Visit to Vandalur Zoo Chennai – Day At One Of India’s Most Magnificent Zoos–Part 1


On entering the outermost gate, the first thing I sensed was a palpable air of anticipation. People where really looking like they loved nothing better than to go check out Vandalur Zoo Chennai, also called Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

Vandalur Zoo Chennai

There was a good reason why there was a surprisingly large crowd here at the zoo. Chief Minister Ms. J. Jayalalithaa who the Press has termed ‘the Iron Lady of Tamil Nadu’ has added yet another accomplishment to her extensive list of victories by promoting and funding massive renovations, methodologies and animal rights and environmental laws, all of which is represented in the new Vandalur Zoo Chennai (15 kms. From Chennai Airport).

Better cages for the animals, solar powered lighting for the exhibits (the Hyena enclosure, to offer one example), brick-and-granite walls artfully raised in and around the zoo, a 12m fenced lawn, mural relief sculptures, a main entrance tower, lawns, computerized ticket counters and much much more, totaling an approximate 32.5 million rupees! Wowza! This is the first renovation (in 2011) that Vandalur Zoo has seen since it shifted from Park Town in 1979.

The look of the zoo is awesome, lush, calm, serene and perfectly natural. I was visiting with three close friends, Richardson S., Tony A., and Ranjith D. It promised to be a fun and memorable day and little did I know it would indeed be so.

During the trip over, we indulged in a long impromptu debate about whether or not we eat at the canteen inside Vandalur, situated just inside the main entrance. Don’t get me wrong, the food is alright and there’s variety, except when there’s a crowd. Then the dishes just seem to get over faster than new ones can be cooked up; and today was a crowded day (the 4th of January and a Saturday to boot). I can’t really complain, because the zoo does see several hundred visitors every day, and the revenue record has its own opera to sing.

We took a few seconds to appreciate the long standing waterfall feature right before the path swerves to the entrance (on the left) and the exit (on the right). We took the obvious route and headed in. After buying tickets and deciding that we will eat at the canteen the four of us started a crucial debate between walking or cycling through the zoo. The space is very extensive, as you might imagine, and we all had a gut feeling our legs weren’t really going to help us out today.

Vandalur Zoo Chennai Reviews

After all, the Vandalur zoo Chennai sits on 602 hectares (1,490 acres)! And that already shocking space includes a 92.45-hectare (228.4-acre) rescue and rehabilitation centre. It’s no surprise Vandalur is the largest zoological garden in all of India. Okay, that’s it, cycling it is. With an advance of 200 bucks for each cycle, we rented out 4 bikes for 15 bucks an hour per head and were off along the beautiful garden-decked central double-road towards Vandalur Zoo proper.

The photographs and videos you’ll be seeing in this post will work greatly to share the experiences my friends and I had as we cycled in awe through this wonderfully restored zoological park. Some of the pictures and videos may showcase the animals in a not so open space, when in fact the enclosure actually links to a much larger space behind.

The enclosures were natural and ideally lush without obstructing our view of the wildlife, birds included. There are about 72 moated enclosures (zoo habitats surrounded by a deep sloping pit with water down below; safe for the animals, no worries) here, adding to the natural ‘look’ of things.

However, animals have a mind of their own (duh) and it looked like they were ‘off for the weekend’ because not all of them were up and about just because we were visiting. We still enjoyed the ambiance, the thrill of seeing the fauna that could be seen and the curiosity that the big boys will come close enough to give us a truly memorable photograph to take back home. Here are some of the awesome sights we enjoyed seeing inside the Arignar Anna Zoological Park…

vandalur zoo chennai reviews

1. Lion-tailed Macaques – This endangered species was the first on our cycle-trip. It did look like its namesake too, getting us excited to see the actual feline in question.

2. Albino Peacocks – Beautiful ivory-white and looking like they were all wearing wedding veils but were missing their grooms. 

3. Rhesus & Capuchin Monkeys – Cute and busy grooming away. The Capuchins weren’t as aggressive as a certain movie made them out to be.

4. Cockatoo & Silver Pheasant – Where the former was busy preening the latter caught our attention simply because of the strangely bold color patterns on it and what looked like an Italian hairdo.

5. Common Stork, Adjutant Stork & Egrets – They looked amazing, though, and we had a laugh at the typo in the Adjutant Stork’s name (the photo will reveal all).

6. Bugs – It was a silly couldn’t-help-it look at a cluster of them on the side of the road. All around us were animal enclosures waiting to be seen and here we were, sitting on our heels and checking out some bugs.

Vandalur Zoo Chennai Reviews

7. Indian Bison or Gaur – The bull was one crazy looking animal. It looked like a bouncer at a disco, a powerful stance even when sitting , lol, and a don’t-you-dare attitude.

8. Sambar Deer – Amidst laughs at the familiar sound of the name to a popular Indian food dish we enjoyed seeing this large deer species quite close.

9. Gir Lion – They were pretty far away and not really visible from this distance, but here are some pics that we could capture of a young male Gir Lion and an older lioness coming to join him where he sat.

10. Sloth Bear – Cute, cuddly but actually quite deadly, these playful bears seemed more tired than excited today.

11. The Sanctuary Aviary – All those birds in one place doing nothing but standing and making noise kinda reminded me of Congress. In this case, they were beautiful to see, especially the nests and baby chicks.

12. Bengal Vulture, Hornbill & Great White Pelican – The first two were stock still but afforded us a good angle to take some shots. The Pelicans were gorgeous. I had never seen their like before, so this was a first for me.

13. White-Bellied Sea Eagle & Indian Kites – We wanted the eagle to fly but our ‘photographer’ was running a little late as he made his way from another enclosure and so the three of us who were at this exhibit saw one of these eagles make a rather majestic flight around the space before roosting on a high perch. The Kites looked like they were planning an escape; that’s all I can reveal, the rest is classified.

14. Reticulated Python – We saw this one in the Serpentarium and he seemed to be digesting a rather large meal. Made us gulp.

Reticulated Python–Vandalur Zoo Chennai


15. American Alligator & Nile Crocodile – Quiet, statuesque and unmoving. National Geographic and Animal Planet taught us better, though.

16. Giraffes & Zebra; sort of – It was the first time I actually saw a giraffe with my own eyes and it was magnificent. These were younglings so what they lacked in incredible height they made up for with that singular mottled pattern of brown and white. The zebra, well, what can I say… They retired for the day, except for one whose striped butt was visible from afar. And yeah, we took a picture.

17. Chimpanzee & Hanuman Langur – The chimps seemed to be talking about us over a snack of shoots as much as we were busy talking about them over, well, no snacks with us.

18. Asian Elephants – We spotted a couple of slightly mature baby elephants who seemed to be engrossed in a game the two of them were playing. Check out our video.

19. Hippopotamus – These two were young ones too, cute and cuddly but what Nature programs have shown to be speedy and ruthless if threatened. These two were a bit shy at all the attention they were getting. Here’s a video…


Happy Hippos–Vandalur Zoo Chennai


20. Ostriches – One of 4 zoos in all of India have Ostriches and Vandalur is one of them. There were so many Ostriches, all looking happy in their enclosures I couldn’t help but want to see them run free and give that legendary speed of theirs some credit.

21. Bengal & White Tiger –These are, at least in my opinion, the best of all the big cats and my favorite animal in the world. I was disappointed to see they were asleep or afar off but I was happy to stand in awe of those unique stripes and wonder at the sheer power these felines packed in those claws and those fangs.

Vandalur Zoo Chennai Reviews

In part 2, I’ll take you through on the rest of the adventures we had that day in Vandalur Zoo.

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