If you have a few extra hours in Mendoza and find yourself hangover free after touring the scattered wineries, a great way to spend the day is at the Mendoza city zoo. Located in the western part of the city is the huge Parque General San Martin (San Martin Park). It is the largest park in town and provides many fun activities. It is easy to lose yourself in the 865 acres of the park that is made up of soccer fields, walking/jogging paths, a national science museum, camp grounds, and of course the Mendoza Zoo.
The zoo is open daily from 9am to 6pm and provides all kinds of wildlife and entertainment for next to nothing prices.
The city map I looked at when I began to plan out my day showed that the park was just a few blocks away. Sounded like a pleasant trip to me. Far enough to get a little exercise, but close enough that I wouldn’t get tired and worn out before arriving. Or so I thought. If you consider walking to the zoo I would advise you to take a couple of things into consideration. Number one – the weather. Number two – the monstrosity of the park through which you will be walking. Apparently my planning senses were a little off for the day. The park is beautiful and provides plenty to look at; however, the 90 degree temperatures and far as the eye can see park streets didn’t provide the most ideal conditions.
Walking through the gates we were greeted by a massive Toucan sitting at the entrance that acted as the guard to the park. He must have been content with his living conditions because there was nothing holding him back from jumping ship at any moment. I was surprised he hadn’t been trained to ask for our tickets our at least say “Hola” to everyone entering the park. The freedom of this beautiful bird was the first sign I had that the Mendoza Zoo operated by a different set of standards than those we may be accustomed to in the United States. The aura at the zoo was very distinct and before I knew it I had forgotten about my sweat soaked clothing and was lost in the Jumanji world within.
Inside the zoo walls was a lush garden of all kinds of flowers, plants, and trees. It was beautifully manicured and the animals appeared to enjoy it just as much as the visitors. There were numerous trails throughout the park that be gave us options on what to see and where to go. Many maps and friendly guides were also available along the way to point us in the right direction if we ever found ourselves lost or desperate to find one specific animal.
If you are more of the lions, tigers, and bears type there are plenty of these large beasts scattered around for your viewing purposes. Once again the differences in zoo standards was very obvious here as the cages of these animals were close enough for anyone to reach up and pet the big furry kitty sitting inside. I am sure that the animals are tamed enough to not react to the curious bystanders, but to be safe I decided not to take the risk and kept a bit of a distance. No doubt that it was a much more interactive zoo than any I had experienced in the past.
The giants of the zoo are on the other side of the park. Some may enjoy stopping to watch the birds, deer, sheep and goats that connected each of the extreme habitats and animals but I found myself racing through this part of the park until I had reached the African safari of the zoo. The enormity and unfamiliarity of the elephants and hippos has always fascinated me. I sat and watched them play around in the water until I was distracted by a strange noise to my side. Stretched out on the pole of a fence right next to me was a friendly monkey who was enjoying his day relaxing in the park as much as I was. I was a little startled at first but in no time was playing the “lets get as close as we can and snap a photo” game with the little creature. After getting a few good shots, some friends of the monkey must have gotten jealous that he was getting all of the attention and they all came running over to visit as well. They were very fun to visit with and a great addition to our zoo adventure.
If you plan on making a trip to the zoo make sure you prepare yourself for the interactive atmosphere. Bring some water, a camera, and do yourself a favor and take the bus. There is a bus that drops you right at the front gate of the zoo and travels down Avenida de Los Platanos within Parque General San Martin every half hour.