As an animal lover who enjoys visiting the zoo in almost every place we go, I’m not quite sure why it took us so long to visit Toronto Zoo!
Located in Scarborough in the east of the city, Toronto Zoo is accessible by public transit but it took us a lengthy 90 minutes to reach our destination. According to google it would have taken 25 minutes by car… one of very few times I wished we had a car!
We picked up free tickets (again using those museum passes) to the zoo back in February, and said we would go when the weather got warmer, but 3 months later and our tickets were due to expire. Of course the only day left that we had to visit was the one with thunderstorms and heavy rain. There’s a lesson somewhere there about not leaving things to the last minute… Not wanting to waste the tickets we went anyway and were thankful for the gaps in the downpours as well as the many indoor enclosures and sheltered viewing areas. These features would also offer plenty of respite from the cold if visiting in the winter months.
The main attraction at Toronto Zoo are the 2 giant pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, who arrived in Toronto in 2013 and are the only pandas in the whole of Canada. Having visited pandas at Edinburgh Zoo we had pretty low expectations of seeing them doing anything interesting since pandas sleep for 14 hours a day. We weren’t disappointed! The plan was to go back and visit them again in the hope of catching them awake, but by the end of the day we had had enough of the rain, so chose to catch the bus home instead. This is why there are no pictures, but I’m sure we all know what a panda looks like, if not, you can see us with one here.
It’s not just about pandas though, the zoo is huge, covering an area of 710 acres making it one of the largest zoos in the world. Altogether it’s home to over 5,000 creatures, including a baby gorilla born last year, lions, giraffes, a hippo, tigers and 3 polar bears. You could easily take a picnic (or visit one of the many food outlets) and spend a whole day there. A word of warning – the food outlets have a tendency to close due to the weather, so if you fancy a beavertail get it while you can otherwise you will be disappointed!
If looking at the animals on the ground is not enough, adrenaline seekers of all ages can glide high above the polar bears on the TundraAir ride, or look down on the gorillas from the high ropes course. Unfortunately both of these were closed due to the weather 😦 but I’d like to give them ago next time.
The zoo felt tired in parts, especially when compared to the swanky new panda enclosure. You had to feel sorry for the Canadian animal section which was stuck out miles away from the rest. Of course these were all animals you can see in the wild so probably aren’t attractive to most visitors but having failed to see moose and raccoons yet this area appealed to us.
The highlight of the trip was when sheltering from the rain Stewart spotted something moving behind a bin. We were excited to discover it was a raccoon, who then ran across the picnic area and attempted to get in another bin before being scared off by all the cameras suddenly on him! Toronto is famous for raccoons, which have a pretty bad reputation rather like the ‘urban fox’ back home. We’d never managed to see one in the wild until now so it was exciting for us. It did spark conversations about which raccoon was happier – the one in captivity or the one feasting on leftovers? Or if the one in the pit was just one that fell in there one day and the zoo decided to keep it!
Overall it was a good day, and if the weather had been better we would have spent a bit longer there and popped in to see the pandas a second time in an attempt to see them awake. I’d like to come back in the winter to see the animals in the snow!