9 Things To Do At Johannesburg Zoo

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If you love looking at and learning about animals while having a day filled with family fun in Johannesburg, a visit to the Johannesburg Zoo is something you should consider. Apart from seeing animals in their enclosures, there are other things to do at the Johannesburg Zoo. Let’s discover what these things are!

See the animals of the Johannesburg Zoo in their enclosures

If you were wondering what animals there are at the Zoo, the list includes birds, carnivores, frogs and reptiles, hoofed animals and primates. You can also get a zoo map to guide your sightseeing when you purchase your entry tickets. You can download the map here.

The Johannesburg Zoo has several exhibits, each with its own focus. These are my favourites: Amazonia houses animal species in the Amazon forests. You can visit Spider Monkeys, Coatis, Armadillos, and Pumas here. It also includes freshwater fish from the Amazon. You can find different reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrate species at the Animals of the Amazon. The farmyard is a petting zoo where children can touch farm animals such as Nguni and Bapedi Sheep. Children can play on the playground and jungle gyms.

The Johannesburg Zoo’s bird collection

Johannesburg Zoo Things to do | South Africa Travel Blog

Johannesburg Zoo houses 36 families of birds from 140 species. The two bird families found in the Zoo are the Anseriformes and Psittaciformes. The Anseriformes are the water birds, including ducks, swans and geese. The Psittaciformes include parrots.

The Johannesburg Zoo houses many birds in the David Lewis Aviary, which is in the Sasol Aviary. You can also find Blue Cranes, the national bird of South Africa, walking throughout the Zoo. The Zoo also has the Grey Crowned Crane, which is critically endangered.

Carnivores at the Johannesburg Zoo

Pictures of Johannesburg Zoo - Loving Lion Couple
Pictures of Johannesburg Zoo – Loving Lion Couple

The Zoo has representatives of 7 carnivore families, including :

  • dogs (the Johannesburg Zoo successfully breeds endangered Wild dogs called “painted wolves or dogs”, the Fennec Fox, and the Bat-eared Fox),
  • small cats (Rooikat, African Wild Cat, Puma)
  • big cats (lions, Siberian/Amur Tigers, Leopards, Cheetahs)
  • bears (Spectacled Bears)
  • Superfamily Musteloidae (Red pandas, Ring-tailed coatis, African clawless otters and Honey badgers)
  • African civet and small spotted genets (Meerkats, Genets and Civets)
  • Striped hyena

Frogs and reptiles housed at the Johannesburg Zoo

The Zoo houses a large variety of frogs and reptiles, including snakes, lizards, tortoises, crocodiles, snakes (Black mambas, Gaboon vipers, Anacondas, Burmese pythons), frogs (such as the Pickergill’s Reed frogs).

Other attractions where you can see reptiles and animals in or near Johannesburg include the Montecasino Bird Gardens and the Croc City Crocodile and Reptile Park. If you prefer bigger animals, why not visit the Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort for a unique experience.

Hoofed animals

The Zoo has different horses and relatives (Zebras such as the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Shire horses, the Shetland pony), Rhinoceroses (white rhinos) and even-toed hoofed animals (pigs, hippopotami, giraffes, bovids, such as Asiatic Water Buffalo, Blackbuck and Scimitar-Horned Oryx, Sable, Bontebok, Eland, Sitatunga, Kudu, Springbuck, Common duiker, Arabian Oryx and Bongo, deer such as the Axis Deer). The Zoo also has other animals, including elephants and the Rock hyrax (dassie). Click here to learn how to have a unique experience with elephants near Johannesburg.


The Johannesburg Zoo’s most famous animal was Max, the gorilla. A thief jumped into his enclosure to escape the police. The police eventually also ended up in the enclosure, and Max was shot three times. The police caught the thief, and Max injured three police officers while chasing the thief. Max survived the incident. Max died in 2004 in his sleep.

The Zoo houses apes (chimpanzees, orangutans, Buff cheeked gibbons, large gibbons, Siamang gibbons), Prosimians (Ring-tailed, Black, White-Ruffed, Red-bellied, Crowned lemur, Mongoose lemurs), monkeys (Chacma, Yellow, Hamadryas baboons, De Brazza’s monkey, Diana monkey, Red-tailed guenons, Black mangabey, mona monkey, Black and white colobus, L’Hoest’s monkeys, Black Spider monkey).

If you want to visit the apes, the best time is after 10:00 when they are let outdoors after cleaning time. The apes spend afternoons in their night rooms.

Take part in one of the Zoo’s programs or educational activities

The Johannesburg Zoo has several Joburg Zoo 4 kids initiatives.

The School programme is available for schools at the special school entrance fee of R40 ($2,72) per learner (Mondays to Fridays between 7:00 to 16:00), and it includes bus parking at R25 ($1.70). The programme includes a worksheet that the Zoo can provide before or during a visit to amend or copy.

