Standing on a riverbank inside Burgers’ Zoo, it feels as though you’ve stepped right up to the edge of an African safari.
Not long along, the zoo announced the birth of a baby rhino and from here we watched the stout little creature chase giraffes ten times its size: quite a spectacle for a random passerby to take part in.
A generational zoo with a myriad of ecosystems and Europe’s largest live coral reef, Burgers’ is unique for being managed by the same family since its meager beginnings as not more than a petting zoo over a century ago.
My daughter–who had never been here before–insisted that she had a number of secret places to lead us to as she mock followed the map and picked random directions. When we stumbled into a beautiful aquarium, she announced that this was it: her secret place at last.
There’s a restaurant in “the bush”–a domed section mimicking the hot and sticky topics–where you can grab a terrasje even in winter. Coming from Manila, I found the humidity almost comforting on this otherwise chilly day.
(As Dutch as een terrasje pakken is–enjoying food and drink in the outdoor seating area of a cafe or restaurant–the wait for warm or at least sunny weather can be long.)
Besides the safari, tropical bush, and aquarium, there is a reptile area, a dessert zone and a vast expanse of outdoor enclosures with lions and tigers, no bears (oh my) but lots of other animals.
There is a massive apenkooien playground, another smaller outdoor one, and an indoor playground by the restaurant as well.
(Literally, apenkooien translates to “monkey cages” and refers to an obstacle-course style play area where kids can climb, swing, and jump around.)
The zoo is a beautiful place where unexpected things can happen and when you’re watching animals in near enough their natural habitat every visit provides a new experience. We watch animals do crazy like be born, chase each other around, and get into fights, yelling matches, and displays of power.
But we people do crazy things there too. Maybe we carry to our day out ordinary worries and fears and maybe our time there is so otherworldly that it brings us to tears. We see the bond between human and animal and our mutual dependence on nature. We see children and parents and couples and maybe even proposals.
Burgers’ Zoo is a wonderful place for all of this because it is respectful to all: people, animals, and nature.
While I’ve only discussed snippets of Burgers’ here, I would strongly encourage making a zoo trip of your own if you find yourself near Arnhem.