Photos and narration by Jennifer Zoltek.
If you want first-hand contact with the animals of Iceland, the Reykjavík Zoo & Family Park (Fjölskyldu- og húsdýragardurinn) is the perfect place to go. Next to the Botanical Gardens, an estimated number of 150 creatures await your visit in several stables, paddocks, fish tanks and a seal aquarium.
The zoo opened in 1990 and is more like a farm than an ordinary zoo. You can see typical Icelandic farm animals but also some wild native species.
Starting with the larger animals, the seals greet you at the entrance, swimming around in their little water kingdom or relaxing on stones, watching visitors pass by on their way to the stables.
Most of the animals can be seen outside when the sun is shining but during bad weather they seek shelter inside the stables. Indoor corrals make it easy for kids to see the baby goats and sheep at arm’s-length and are often impressed by the size of the huge black bull and his three female companions named Skraepa, Ama and Brak.
The zoo’s main focus lies on presenting the different species with detailed information—even most of the names of the inhabitants of the zoo are displayed on wooden boards above their cages. It’s a funny little game for families to guess which name belongs to which goat.
Walking up the little hill behind the stables, corrals for reindeer, minks and birds appear. Displayboards provide an overview of the main facts of each species, including what the animals can be used for. Reindeer, for example, provide meat, horn and skin.
The small animals like hens, chickens, turkeys, pigeons, rabbits, guinea pigs, geese and ducks are accommodated in a barn and a petting zoo. The outdoor corral is especially entertaining—watching the busy birds tiptoe around while relaxing on a bench.
Some wild animals come to the zoo of their own free will, entering its premises from surrounding areas like the Botanical Gardens. The zoo also serves as a rehabilitation centre for wild animals that were injured and need treatment.
A tent accommodates the latest division of the zoo, an aquarium with colorful fish tanks. Opened in 2004, it focuses on species from the North-Atlantic Ocean and contains over 20 fish species in addition to mollusks, crabs and echinoderms.
The zoo’s ‘Science World’ can also be found inside the tent, which offers bizarre hands-on exhibits where people can measure how loud they scream or blow huge soap bubbles.
At the local zoo café, visitors can enjoy a wide range of refreshments all the year round.
A bridge connects the zoo to the family park. The main attractions can be found around the pond, such as a big toy replica of a Viking boat, inviting kids jump onboard and set sail for undiscovered territories. Boat and train rides are on offer, as well as horseback riding. Snack bars can also be found on the playgrounds.
The Reykjavík Zoo & Family Park is situated in Hafrafell, 104 Reykjavík and is open daily.
This multimedia slideshow was originally published on icelandreview.com in May, 2009.