As I get older, and meet people from many different walks of life, I understand more and more that you can’t always decide whether or not you personally will enjoy something by whether or not someone else has or not. Of course, I like to hear about other's experiences, and take them into consideration, but, in many situations you just need to try things for yourself. Also, you should set proper expectations according to where you are going or what you are doing.
Such was the case with the Dongguan Zoo. It doesn’t even exist on Trip Advisor! The website is only in Chinese, and there just isn’t much information available in English. It certainly isn't promoted as a tourist attraction for foreigners. Quite a few people from the Dongguan Expat group did not have anything good to say about it, but, we decided to try it and are glad that we did.
It was definitely in a lower class than the neighboring zoos in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, but, that was to be expected. I’m sure this zoo has much lower funding for operation costs. For the most part, unfortunately not all :-( , the animals looked well cared for. It was also nice to be able to view most of the animals from a much closer range than many zoos.
We spent 3 ½ hours walking through the zoo, but did not watch either of the two shows or go on any amusement park rides. I believe all of those are included in your admission, and if you did them, you could easily spend a full day at this zoo. The two shows available each have six performances each day: The Marine Animal Show with sea lions, dolphins and birds, and the General Animal Show, more like a mini circus, with elephants, bears, monkeys and acrobats. We prefer not to see the animals forced to do things in shows like this.
One thing that we missed compared to other Chinese zoo experiences, was the ability to pay to feed some of the animals. This may have been because of the low attendance the day we were there. We were able to purchase food (10rmb) for the sun parakeets in the aviary.
The giraffes had food right at the observation platform which was nice so you could see them close-up.
There was a shuttle bus available also, but we walked, as the layout is a nice circular path you can follow with a few smaller areas to venture off the main walkway into the center area. Signs were very good in Chinese and English. There were also numerous signs to watch out for pickpockets! Usually these were near the animals with larger viewing platforms that probably get crowded at busy times. Since there weren’t many people around us, my friend was joking about the animals being the pickpockets :-)
There was glass between the people and tigers, but one was walking just on the other side. Most were lying down resting when we visited.
There was an elevated circular walkway to view the lions from. They had a nice, shady grove of trees that they were all resting under.
Walking towards the pagoda, we saw some wild changeable lizards on the pathway and climbing the trees. They would change from brown, to green to red.
The kids climbed the pagoda and said there were great views, but I passed. My friend and I just sat and took a break. Across from the pagoda was monkey island.
The last place we stopped, which was the area that upset me, housed 2 sea lions in a very small tank, and turtles, lizards, snakes, etc., in poor conditions. I think this is an area that definitely needs better care! There were some interesting snakes, but it was time for us to leave anyhow, so we didn't stay there for long.
There are two larger restaurants, supposedly Western and Chinese food, but the one we tried to go to was closed, not sure about the other one, but there were snack shops scattered around where you could get drinks or ice cream. We were glad we had taken some snacks. The day we visited the zoo was not busy at all, so I’m not sure if this was why the restaurant wasn’t open? Next time, I will have someone help call ahead and find out if food will be available or not. There were vendors just outside the entrance with sweet potatoes, chestnuts, fruit, etc.
Overall, my opinion would be that if you are a tourist visiting the area, you should probably go to either the Shenzhen or Guangzhou zoo, then you can also see giant pandas at the zoo. But, if you live in Dongguan like us, and want to have somewhere different to visit, with less crowds, and especially if you have small children who normally can’t see the animals when they are far away, by all means pay a visit to the Dongguan Zoo. We will probably return sometime to see the areas we missed.
Admission to the zoo was 100rmb for adults and 60 for children under 1.5 meters and senior citizens. The website (Chinese only) is www.xszoo.com .