My recent visit to Vandalur Zoo, Chennai

During my recent visit to Chennai, I visited Vandalur Zoo. Check out my experience in the zoo and read some travel tips when you plan your visit to this place.

During my recent visit to Chennai for my US visa interview, I had a couple of days waiting to get the visa stamped in the passport and I explored many places. Vandalur Zoo came up in the priority list since that did fit well into half day schedule after the view interview in the US consulate. My first thought was to go to Mahabalipuram but that was too far and finally dropped the plan.

A beautiful bird in Arignar Anna Zoological Park

Ride from Nungampakkam to Vandalur

I was staying in The Spring Hotel in Kodampakkam High Road. Vandalur Zoo is about 30 km from there.

Read my review of The Spring Hotel, Chennai.

I have been using Ola Share Cab in the city for all my local rides but this time, I decided to get my own Ola Cab due to the inconvenience expected in the shared cab for a long distance ride. Pressed the button in the Ola App and the cab arrived in about 5 minutes. I entered the cab and the driver tried to set the destination. However, he lost all information about my ride from his device. I too lost track of the ride from my phone. The driver then called the Ola office and they advised him to set the meter on the cab and check the start/end time, provided I agree to it this adjustment. I agreed to that and we started the ride.

It was 10 am, which is peak traffic time. The roads were full and very slow. When the cab reached Guindy area, I asked the driver if he could stop by the St. Thomas Mount so that I can make a quick visit to the famous pilgrim center and pray for a few minutes. He agreed to it provided the wait will not be more than 15 minutes. I kept my promise and we continued our journey to Vandalur Zoo.

Food and amenities in the Zoo

We reached the Zoo by 12:45 pm. The driver suggested me to have lunch in the Sangeetha restaurant opposite to the Zoo since they may not have many options for food inside the zoo. It was a nice restaurant and I had a lavish lunch there before I started exploring the zoo.

Inside the Zoo, there were many snack bars and coffee shops but no good restaurants. There is one restaurant operated by TTDC inside the entrance of the zoo but that is in a pathetic condition. Very poorly maintained, looks unhygienic and too little choices. I'm glad that I chose to eat in Sangeetha restaurant before entering the place.

Zoo ticket rates

The entrance of the zoo looks pretty clean and attractive. There were several ticket counters to avoid long queues in the holidays and week-ends. Since it was a Monday, there were not many people and only a few counters were open. The ticket rates appear to be very reasonable. Here are the details:

Entry fee- Adults: Rs 30
Entry fee - children: Rs 10
Camera fee: Rs 25
Handycam: Rs 150

The entrance of Arignar Anna Zoological Park
The entrance of Arignar Anna Zoological Park

They have battery operated vehicles and safari vehicles to take a quick tour of the entire zoo. This is very convenient for the people who prefer to visit all spots in the zoo within the minimum time frame and see everything without a lot of walking. The zoo is spread across about 1,490 acres of land (including some protected area) and it is really worth paying the Rs 30 and take a ticket in the safari car or the battery car. I would recommend you use the safari to see all the spots, get down somewhere close to the finishing spot and then walk around to enjoy the rest of the attractions. Most of the spots in the zoo appear to be empty with no animals. The safari drivers know where exactly to go.
Ticket counter of the zoo in Chennai
Ticket counter of Vandalur Zoo

Zoo round vehicle- Adult: Rs 30
Children: Rs 10

Cycle rent

If you don't want to use the safari and don't want to walk all the way, then you have another interesting choice - rent a cycle. They have a lot of bicycles for rent and the rate is very low. Rates vary from Rs 5 to Rs 20 per hour. There is a refundable advance deposit for Rs 200 required to make sure you return the cycles in good condition. A lot of college students, young people and couples were found to be really enjoying the cycle rides.

