This morning, we took the first of what will likely be many trips to Valencia’s brand new zoo, the BioParc (location). I had been skeptical: partly because I dislike zoos and partly because of the curious lack of fanfare accompanying today’s Grand Opening. Maybe it’s the American in me, but when a new park of any sort opens, I expect huge crowds, marching bands, college kids in wacky animal outfits, and McDonald’s tie-ins.
But you would have never guessed today was the opening of a highly-touted zoo — billed as the most advanced in Europe. We arrived at 10am, just as the zoo was opening for the first time ever, and got into line behind about 4 other people. The ticket lady was still being trained — ours was apparently the first credit card she’d had to deal with. We caused minor chaos by inquiring about the Entrada Berde, which is the yearly pass. Clearly agitated, the cadre of women who’d assembled to crack the Puzzle of the Credit Card whispered amongst themselves, before asking us to step around to the back of the office. Madness.
By the time we got inside, I was convinced that it was going to suck hard-core, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. BioParc Valencia is, without doubt, the coolest zoo I’ve ever been to.
After getting your ticket, you enter the park by crossing a pedestrian bridge which spans the Turia Gardens. Once on the other side, you’ll immediately encounter the first set of animals: rhinoceroses, zebras and ostriches, all running around a huge area together.
Visitors are able to get nerve-wrackingly close to the animals — only a small stream separates them. A stream so small that surely the hyenas intently taking in our scent on the other side could easily hop over it. "Jesus, Juergen", I said, "I think they want to fucking eat us!" But Juergen couldn’t hear me … he had silently backed away from the stream, as the hyenas approached. Fear: an emotion one should feel in a zoo!
We wandered around the park for a couple hours — for now, it’s dedicated to Africa (Asia and S. America are coming), and has all the animals you’d expect to see: warthogs, lions, leopards, monkeys, elephants, giraffes, and more. For the most part, the environments in which the animals (live/are trapped) are lush and expansive. But not always. There were a couple species, particularly the bongos, for whom I felt sad.
The one species noticeably lacking was Homo Sapiens. Juergen and I nearly had the zoo entirely to ourselves. This was particularly wonderful in the lemur exhibit, in which there were no cages of any sort. The lemurs were running along the same paths as you, coming exhilaratingly close without exhibiting any fear whatsoever. One jumped a few inches over my head, from tree to tree, and I caught myself squealing with excitement.
We got a small snack in the dining area and sat outdoors with giraffes just a few meters away — again, only the obstruction of a small, steep stream between us. The food was as cheap as at our neighborhood café, which really surprised us. But, in general, a trip to the BioParc is expensive, and it’s not as large as one might hope. We were pretty much done in two hours, having seen everything on offer. Still, the experience was wonderful.
And although the €20 entrance fee is really high, the €41 Entrada Berde yearly pass is extremely reasonable. If you live in Valencia, it’s the only way to go. The park just a short bike trip, probably 15 minutes, from the city center. I could see myself coming back often, even just to spend a half hour watching the rhinos scratch their horns against a tree.
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