid the aquarium with new exhibits and signage and everything looks awesome. Safety is more in terms of parents watching their children for the most part. Many exhibits have open tops and children could potentially reach inside or even touch the animals if they’re so bold and being held up by a parent. They do have touch tanks and interactive options with some animals at certain times of the day – again posing a potential hazard.

Extras (7): They do have some animal shows and interactive areas such as touch tanks, holes in exhibits for the otters to hold hands, and supervised petting of penguins as well. It does appear they have some talks throughout the day. I couldn’t see any information about events or programing beyond those though which I feel could be added in quite easily.

Overall (7.6): I enjoyed this zoo! It wasn’t necessarily one I would go back to or list in my top aquariums but they did a great job showcasing the animals in the Seto Inland Sea. If you’re in the area and want to learn more about Japanese animals I would recommend it for your afternoon – it doesn’t take the whole day so it’s a nice break indoors!


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Location: Susuno, Shizuoka, Japan

Website: www.fujisafari.co.jp/english

Highlights: Safari Drive Through, Walk through capybaras

Photos: July 2016

Children Friendly (7): A fairly child friendly zoo with plenty of options to make your day more suitable for your children. Having half the zoo a drive through you can save the little ones walking and tiring out too quickly. Lots of interactive portions and opportunities for the kids to get up close and personal with the animals. While this is exciting, I did knock off some points as there were a number of petting areas or close encounter areas without enough staff supervision in my opinion.

Animal Diversity (7): A surprisingly wide variety of animals, not just ‘African safari’ but also have a number of more domesticated species, and those from other areas of the world. Mammals are the vast majority of the animals so if you’re looking for reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, fish, etc. this isn’t the best location for you.

Animal Viewing (9): I was extremely surprised by the amount of animals they had on display, especially through the safari. I was expecting a handful of each (lions, tigers, bears, etc) but there were conservatively 20 of each. This meant you were pretty much guaranteed to get a good view of, at least, one from each section. They were fairly close to the driving pathways as well so you didn’t have to manoeuver awkwardly to see them well. We did not take the safari bus but from online photos this is where you are going to have a hindered view. Due to the number of grates and barriers needed for safety you won’t get as good a view.

Animals Happiness (5): While the number of animals is great in terms of spectators, it felt very cramped to me. The large amounts of space in each section was deceiving as they were boxed off by electric wire into smaller sections for individuals. Having so many other members of their species surrounding them, in range of their senses, and being confined to your own area must be a little distressing. The elephant section also appeared rather small with limited enrichment for their residents.

Photography (6): For the majority of my visit the photography was fairly good, lots of animals close by with limited obstructions. This was largely due to my method of travel as we drove our own car through. Taking the safari vehicle or bus would make taking photos of any decent quality virtually impossible.

Layout/Map (5): I found the layout quite confusing and nonsensical. The safari portion is one way with a loop so in that regard it is hard to mess up. The remainder of the zoo however is all over the place with animals not arranged according to anything in particular. There is also limited signage to help you navigate from the parking or between sections. The map is fairly good, with good labeling and definitely helps you find your way.

Hours (9): Pretty consistent throughout the year which is good for guests. I was surprised they are open year round considering the general type of animals they house. Fairly early hours during the peak season and staying open later for a drive through safari style park. Night views increase their hours during peak times as well. I do think they could open slightly earlier or at least keep the walk through section a bit later to increase their hours as well.

Price (7): Quite pricey compared to other zoos in Japan, more comparable to aquarium prices here. That being said most foreigners, at least from Canada or America, would find it pretty standard. Discounts available for children and seniors. Food and souvenirs were decently priced as well as other small features. The bus and safari vehicle rentals were pretty pricey but if you drive your own vehicle that would eliminate that cost. The animal cafes were also an additional cost.

Food (10): I was impressed with the actual number of dining locations throughout the zoo, especially since the non-safari portion isn’t that large. A cafeteria style main restaurant had a wide variety of options ranging from hearty to light, and everything fairly suitable to children or foreign visitors. A number of more sit-down restaurants were also available and had decent menu options with variation between them. Some snack venders were also around selling more of the treat or quick varieties of zoo food.

Website (8): The English version of the website contained quite a bit of information. It was fairly simply designed but got the appropriate information across. Online maps and pictures were a great inclusion at least for their main features. I appreciate the FAQ section and the simple navigation. I do think they could still improve on appearance and information. Especially on events or births which would draw even more foreign visitors I think.

