Gembira Loka Zoo

This morning we headed out early to check out the Gembira Loka Zoo, which is not too far from where we’re staying. In a town with very few parks or green spaces, the zoo was a refreshing change of scenery.

We got there pretty soon after it opened and almost had the place to ourselves

We got there pretty soon after it opened and almost had the place to ourselves

The zoo grounds also include a large arboretum and a lake, so it makes for a pleasant shady walk.

The lake. You can rent paddle boats, too, if just looking at the lake isn't enough for you.

The lake. You can rent paddle boats, too, if just looking at the lake isn’t enough for you.

I never thought I’d say this, but the reptiles and birds were really the highlight of the zoo. I suppose that makes sense since a lot of them are native to the region.

There were lots of opportunities for creature interactions

There were lots of opportunities for creature interactions

Hugo has been making me read him this huge book about reptiles on repeat for the last 10 days, so he was pretty excited to identify all the different things we were seeing.

This guy seems pretty nonchalant about the giant Komodo Dragon standing right behind him

This guy seems pretty nonchalant about the giant Komodo Dragon standing right behind him

The bird area had a large space where the native species were just flying around freely. I wish I had made some video so you could hear the cacophony of bird squawks and see them swooping here and there.

In the giant bird house. Did I mention that it was already a thousand degrees outside at 9 in the morning? Poor Hugo looks like he's wilting.

In the giant bird house. Did I mention that it was already a thousand degrees outside at 9 in the morning? Poor Hugo looks like he’s wilting.

This guy glared at us from his perch:

He was probably pretty mad about being awake during the day

He was probably pretty mad about being awake during the day

One of the main differences between zoos in developing countries and zoos in the US is how close you can get to the animals. This is often cool, but sometimes terrifying. I could have tapped a 15 foot crocodile on the head if I really wanted to.

This tapir trotted right up to us. Do tapirs bite? I didn't want to find out the hard way.

This tapir trotted right up to us. Do tapirs bite? I didn’t want to find out the hard way.

We also got uncomfortably close to a cassowary bird. Not familiar with the cassowary? Well, they’re huge and deadly and make the most disturbing didgeridoo sort of sound.

There was also a large playground and lots of tunnels and slides and interesting things for kids to climb on.

Overall I’d say the zoo exceeded my expectations. There were some low points (elephants in a bare dirt field), and some disappointments (small and depressing aquarium), but the reptiles and birds were fantastic, and the park itself is very well maintained.

Tickets were 20,000 rupiah each (approximately $1.55; children under 3 are free).

The zoo and park are stroller-friendly, so if your little one tends to get tired, I’d recommend that you bring one. There are ramps next to all the stairs, but be warned there are 2 very steep hills (down at the entrance, back up at the exit).

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