Animal exhibits, circus acts, waterslides and rollercoasters
Nanning Zoo is part animal enclosure, part circus and part amusement park, and probably more resembles an animal inspired theme park than a traditional zoo. The zoo itself is quite large and it will take you most of the day to take it all in, particularly if you are planning to view the animal performances and enjoy the rollercoasters as well.
Nanning Zoo front entrance. The ticket office is to the left of the main gate.
There is a wide range of animals on display from all over the world, including giraffes from Africa, kangaroos from Australia, birds from South America and red pandas from China. There are a lot of reptiles, with two large sections of the zoo dedicated to turtles/snakes, including one anaconda and several giant turtles. There are no black and white panda bears at this zoo.
Two highlights in the animal enclosures, which made the visit entirely worthwhile for me, were the Siberian Tigers and the South American Macaws. Both enclosures for these animals allowed you to get incredibly close to them. The Siberian tigers paced right in front of the glass wall so that at times only a few millimetres separated them from the people watching them. When they were not exercising, the tigers rested in steel cages so close that you could offer them your arm for lunch if you leaned in far enough. It is amazing to see such majestic beasts up close.
One of the Siberian tigers, less than a metre away, at Nanning Zoo
There were two types of macaws - a red and green variety, and a blue and yellow variety. These large parrots, which are about as long as your forearm, sit unflustered on a pile of branches right in front of you. Only a transparent waist high fence about 2 metres back keeps the public from touching the birds. I was amazed that the birds did not fly away. Overall I found the bird exhibits here well designed for visitors, with glass walls at eye level to see the birds clearly. This is complemented by thin cage wire at the top of the glass, which allows you to hear the birds calling. There was a cacophony coming from the parrot area, which each type of bird trying to shout over the others to let themselves be heard.
A visitor getting up close to the blue and yellow macaws
Apart from the animal exhibitions, there are a couple of animal performances at the stadiums within the zoo. I saw the circus performance, which included elephants doing handstands, bears and monkeys riding bicycles and some daring trapeze artists jumping in and around a rotating wheel. This performance comes with a warning for animal lovers - if the sight of monkeys and bears being yanked on chains to perform a trick is too confronting then don't go to this show. The first time I saw this show a few years ago it made me nauseous because it involved beating animals, but the second time around (in 2015) the handlers were nowhere near as aggressive. Having said that, the trapeze act is one of the most entertaining I have seen. The circus stadium is next to the elephant enclosure. There is also a seal and dolphin show at the dolphin pool where these two animals perform a range of tricks and jokes such as waving, jumping through hoops and sliding across the stage.
The amusement section of the zoo has several waterslides and rollercoasters. These are included in the price of your ticket. Simply hand your entry ticket to the ride operator and they will clip off the numbers at the bottom of your ticket. You can keep riding until the numbers have all been clipped off. The waterslides are a good option if it is a typically hot tropical day in Nanning, so pack your bathers and a towel.
To get to the zoo, you can take buses 4, 33, 53, 54, 58, 66, 76, 204, 207, 222, K1, 604, 605 and 804. The name of the bus stop is Nanning Zoo, which is written in English at the bus stop. Within the zoo you can also take one of the yellow electric buses to go from exhibit to exhibit. The fare on the electric buses at the time of writing was 4 RMB each time you get on and is not included in the entry price.