Location: 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem street, Ben Nghe ward, District 1, HCMC
Founded more than 100 years ago, Ho Chi Minh City Zoo and Botanical Gardens (aka Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens) are listed as one of the oldest zoos in the world, opened in 1865 by French botanist JB Louis Pierre. There are currently more than 550 animals exhibited in the zoo and more than 1,830 trees and 260 plant species in the botanical gardens with some dating back over 100 years.
There are a number of different sections to explore including the animal conservation area, orchid garden and plant conservation centre and a children’s amusement area. Lakes brimming with tropical fish form part of the zoo and botanical gardens which is also home to a monument dedicated to Vietnamese killed in World War I. The Ho Chi Minh Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a popular place to while away an afternoon and is visited by locals and tourists who are often surprised by the fact that you can get up close and personal to some of the animals and feed them.
The Botanical Gardens has a vast array of flora and fauna including 20 different orchid types, 32 species of cactus and 34 species of bonsai in addition to trees, plants and ferns some of which are as old as the gardens.
The zoo exhibits a diverse range of animals including monkeys, tigers, hippos, lions, elephants; turtles and snakes. There are also rarer animals such as the white tiger that are being displayed for the first time ever in Vietnam. The zoo aims to help animal conservation of endangered species through a breeding-in-captivity program and recently bred the crested argus pheasant – being the only zoo in the world to do so.
The Botanical Gardens are striving to use the area as a knowledge centre where visitors can learn more about the species on display and how to protect them for the future.
In addition to creatures and plants, the zoo and botanical gardens also have the Saigon National Museum and the World War I monument within its vicinity. The museum covers the entire history of Vietnam and includes war weapons from the French colonial era and thousands of important documents within its walls.
Ho Chi Minh Zoo has in some parts seen better days and is certainly not on par with western zoos; however it is better than some zoos seen in other Asian countries. If you have any reservations regarding animals in captivity then this might not be the place for you.
The zoo is located close to Saigon District 1 and the easiest way to reach it is via taxi. The entrance fee allows you to visit both the zoo and gardens, although you will need to pay more if you wish the feed any animals. There are two main gates, one on Nguyen Binh Khiem and the other on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street.