How good is Bhopal Zoo?

How good is Bhopal Zoo?

“Good” isn’t the right word.

Bhopal Zoo is absolutely fantastic!

Having just arrived in Bhopal after a stay in the jungle, in Bori Wildlife Reserve, I wasn’t too enthused at the idea of a visit to a zoo. Why would you want to see animals in cages, especially after game drives and jungle walks? I’m not even a fan of zoos, so yes, I was pretty unenthusiastic about visiting. A zoo simply wasn’t high on my list of priorities.

Luckily our friends in the know insisted.

Just go, they said. It is like no other zoo in India. It is the best zoo in the country. Go early in the morning, they said. Just trust us and go.

So we did.

And within about 30 seconds I realised what they meant, because this really is a zoo like no other. It isn’t actually a zoo at all, but rather a small national park within a city.

Here you go, these are the “formal” facts & figures about Van Vihar National Park from Wikipedia:

Van Vihar National Park is a national park in Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh in central India. Declared a national park in 1979, it covers an area of about 4.45 km2. It has the status of a national park, but is developed and managed as a modern zoological park, following the guidelines of the Central Zoo Authority. Animals are kept in near natural habitats. Most animals are either orphaned and brought from various parts of the state or are exchanged from other zoos. No animal is deliberately captured from the forest. Van Vihar is unique because visitors access it from a road through the park, and trenches,walls, and chain-link fencing protect the animals from poachers while providing natural habitat.

We went early in the morning, and there were runners and morning walkers and cyclists on the main, wide road that runs along the lake (you can see it, in the photo above).

As a runner, I was, of course, immediately consumed with jealousy, and kept up a mantra of “Why don’t we have somewhere like this in Delhi? If I lived here, I’d come here every morning to run and we could come here every evening and walk,” until my husband told me yes, he’d got the message.

And you know something else? The entrance fee is just Rs20, making it totally affordable for everyone. It felt totally safe, too. There were young women alone, and a cute group of girls celebrating a birthday, all selfie-ing away with the birthday cake which they’d placed in the middle of the traffic-free road.

Such a great, relaxed vibe. There are even bikes to rent at the entrance.

Van Vihar was spotlessly clean, and we walked along, watching the flocks of birds, exclaiming in delight when we passed free-roaming animals.

Oh yes, forgot to mention this (thanks again Wikipedia)”:

“Chital, sambar, blackbuck, nilgai, four-horned antelope, wild boar, porcupine, hare, rhesus macaque, common langur are ranging freely.”

Obviously the dangerous critters are not roaming free. They are in large kraals, usually behind a moat.

It was an absolute pleasure to wander through this beautiful zoo National Park. So much so, that we returned in the evening to watch the sunset.

Loved the imaginative barrier at the crocodile enclosure
No wonder Bhopalis head here to walk and exercise…

There are benches and hides where you can sit and watch the birds on the lake. There are explanatory sign boards everywhere.

Love this!

Absolutely 100% recommended.

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