Located in the Carmel city center within walking distance to many of the downtown hotels, Haifa educational zoo was constructed on the sides of a ravine on Mt. Carmel. We were pleasantly surprised by the unique animals of the Middle East that we found here, as well as the open concept of some of the exhibits. We started out in the open aviary, where we saw black swans, ducks, flamingos, and giant pelicans! Owen wanted to walk at this point, and held this crouched position as he looked between the boards at the HUGE pelicans. I’m pretty sure they were as big as he was!
Because of the topography of the zoo, the exhibits seemed to be similar to the animals’ natural habitats, and further apart as they were built along the sides of the mountain. The paths wound down the mountain in two different directions, meeting at a vista point, the lowest point in the zoo, looking out to the Mediterranean Sea. In the middle of the zoo, stairways lead down to a central building that houses a Prehistoric Museum and reptile house. Each floor is accessible at a different “ground” level, which was difficult with a stroller to say the least! We ended up ditching it at the bottom level and bringing all of our valuables upstairs with us to see the prehistory museum.
This monkey exhibit (above) was really cool as it was built up the hillside. A little hut up the hill has a window where we could look out and see the monkeys eating on a high platform (where monkeys usually like to hide). We watched them eat their lunch!
It took some searching to find the accessible paths to the exhibits in the central area of the zoo. Owen wanted to walk way more than I thought he wanted to, so I was just following the boys around with an empty stroller (with all our stuff piled in it). The views out over the hills to the sea were incredible!
Story time. There were a few open exhibits where there were gates for zoo visitors to enter, but once inside, we were face to face with the animals without a fence separating us. We checked out the aviary-style birds of prey exhibit, complete with several types of vultures as well as falcons and eagles. We read the chart telling about all the different birds in the aviary, then decided to head on to the next animal. I grabbed Owen’s hand and started heading for the exit. Just then, something hit me on the back of the head, HARD, and then a large bird of prey flew right over my head-fast- and landed in a nearby tree. I felt my head, and then realized that bird had attacked my head with its talons. My hair was all messed up and I did have scratches from the talons, otherwise I don’t think I could ever get Austin to believe me! It freaked me out, because I’m not sure if it was coming after my ponytail thinking it was a mouse, or if it was going for Owen and would have carted him off had he had the chance to get to him. At any rate, this was the first time my head has been attacked by a bird of prey!
My favorite part of this zoo was seeing the animals from the Middle East that are not found in other zoos. We saw Nubian ibex, these cute little goat-like animals with big, long curling horns. Owen’s favorite animal is the bear, so we stayed at the Syrian brown bear exhibit for quite some time. These bears were so big, fluffy, and cute. Unfortunately, they are extinct in Israel and can only be found in the wilderness of Jordan and Syria.
Next, we visited the kid’s zoo section. There were large farm animals in a pen that we could pet through the fence, and then an area where we could catch and pet rabbits, guinea pigs, and chickens. There were a few older girls in the area with us, and they gave Landon this guinea pig to pet. I love the sweet, tender look that he’s giving this fluffy little creature. The employee at the exhibit seemed gruff at first, because he was trying to tell us the rules and he didn’t speak English, but he softened up. He even gave Landon and Owen food to feed the animals. We could not hold them, but we could look at some brand new baby rabbits! The animals were all too fast for Owen, but Landon got to hold a rabbit and guinea pig and was pretty excited about it!
Outside of the kid’s zoo was this stationary train for the kids to sit on. Landon pretended that he was the train engineer and station master, demanding a ticket from Owen before boarding the train. Just above the kid’s zoo was this little playground. There were several different percussion instruments to play, as well as these fun “nests” that Landon played in for awhile. He liked to pretend he was a bird or dinosaur sleeping in the nest. Just up a few stairs from this playground was the central building. The first floor was the reptile house. We went up a floor to the prehistory museum. It was small and basic, but had some dioramas showing what life was like for the prehistoric humans that lived in this area. There was also some information about the ruins of ancient settlements that divers have found in the Mediterranean sea just off the coast of Haifa. They have even found underwater freshwater springs! Archaeologists working on this project SCUBA dive to find artifacts!
Upstairs in the museum were some of the things they have unearthed in this area from long ago. Prehistoric tools, pottery shards, and even basic carvings were on display. Although very small, the museum was worth visiting and learning a little more about the prehistoric history of the area!
Because we had the stroller, we took a convoluted path up the steep hills and back to the entrance, which sits in Mother’s Park at the top of the hill in Carmel Center. The park includes some small snack stands, a carnival ride (only open on weekends) and a fun playground, as well as outdoor performance stages and plenty of green space for running around. Landon enjoyed eating ice cream and playing at the park with more friendly Israeli children!
Haifa educational zoo was in fact, very educational! We saw some animals native to Israel that I have never before seen in a zoo. We not only learned about the fauna of Israel, but we also got a great workout going up and down the steep hills! There are no good options for the hills… I would suggest bringing a stroller if your kid does not like walking up steep hills. If Owen was a little smaller, I would have considered throwing him in our baby backpack just so we could use the stairs in places. There were beautiful places that I wanted to explore with water features and a garden, but it was only accessible by stairs. There were several restaurants within the zoo, but on a slow, early spring day many of them were closed, so make sure to bring snacks! Mother’s park outside of the zoo’s main gate has great play structures and is a fun addition to a day at the zoo. In all, it took us about 2.5 hours to see everything, with backtracking and following the handicap route. If you’re visiting Haifa with kids, check out the Haifa educational zoo!