I have a confession to make. As an animal lover and someone who considers herself a Londoner, I haven’t been to the London Zoo until now. On a warm sunny March afternoon, I have finally set my foot on its territory and embraced the feeling of childhood. The reason for such excitement was the new Land of the Lions 2,500-square meter exhibit that just opened at the London Zoo.
This breath-taking exhibit transports visitors from London’s city jungle to Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (also known as Sasan-Gir) in Gujarat, India. It provides a unique opportunity to meet up close and personal Asiatic lions and learn more about their natural habitat.
Within minutes of entering a traditional archway I was taken back into the Indian village with its own sounds, colors and smells. To get as close to the original, London Zoo’s designers went to Gujarat state for ideas and inspiration on how to present lions’ homeland as accurately as possible.
Visitors are taken on an interactive and exciting journey through various areas, such as train station, temple ruins, yoga room, private quarters, guard hut and high street.
Walking through the exhibit, I got a chance to smell sacks of spices, stretch at the yoga lounge, look at park maps in the rangers’ hut, and even check out bicycles, a life-size truck and tuk-tuk – all of which have been shipped from India.
And should you get hungry and tired, there are plenty of places to rest and taste some authentic Indian street food.
To make the exhibit as authentic as possible, its creators even included traditional inhabitants of the Gir National Park, such as pink flamingos and Hanuman langur monkeys.
The exhibit hosts four Asiatic lions: a male lion (who was out of sight when I was visiting the exhibit), lioness and their young twins who were happily laying in the shade.
This incredible exhibit that presents an opportunity to see the big cats just meters away is part of the zoo’s Asiatic lions conservation campaign. There are only about 500 Asiatic lions left in the small patch of the Gir Forest, their last habitat in the world.
Through the exhibit, the zoo hopes to raise £5.7 million to protect these endangered but deeply valued and loved species and fund a new breeding center and continued conservation work back in Sasan Gir.
To see other big cats, head to the Tiger Territory of the London Zoo. I was happy to spot this handsome Sumatran tiger who was leisurely roaming his territory and showing off its beautiful coat.
In the meerkat enclosure, while youngsters huddle around the fence, guard meerkats are on the look out for any trouble, be it sounds of the nearby traffic, planes flying over or just chatty visitors and screaming kids!
Penguin Beach is a little oasis of South America and home to a colony of Humboldt penguins. Twice a day you can watch them being fed and diving for fish into the pool.
This little fella came right to the glass barrier. I never knew penguins have grey eyes like me.
Did you know Humboldt penguins can reach up to 30 miles per hour in the water?
As someone who has been to Africa and Asia and have seen monkeys in their natural habitat, I have to say it was really sad to see this baby monkey holding on to wire fence.
Did you know that the London Zoo also has a nice aquarium? Aquarium’s building originally opened in 1924 and is now home to hundreds of species coming from fresh, tropical and amazonian waters. Beautiful coral reefs are home to the most colorful tropical fish. Here are a couple of moray eels hiding in the reefs.
Lion fish is always a stunner, especially in contrast to the blue waters and colorful reefs.
I found Nemo (aka clownfish)!
I have to say my favorite part of the zoo was Into Africa section, which offers the opportunity to come eye to eye with some of Africa’s most famous animals, such as giraffes, zebras, okapis, warthogs, hippos and African hunting dogs.
Where does one Chapman zebra end and another begins?!
How cute is this shy and timid okapi? Apparently, okapis are the only living relatives of giraffes and yet have zebra-like stripes on their legs.
The zoo has a large pack of African hunting dogs, which are very playful and boisterous. Often misunderstood and seen as vicious for their ruthlessness, today these wild dogs are on the brink of extinction.
Giraffes have such a curious nature, checking out what’s going on outside and keeping an eye on the zoo keepers!
It was a lunch time when I saw these two giraffes and they were joyfully munching on what looked like sweet potatoes.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you live in or near London, you come to see the Land of the Lions
exhibit. For more information, please visit this page.