Lion and Bear safari

When I saw that the Lion safari costs only Rs 30, I was surprised. A wild safari in Bannerghatta National Park in Bangalore costs a lot more. But my surprise gave way for disappointment when I experienced the safari here. I had to wait about an hour for the safari vehicle to start. I have no idea why it took such a long time to start the safari. There were plenty of vehicles and drivers were also available. They just waited until the truck is full. I was wondering why not many people are interested in the safari which costs only a nominal fee.
Tourists are enjoying Lion Safari
Tourists are enjoying Lion Safari

Finally, the safari started. We went through the zoo for about 2 km and then entered the protected area where entry is not permitted for normal visitors. (We spotted several college couples having their fun time hiding behind the trees all over these restricted zone and looks like they look like they don't care even if there are wild animals around them!). At last, we reached the double layer gate to enter the area where lions are roaming free. The truck went through the protected area for about 1 km and stopped at the end of the road where there are 2 sheds which have captivated lions. And there were 2 lions outside the sheds under a tree. The driver stopped the truck near the tree and we all watched the lions, which completely ignored us.

We asked the driver whey there are 2 sheds with captivated lions and he said there are only 2 lions outside the shed and many times visitors may not get to see those 2 lions since they might be hiding in the bushes. So to make people avoid disappointment, they have kept a few lions in the shed for the visitors to see.
Lion at Arignar Anna Zoological Park, Chennai
Lion at Vandalur Zoo, Chennai

Even though we all could watch the lions, I would say this safari doesn't really do justice for the much advertised "Lion Safari". Only good thing is, we didn't pay much for this ride. Rs 30 for this so called lion safari is probably worth the money.

Birds, Crocodiles, Tortoises, Snakes and more

Rosy Pelican enjoying in lake water

There were plenty of birds, including large Rosy pelicans, Painted Storks, Flamingos, Spoon Bills etc. It was interesting to watch a lot of nests made on the trees inside the net covered area for the birds. There were 3 different areas were birds were protected in large areas fenced with nets with a reasonable level of flying space. The snake park had a good number of snakes with good viewing access to the visitors. Also, I could see a lot of crocodiles, tortoises etc. Other animals found are monkeys, giraffes, deer, ostrich, tiger etc.

Even though there are a lot of animals in the zoo, what is disappointing is, there are a lot of empty spots where visitors unnecessarily walk a long distance just to find out they are empty. It requires a lot of walks to cover the entire zoo and much of this walk is in vain to find empty cages.
Crocodile at Arignar Anna zoo in Chennai
Crocodile at Arignar Anna zoo in Chennai


There are a lot of staff always cleaning the place and picking up all the trash. Also, basic amenities like toilets, cement bench for resting etc are provided throughout the property. The entire place is pretty clean except the toilets. The public toilets in the Vandalur zoo are in pathetic condition and is an embarrassment for the administration. I've taken a few photos of the toilets but feel shy to share them here. There are coffee shops, ice cream parlors etc.

Children's play area and park

There are lot of play structures and picnic areas within the zoo. Kids will enjoy playing with the outdoor play structures like swing etc. There are lot of space to run around and burn out some of their excess energy. A lot of cement benches and lawns are there but most of them are occupied by college couples which are definitely an eye soaring sight, especially if you are with old parents or young children.
Vandalur Zoo
Vandalur Zoo region

Is it worth a visit to Vandalur Zoo?

If they charge a hefty fee, I would have said it's not worth making a visit to this place. But considering the fee is very nominal, if you have a day in Chennai, I recommend you visit the Vandalur zoo and enjoy the sight of animals. It may not be worth walking all the places unless your goal is to spend time walking around. I would suggest you pay Rs 30 and buy a Zoo safari ticket or rent a bicycle.

Photos from Vandaloor Zoo

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Guest Author: Girish Tasgaonkar07 Jul 2016

Seems like my stereotyping of Chennai being a bland destination is so untrue. If I pick up local train from Tambaram, there is altogether a lot of touristy places to quell time while in Chennai. Great article and nice info about Vandalore Zoo. Is there night life and Pub culture picking up in Chennai?

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