Inaugurated as early as 1855, the Vandalur Zoo is officially known as the Arignar Anna Zoological Park.

It is the first public zoo in India.

The zoo was located near the Park Town of the city in the beginning, however, the location was changed to 30 km outside of Chennai in 1975.

This was done to accommodate a massive expansion of the zoo.

Today the zoo is the largest in all of South Asia, covering 1300 acres.

If you love seeing wildlife in their natural habitat, book your tickets to Vandalur Zoo or join a tour for an extensive look at more animals in Chennai.

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Safaris at Vandalur Zoo

On the 15-minute Lion Safari, you will be able to see Asiatic lions roaming freely in their natural surroundings inside the safari area.

The zoo also offers a Deer Safari, a Gaur Safari, and an Elephant Safari.

Animals at Vandalur Zoo


There are two aviaries in the zoo.

The first is a walk-through that allows visitors to enjoy the birds up close.

This is a 1.5-acre large greenhouse enclosure.

The second is an open aviary where flamingos, seagulls, and other birds can be seen in large numbers, especially during winter months.


With a total of 24 enclosures, the reptilian area houses over 104 snakes.

The king cobra, which is considered to be the most venomous and dangerous snake in India is just one of the highlights.


Interestingly, the Vandalur Zoo is the only one in India that has an amphibian section.

The tanks are impeccably maintained and you will see the common Indian toad and rare Indian tree frogs.


Spread over an area of 5 acres, this section of the zoo attracts many butterflies due to the vast number of host plants.

The blue tiger and lime butterfly are some of the common species here.


The Vandalur Zoo is one of the four zoos in India where you can find ostriches.

These flightless birds have been kept in a larger enclosure so they can run more freely.

White Tigers

There are a total of nine white tigers in this zoo.

These humongous cats are rare and are a pride of the zoo.


The zoo also has saltwater crocodiles along with alligators and freshwater crocodiles.

In fact the zoo has over 220 crocodiles in all and has been able to breed them successfully.


This section of the zoo houses some very rare species of primates like the capped languor of India and the lion-tailed macaque.

Nocturnal Animals

There are many nocturnal species housed in the zoo.

Interestingly, their natural body clock has been altered by the flow of light in their enclosures so that visitors can see these animals active during the day.


The aquarium building is as interesting as the species that are displayed inside.

While some fish are displayed in glass aquariums others are kept in open ponds.

Pre-historic Animal Park

This section of the zoo houses life-sized displays of pre-historic animals.

The large replicas have been placed amongst flora decorations to make them look real.

Things to Know Before Visiting Vandalur Zoo

  • Heat – Chennai is known for its warm climate. The sun is rather strong even in the winter months. Wear a hat and sunscreen while going to the zoo. If you want to visit all the enclosures and areas, the trip can take more than 3 to 5 hours.
  • Cautions – The Vandalur Zoo enclosures are mostly small islands surrounded by dry or water-filled moats. Do not lean over the railing and be extra careful if you are visiting with children.
  • Zoo Rules – Make sure you follow all the rules. Feeding or petting animals is not allowed.

How to get to Vandalur Zoo


From the Maduravoyal Market, the zoo is located 26 kilometers away.

The travel time is about 40 minutes but a cab to the zoo can only be hired for the entire day or half a day.

You will need to pay for a return fare.

A full-day cab costs INR 800 in Chennai.


From MKB Nagar, you can take the 2A bus to get to the zoo directly.

The fare is INR 25 but the bus does take over an hour to get to the zoo.

Alternatively, you can join a tour for a more convenient experience.


  • 1855 – The zoo was opened to the public.
  • 1975 – The zoo was moved from the heart to the city to the outskirts to accommodate the planned expansion.
  • 1979 – Vandalur Zoo was shifted into the Vandalur Forest Reserve Area by the Forest Department of Tamil Nadu.
  • 1985 – The zoo was inaugurated and re-opened to the public in its new expanded avatar.
  • 1989 – Reptile house was opened to the public.
  • 2008 – Elephant safari was started in the zoo.
  • 2010 – Walk though aviary was re-opened to the public after renovation.

Interesting Facts

  • Since the zoo is located inside a reserve forest, there are many incidents where wild animals including panthers and snakes have wandered into the zoo.
  • Enclosures in the zoo are lit by solar energy.
  • Animals like the King cobra who cannot stand the heat have their own air-conditioners.
  • Apart from Madumali, the Vandalur zoo is the only place in Tamil Nadu where an elephant safari is possible.

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For all new cities, I go overboard on my itinerary, just to see every major attraction. Countries I've visited include New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Cambodia, Japan and Thailand. Mostly Asian countries. Next target - Europe!