Johannesburg Zoo - Freshwater aquarium in the Amazonia Exhibit
Johannesburg Zoo – Freshwater aquarium in the Amazonia Exhibit

The “Zoo to you” programme is a presentation based on different topics focusing on conservation and general information on several animals, such as small mammals, birds, reptiles and insects.

The Johannesburg Zoo also offers the “Be Mad Club” aimed at Grade 8 to 12 learners. It focuses on the enrichment of zoo animals and teaches learners about the functions of a zookeeper.

Enjoy the Johannesburg Zoo’s holiday programme

The Johannesburg Zoo has a variety of activities for children during school holidays. Contact the Zoo for more information as the programme changes for each holiday.

Do your community service at the Joburg Zoo

High school students can do their community service at the Zoo and learn about the world of the zoo and the zoo animals while volunteering.

Adopt an animal at the Johannesburg Zoo

By adopting an animal at the Joburg Zoo, you will contribute to the upkeep of the animal. You can choose to adopt an animal from the list of animals the Zoo provides. The adoption price starts at R300 and can go up to R10 000. The more you pay, the more benefits you will earn. For example, an R300 adoption gives you:

  • A personalised adoption certificate
  • A free entrance voucher and paid parking
  • A photograph of the animal you adopted
  • Information on the animal species you adopted

An adoption is valid for a year and can be renewed. You can also give an adoption to a friend or family member as a gift!

Host an event at the Zoo

If you are looking for a unique venue for a birthday party, function or team-building event, consider hosting it at the Johannesburg Zoo. The Zoo offers a variety of indoor (AngloGold Ashanti Conference Centre or the Old Elephant House) and outdoor venues (Centenary Lawn, Tree of Light Lawn, Meerkat Lawn, Anglo Lapa).

Johannesburg Zoo Photos - munching Giraffe
Johannesburg Zoo Photos – munching Giraffe

Fun team-building activities to be hosted inside the Johannesburg Zoo (facilitated by other organisations) include having an amazing race type of event or a treasure hunt with teams competing.

Have a picnic at the Johannesburg Zoo

There is a range of food kiosks inside the Zoo. They offer items ranging from ice creams and cold drinks to takeaways such as hot dogs and hot chips (fries). The Johannesburg Zoo allows people to bring their own food into the Johannesburg Zoo for a picnic. There are no facilities for a braai (barbecue) at the zoo. The Zoo does not allow alcohol except for private functions held in a booked venue, but even then, the guests need to drink the alcohol at the venue.

You can also buy food at the two restaurants inside the Joburg Zoo. The two restaurants are Stages, the Zoo restaurant, and Cafe Fino.

Cafe Fino is open from 7:00 to 20:00 during the week. The reviews show Cafe Fino is expensive, but the food is excellent! Cafe Fino’s menu includes chicken schnitzel, boere breakfast, pizza and salad. You can contact Cafe Fino at +27 11 646 3931.

The Stages Restaurant is open from 8:00 to 17:00 every day of the week. The restaurant has a limited menu with items ranging from burgers to chicken strips and skewers. Based on the reviews, Stages’ hot chips are popular. Prices are higher than you would find outside the Zoo. You can contact Stages at +27 11 486 0777.

Johannesburg Zoo Things to Do | South Africa Travel Blog

Take part in a night activity at the Zoo

The zoo looks completely different at night – a visit at night is a must-do. From time to time, the Zoo offers Zoo Snooze, where you can camp for a night at the zoo and have a unique sleepover. The experience includes a behind-the-scenes and a night tour.

Another night activity is Howl-oween, a fun evening to dress up and go trick and treating after seeing all the zoo witches and other Halloween characters.

Johannesburg Zoo Photo - Picnic at the Howl'oween event
Johannesburg Zoo Photo – Picnic at the Howl’oween event

You can book a nighttime tour of the Johannesburg Zoo any night from Monday to Saturday and get ferried to peer at the red pandas, glowing scorpions, genets, raccoons and, of course, the beautiful big cats.

The Zoo has several night tours, including the moonlight tour for children and the night tour for adults. The Zoo also offers sunset tours between 16:00 -18:00.

Keep fit doing the Zoo trot

The Zoo Trot is a 5 or 10-km fun run or walk at the Zoo every second Sunday of the month.

History of the Johannesburg Zoo

The late Hermann Eckstein donated the land for the Johannesburg Zoo to the public for recreational use in 1904. The City of Johannesburg owns the Johannesburg Zoo. Since then, the Zoo has evolved and experienced several developments, including the Bandstand (to host brass bands) in 1910, the stone elephant and rhino house (also known as the old elephant house) from 1913 to 1915, and the animal hospital in 1936.

In the 1960s, the public wanted to see animals in natural enclosures. The Johannesburg Zoo responded with a long-term plan to improve the facilities for visitors and animals. The Zoo upgraded the enclosures and developed educational and environmental programmes. The Johannesburg Zoo also joined local and international breeding programmes. The Town Council built the first enclosure for two young lions. In 1961 visitors 16 years and older started paying an entrance fee for the Zoo.

