LIONS AND LEOPARDS AND CROCS, OLÉ

New Immersion Zoo Opens in Valencia

The first phase of a new state-of-the-art zoo has opened in Spain ’s third largest city. At the $94 millionBioparc Valencia, visitors can watch antelope, zebras and gazelle gallop over the African savannah and gorillas and leopards roam a lush, bird-filled equatorial forest. One of the most advanced zoos in Europe , the 25-acre park is home to 4000 animals from 250 species. Plans call for a second phase to include nearly five more acres to showcase the ecosystems of South-east Asia and Central and South America .

“Zoo immersion,” the newest in zoological park design, gives new meaning to the phrase “up close and personal.” By reproducing vegetation, the undulating terrain of a specific ecosystem and the authentic sounds of the wild – while concealing barriers and man-made structures – the architects have meticulously replicated the habitats of these wild creatures.

Visitors begin by traveling deep into the savannah viewing the herds of antelope, giraffe and rhinoceros and maybe catching a glimpse of lion surveying the plain from rocky heights. Life underground can be seen in and around a termite mound, a hyena nest or a warthog burrow. Next, visitors venture into the dense equatorial forest in search of gorilla, leopard and red forest buffalo. Further on is a water hole where hippo frolic and crocodiles glide among thousands of multi-colored fish.

With Europe’s largest aquarium, a kid friendly and very interactive science museum, its eye-shaped planetarium complete with IMAX theatre, and a new waterfront thanks to last year’s staging of the America ’s Cup, this Spanish city on the Mediterranean has really come into its own.

A breeding program for endangered species and the park’s emphasis on the inhabitants and their ecosystems speak to Bioparc’s dedication to conservation and ethics.

The Bioparc is open every day of the year from 10 AM and closes between 6:00 PM and 9:00 PM depending on the season. Admission is about $31.50 (20 euros) for adults and about $23.60 (15 euros) for children.

Written by the Tourist Board of Spain