Saigon Zoo & Botanical Gardens with a Toddler
Please don’t feed the hippos….or kiss my baby.
Here’s the low-down on going to the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens with a toddler. My son was 18 months old during our first visit. We went by taxi. I didn’t know the name of the zoo in Vietnamese (Thao Cam Vien), so I just showed the driver one of Gabriel’s toy tigers. He figured it out and it took about 10-15 minutes to drive there from An Phu in District 2.
The botanical garden aspect of the park was kept up really well. There are lots of interesting species of trees and flowers, most of which are labeled.
Most of the zoo is accessible by stroller.
You can pay extra for a tram ride around the zoo if the kids are too tired to walk OR you don’t want them getting too close to the exhibits.
It’s a large area and you can easily spend a few hours there.
There is a lot of green space for kids to run around.
There is a small amusement park near the entry with rides suitable for toddlers and preschoolers.
Kids under 2 are free and the adult price was low. I can’t remember exactly, but I think it was less than a dollar.
It’s in a central location, so you can combine the zoo trip with other attractions in District 1.
The worst part about the zoo experience was the condition of the animals habitats. Some were okay, but any animals in water just had such dirty water to live in.
Safety was not always up to the standard I’d like when I’ve got my child around dangerous animals. In the Crocodile section, a child (or an insane adult) could easily jump over the fence and down into the exhibit. Some of the primates were only separated from spectators by a short fence and a little moat.
Not all sections are stroller friendly, so unless you want to take baby in and out of the stroller, you won’t be able to see everything. On the plus side, other visitors are very helpful with kids and will help you carry a stroller up some stairs if you need it.
People were taunting the animals, which is not an example I want my son to see. At the lion section, people were banging on the glass to get the lion to roar. At the hippo section, people were danging their hands down to feed the hippos junk food. Yikes!
With toddlers, you really need to keep them in a stroller or sling all the time for safety’s sake. Gabriel could think, “Hey let me feed the hippo too!” and end up getting his arm chomped off.
When I was there, a big event was happening in the central park area near the elephants and deer. It was extremely loud and the sound system was of horrible quality.
Random people kept coming up and kissing Gabriel, pinching his cheeks and taking photos with him. He is not used to this, so he didn’t like it. He didn’t mind the photos, but he didn’t like ladies (and it was always ladies) touching him.
He did like saying hi to all the Vietnamese babies and toddlers. Parents like babies to socialize, so several families came up to us and started talking to us, even though I couldn’t understand Vietnamese. That was actually a positive, as long as they didn’t want to kiss him!
Would I go again? Yes, I would go again with Gabriel, but probably not more than twice a year. I don’t want him to get used to seeing animals in such inadequate living spaces, and I really don’t want him to start imitating how the other zoo visitors treat the animals and agitate them.
Next time, I’ll probably spend more time with Gabriel at the amusement park area and maybe just take a quick tram ride and see a few exhibits that did not involve immediate safety hazards (giraffes and birds were the best ones).