Pictures of Johannesburg Zoo - Lemur eating a carrot
Pictures of Johannesburg Zoo – Lemur eating a carrot

The Zoo started with an original animal collection of a lion, a giraffe, a leopard, a baboon, a genet, a Golden Eagle, a pair of Sable antelope bulls, two Rhesus monkeys and two porcupines.

The Sasol walk-through aviary was added in 1986 when an outdoor theatre structure was moved from Joubert Park to the zoo before being transformed into the aviary. The Zoo has added more aviaries since then.

Frequently asked questions about the Johannesburg Zoo

Here are some questions visitors frequently ask about the Johannesburg Zoo.

How big is the Johannesburg zoo?

The Zoo covers over 55 hectares of land. It contains over 320 species of animals and has 2000 animals.

Does Johannesburg Zoo have golf carts to hire?

No, there are only golf carts for the staff’s use. You can rent kiddies’ pushcarts if you have small children who will tire quickly. A truck transports people around the zoo at a cost of R50 per person.

Is Johannesburg Zoo safe?

Since everyone pays to enter the Zoo, it is safe inside. You still need to follow general safety principles and keep your valuables safe and with you at all times.

Is it better to visit the Johannesburg Zoo in summer or winter?

You can visit the Zoo any time during the year as Johannesburg has a moderate climate allowing the zoo animals to lie in the sun throughout the year.

Is there parking?

There is a parking garage at the Zoo with plenty of parking bays.

Photos of Johannesburg Zoo - stretching leopard
Photos of Johannesburg Zoo – stretching leopard

How can I find out about upcoming events at the Johannesburg Zoo?

To stay updated on Johannesburg Zoo’s latest news or events, check their calendar regularly.

Does the Johannesburg Zoo have an aquarium?

Yes, there is a small freshwater aquarium in the Amazonia exhibit.

When are the feeding times?

The feeding times at the Zoo over weekends only are:

Vultures (Sundays only)11:00
Ground hornbills11:15
Wild Dogs and Cheetahs12:15
Crocodile talk (Sundays only. Only in Summer or warm days))13:00

Practical information for visiting the Johannesburg Zoo

If these things to do at the Zoo sparked your interest, here is some practical information to help you plan a visit to the Zoo.

How much is the entrance fee?

The price list for the 2021 admission fees to the Zoo are:

Children (ages 3-12)R65$4.43
Pensioners R65$4.43
Students (weekdays only, with student card)R65$4.43
School groups (weekdays only, per person)R40$2.72
Welfare groups (weekdays only, per person)R45$3.06
Zoo trotR65$4.43
Ferry ridesR5 each (weekday)
R10 each (weekends)
Parking – cars & minivansR15$1.02
Parking – busses (30 – 120 seaters)R25$1.70
$1 = R14.68

You can buy the entry tickets upon arriving at the zoo or online beforehand through Web tickets.

To save on your entrance fees, keep an eye out for special deals on Hyperli.

If you love visiting the Johannesburg Zoo, you can purchase an annual pass for a discounted price – click here to apply:

Child (ages 3-12)R500$34.05
$1 = R14.68

Where is the Johannesburg Zoo located?

The Johannesburg Zoo is near Rosebank. Its physical address is Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkview, Johannesburg. The main entrance for the public is on Upper Park Drive.

The best way to get to the Johannesburg Zoo is by car. Uber is the cheapest option for getting to the Johannesburg Zoo if you don’t have a car. If you are a foreign visitor to South Africa, consider renting a car to explore Johannesburg and the surrounding areas.

The Gautrain bus does not stop at the Johannesburg Zoo during the week. Also, make sure Covid has not affected the operation of the Gautrain bus service on weekends.

Alternatively, the Gautrain bus stops at the Johannesburg Zoo. The bus service runs from the Gautrain Station in Rosebank between 9:15 to 18:15 on Saturday and Sunday. The last bus leaves the Johannesburg Zoo at 18:35. If you are staying in Sandton, take the Gautrain to Rosebank Station before boarding the bus to get to the Joburg zoo.

The red sightseeing bus also stops at the Johannesburg Zoo. It is stop number 3 on the green route.

Johannesburg Zoo operating hours

The Zoo is open 364 days of the year! It is open from Monday to Sunday and on public holidays, including Christmas and New Year’s Day. It opens from 9:00 to 17:30, with the last entry at 16:30. The Zoo’s hours will be different for special events.

Contact details for the Johannesburg Zoo

The telephone number for the Johannesburg zoo is +27 11 646-2000.

Accommodation near the Johannesburg Zoo

If you are interested in staying near the Johannesburg Zoo, have a look at the hotels and AirBnBs available in the area:

Sabs | South Africa Travel Blog

By Sunelle

Editor of the South Africa Travel Blog that focuses on travel to South Africa, including destinations, attractions, accommodation, food & drink.

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