The Zoo and Botanical Gardens (Thao Cam Vien) is located at the corner of Nguyen Binh Khiem and Le Duan – about 30 minutes walk from the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was established by the French in 1865, and once had the reputation of being one of the best zoos in Asia. Nowadays, things are different… The zoo still has a good number of animals (elephants, hippos, crocodiles, big cats, monkeys etc.), but they looked bored and in a sorry state. I have read that Ho Chi Minh City government has planned a new larger zoo project called Saigon Safari Park...
The botanical gardens are much nicer; full of huge trees, beautiful flowers, a bonsai “forest”, and a large greenhouse full of more tropical flowers. It is a nice place if you want to escape from all the traffic and noise in Ho Chi Minh City – but don’t visit because of the zoo...
Opened in 1864, this zoo is one of the oldest in the world thanks to the French but has seen better days and is in need of a bit of a scrub down. There are many kinds of mammals, reptiles, and birds such as monkey, tiger, leopard, lion, gibbon, deer, elephant, turtle, snake, and so on. Besides common species, there are also many new kinds that have appeared in Vietnam for the first time: such as Hippopotamus amphibious, Chorepsis liberiensis, Panthera onca, Struthio camelus, Phoenicopterus ruper ruper. The shade under leafy tropical plants and trees blends the botanical gardens into the zoo areas which provides a nice destination for a lazy afternoon walk.
Open: 7am-8pm. Admission: 12,000 VND.
I'm big on seeing a country's national zoo. Saigon's is a bit depressing, compared to others. It's somewhat small and ancient by zoo standards, but it's entry fee is also low. It's in need a bit of attention. Some exhibits have even been abandoned. Otherwise, the zoo is kept very clean and has adequate restroom and eating facilities.
I felt really sorry for this animal just like I felt for the rest of the animals in the zoo. I suppose you could say that by paying to go in the zoo you are contributing to the misery but you don't know that until you go in the place. At least YOU know now. I think that they have tried ti improve it since I last went.
I have read many bad reviews of the Saigon Zoo and so have been reluctant to revisit it. But...I have memories of afternoons spent there many years ago while stationed in Saigon in 1970 - 71 and so have always had it on my bucket list of things to do in Saigon, although always at the bottom of the list it seemed. Anyway, on my sixth visit to Saigon in 2012, I finally got around to visiting it and it was not anywhere near as horrible as I had read. It was in fact quite pleasant...for a Zoo. Now, I am not a fan of caging animals but they did look well cared for and healthy. The grounds are pleasant and worth the visit itself. Either the negative reviews I have read about this zoo, the condition of the animals, lack of care, is very highly exaggerated or the Zoo has cleaned up it's act dramatically in the last couple years. All the animals appeared well fed and taken care of, cages/enclosures were clean and maintained, grounds were very clean and groomed. I am not here to condone or condemn Zoos in general. I am only reporting that as far as Zoo's go, this one seems quite normal albeit on the small side. Sadly, I could not recognize any features from the Saigon Zoo of 1970 remembrance.