If your children are fascinated by animals and are glued to the screen whenever a David Attenborough documentary is on the TV, then there’s one place you simply mustn’t miss if you’re ever on holiday in the Costa Del Sol. It’s called Zoo Castellar and it’s unlike any zoo that you’ll ever have visited.
The zoo, which was set up in 1998 and first opened to the public in 2002, is a sanctuary that gives a good home to animals that have been seized by the authorities, either because they were being treated cruelly in circuses, traded on the black market or were being smuggled in or out of the country.
But this is far from the most unusual thing about the place. Unlike most other zoos where you have to look at the animals in their enclosures, at Castellar you are positively encouraged to interact with them.
More about that in a little while but, first, here’s how to get there. It’s around an hour and forty minutes by road from Malaga. By far the easiest way to get there is to arrange car hire at Malaga airport. You’ll find that the prices are some of the cheapest on the Costa del Sol, not to mention they have a wide range of cars to choose from as well as a good selection of SUVs and people carriers so all the family can join in on the adventure.
Once you’re all safely on board, it’s just a question of heading west straight along the coast road to Castella de la Frontera, playing some fun car games on the way to help the journey go faster.
Once you’ve paid your entry fee (€17 per adult, €11 for children up to 13 and Under 2s free) and go into the zoo, don’t be surprised to find a little lion cub on the prowl or a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig or two snuffling around. While this might sound like not such a great idea, especially for young children, rest assured that the staff are always on hand to make sure that everyone is safe and having a good time.
All-in-all, the zoo is home to over 500 animals and 120 different species; including several that are endangered in the wild. The animals include the lions, as we’ve already mentioned, tigers, emus, ostriches, rabbits, snakes, monkeys, crocodiles, and even a hyena called Eddie. Obviously, you’re not allowed to pet the more dangerous animals, but you can get far closer to them than you can in many zoos.
The zoo relies 100% on donations and ticket sales to survive, as it receives no support from the Spanish government – so your visit really is important to them. You’ll not only be contributing to the upkeep of the animals, but you’ll also be helping to fund the zoo’s important conservation projects too.
Overall, it all makes for a really amazing day out that you’ll all remember long after you’ve said “adios” to all your new animal friends.