Visiting the Honolulu Zoo on Oahu

The Honolulu Zoo, located in Waikiki on Kapahulu Avenue near the aquarium, is often overlooked by tourists and locals alike. There’s so much to do on the island of Oahu, many tourists figure they can see animals anytime on the mainland. But the Honolulu Zoo has some unique features worth checking out. So, stop by and spend an afternoon at the Honolulu Zoo.

The admission prices are very reasonable: General admission (for adults 13 and over) is $6.00, $4.00 if you’re a local (kama’aina) with proper identification. Children ages 6 to 12 pay just $1.00, and children 5 and under enter for free.

Once you pay your admission, walk past the souvenir shop (you can stop there on the way out), and you’ll step right up to meet some elegant whooping cranes. To the right, you’ll find a few giant Indian elephants lumbering back and forth. Look up past those large brown creatures and snap a photograph of the stunning view of Diamond Head crater. You’ll want to hike up Diamond at some point during your trip.

Around another bend you’ll see white-handed Gibbons, South Asian rainforest primates with no tails. Three of them play on a small island surrounded by a moat, hanging from trees, swinging like Tarzan. In the moat, turtles swim and lounge on logs.

Across the way you’ll find a single Siamong Gibbon, which is a larger black primate with long arms, which he uses to pluck leaves out of his own moat filled with tropical fish.

You’ll find three large spur-thighed tortoises nearby, large and brown, standing stone still, their heads popping out from their brown shells to gnaw the leaves off a branch.

In the darkness of the Herpetorium you’ll observe various kinds of toads, lizards, and frogs. A crocodile moniter lizard, five feet long, half of it tail, may give you the creeps as it wallows in the water, pressing itself up against the glass, its two-pronged tongue gliding in and out of its long mouth. Geckos, skinks lurk on branches. Three bearded dragons blend into their dusty brown environment. Spot them if you can.

Exit the Herpetorium and meet Jun, a small sun bear from Malaysia. Jun is an expert climber, but has poor eyesight, a common afflication among Malaysian sun bears. Jun also has a cub that lives at the Oakland Zoo.

You’ll also meet a crocodile named Gharial, who has a long, narrow mouth and trudges along the dirt towards the water. Gharial’s mouth is specialized for fishing, snapping up its prey out of the water.

Make your way towards the African Savana. An East African tribesman made of bronze stands guard at the entrance, bidding visitors “Kibari” or welcome. There you’ll find a Nile Crocodile, described as a devoted mother. The hippopotamus exhibit is a must-see. The 7,000 pound hippos spend the cool nights on land and warm days underwater to rest. Don’t worry, you can view them even underwater.

Antelopes gather together for a conference. Their flesh is tough and stringy with an unpleasant musky taste to make them less appetizing for the fierce carnivores of the plains, predators such as the lion, the leopard and the hyena.

Flamingos feed in the water for fish and insects with their spoon-shaped bills, stepping elegantly around each other as if at some formal dinner party.

Gaze around at the wart hog – ugly, smelly, with sharp tusks, burrowing, making itself at home. Or the gazelles from the Sahara, dainty, alert and graceful.

Make sure you visit the rhinoceros, a modern-day Triceratops, brown and dirty, swatting flies with its tail.

Zebras and giraffes hang out together like old friends, while porcupines sleep quietly, their quills capable of killing a lion.

Signs at each exhibit keep you informed of each animal’s lifestyles, abilities and limitations. The male ostrich, for instance, mates with a harem of a dozen or so, all of them co-existing lovingly together. Lions, the most sociable of all cats, live in large family groups called “prides.”

Before you leave, check out the chimpanzee, walking on its hands, making a hole in a termite mound with a stick, then poking a blade of grass into the hole, withdrawing it to eat the termites. Say good-bye to the Komodo Dragon. Make sure you visited the bird sanctuary.

Now, you can stop at the gift shop and buy a trinket or two.

You don’t need to set aside a full day for the zoo. I spent only three hours there, and as you can probably tell, I stood around a long while taking notes for this article. I suggest visiting the Honolulu Zoo on the same day you visit the nearby Waikiki Aquarium.

Oh yeah, and bring a camera!

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