Gift Shop (10): A huge gift shop which was full of every variety of souvenir or gift you could want. Toys, stuffed animals, games, puzzles, clothing, figurines, etc. They really focused on the animals they had there at the zoo and I was impressed that many of the puzzles, toys, and other gifts used pictures of animals actually from the zoo itself. Educational section was well done with books and games and things. Pricing was decent as well on the items. They did have plenty of the more Japanese style souvenirs but they also included quite a few unique ones that I hadn’t seen anywhere else which would be fun to bring home to family and friends (example: animal themed masks for when you’re sick).

Quiet Areas (7): Not too bad in this arena. The confusion about pathways and getting through the zoo did lend itself to this in many regards. There were a decent amount of benches or areas away from crowds, at least when we were there. The cafeteria restaurant was very spacious which meant you could sit alone or away from other groups. On busier days the majority of quiet time would probably be in your own vehicle as opposed to any area set up by the zoo.

Safety/Cleanliness (3): In terms of cleanliness I didn’t find it overly clean. The pathways and bathrooms were fairly clean, no signs of garbage or anything. I did think they needed an update of some sort though to tidy them up or make them look a little more put together. Safety wise I think they needed much more staff monitoring the sections to ensure the safety of both the animals and guests. In the drive through area there were far too many animals per each staff member in vehicles ensuring people were keeping their windows closed/not feeding. In the walk through portions again there was not enough staff presence making sure the animals were well contained or showing guests how to properly feed and pet the animals.

Extras (8): More extras than I was expecting for a seemingly one concept zoo. They had three different animal cafes for an additional price. An option to walk through the driving portion on a special path. Bus tours or safari vehicles for rent. Night time zoo was available on certain days/time periods throughout the year which is an awesome thing to include. Some more educational programing and workshops with be an awesome addition if they have the staff and room to do so.

Overall (7.2): Overall a decent zoo to stop in on. It had a larger variety of animals than I expected and you won’t have a problem viewing them. In terms of a unique Japanese zoo I would chose others instead which feature more native Japanese species and in a more convenient location. If you have the means to get here for the afternoon it is pleasant though and you can come home with a great variety of souvenirs.

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Maruyama Zoo Review

Location: Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Website: www.city.sapporo.jp/zoo/

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.

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Looking for activities or camps for your children once they’re done school for the year? Look no further than a zoo near you!

Many zoos host summer camps, weekly educational programs, or overnight events. These are a great option for children who love animals or the outdoors. Based around educating youth on the different species as well as ecology, conservation, and the environment, zoo summer camps will keep your child’s mind working while instilling positive ecofriendly outlooks. As a parent you can also feel great knowing that your money is going towards helping zoos care for their animals and/or are funding conservation initiatives worldwide.

Make sure you start looking now – February and March are usually when registration begins for summer programming and spots can fill up fast!

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TIP: Go All Year!

The zoo is a wonderful place to go on a day off with family and friends. For most people this would be in the summer when the kids are out of school, vacation time is booked, or the weather is nice. I would like to use this post to show some pros and cons of going to the zoo during different seasons. I went to a zoo in the middle of winter for the first time a couple years ago and it opened my eyes to a whole different experience!

****Reminder: These seasons are according to Southwestern Ontario. Weather patterns may be different where you are and should be factored in accordingly.****

– Pros: Warmer weather, increase in baby animals, prices may still be cheaper, most exhibits on display, more events to start promotions for busy season
– Cons: Higher potential for rain days, some exhibits may be still closed, slightly busy

– Pros: Best hours, Most amounts of exhibits open, baby animals, plenty of events/promotions, usually when new attractions/exhibits open, nice weather
– Cons: potentially too hot, lethargic/irritable animals, very busy/crowded, sometimes higher prices

– Pros: Nice weather, more active animals, less busy, most exhibits still open, potentially cheaper rates
– Cons: Potentially less exhibits open, Potentially bad weather

– Pros: Least amount of crowding, cheapest prices, active animals
– Cons: Cold, least amount of exhibits open, potentially construction

African Lion at the Toronto Zoo

African Lion at the Toronto Zoo in Winter

Overall, I feel that the more time you have at exhibits to fully appreciate the animals you spent the money to see the more fulfilling your trip. No matter what the time of year, if you go during the week instead of weekends and holidays it will be far less busy. If you go during the off season (if the zoo near you is open more than just July/August), the less crowded it will be. I have found it far more enjoyable to go in the fall and winter when the animals aren’t stressed from the heat and are moving around more – this way you get to understand their behaviours better.

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