The Complete (New) Guide To The Riyadh Zoo, Malaz

My three boys love the MadagascOpens in a new tab.ar movies. They are a series of four films that depict the adventures of talking cartoon zoo animals on the run. So, one day, we decided to visit Riyadh Zoo to try to see them in real life. 

The Author and His Three Boys Kitted Out And Ready To Visit The Zoo
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Playmobil Petting Zoo Unboxing 70342 Build with goats, sheep, bunnies, guinea pigs & more!

We had heard that it was a small zoo and nothing really special. So knowing what to expect, we drove from Jubail to the Riyadh Zoo in Malaz district. However, to our surprise, it turned out to be far better than we had been led to understand. 

The following is what we found.

So, Is The Riyadh Zoo In Malaz Worth Visiting?

Definitely! Google rated it 4.1 and Tripadvisor 3.7. This lovely zoo is set on 22 hectares of beautifully landscaped gardens with grassy open sitting areas. It has 1,600 animals, 196+ species including tigers, crocodiles, gazelles, and reptiles. Families can tour the zoo riding a mini-train, take picnics, buy snacks, gifts, and have coffee or a good lunch in the restaurant. 

Riyadh Zoo-Most Visitors Love It 

Most people, especially my kids feel happy to have visited the Riyadh Zoo. They are happy with the low entrance fee, seeing a good variety of animals that are easy to view, the great facilities, and especially the 20 mins zoo tour in mini train ride. 

Some People Criticize The Zoo

Others, it seems, are a bit critical. They complain that the zoo is a bit worn out and old fashioned. They note also that many visitors abuse the animals and that it lacks adequate security, signposting, information, maps, and other educational programs. 

To that end, the goal of this article is to present all the good and bad information you should know about the zoo and allow you to decide for yourself whether a visit to Riyadh Zoo is going to be worthwhile for you and your family

Riyadh Zoo, Malaz -The Basic Facts And Features

There are 2 Habour Sea Lions At Riyadh Zoo
Riyadh ZooThe Facts and Features
Address 139, Musaab Bin Umayr Street
Al Malaz
Riyadh 12832
Saudi Arabia
Google MapsRiyadh Zoo, Malaz
Contact:+966-114779523  
011 477 9523
Entrance FeeAdults:       SR 11.5 ($3.07)
Kids:          SR 5.75 ($1.53)
Under 5s:   Free Entrance
Mini Train: SR 4.6
TimetableOpen: Everyday frm 8:30am until 6pm (Magrib)
Closed: Sunday for Maintenance
Exception: Opens Friday After Jummah prayero

In the past, there were separate visiting times for males, females, and families. Such restrictions no longer exist.
Average Visit Time2-3 hrs
Opening Hours In 2022

The Riyadh Zoo-Main Entrance
Riyadh Zoo-Main Entrance (Well Shaded)
Entrance Fee-Adult SAR 11.50
Entrance Fee-Child SAR 5.75

The History Of Riyadh Zoo 

Riyadh Zoo

The Riyadh Zoo was originally a private wild animal park called the old zoo. It was presented as a gift to the late King Abdul Aziz & the Al Saud family in 1957.  

After it was demolished the old zoo was replaced and became the new zoo in 1987. Today, it lies on 22 hectares, the width of 22 football fields laid side by side or 55 acres, is nicely landscaped, with well-maintained gardens and faithfully replicated animal enclosures. 

Initially, the cost to build the zoo reached $33.3 million. To buy animals and stock up the zoo cost an additional $6.4 million.  

The Design and Layout Of Riyadh Zoo 

Riyadh Zoo Interior

The zoo’s current design was made possible by Safari Parks International of London a consultancy that provides designs for zoological gardens. 

They planned and designed the animal-friendly enclosures, the beautiful landscaping, flower beds, the fountains, waterfalls, and streams that run through the park that can still be seen until today  

How Do Visitors Get Around The Riyadh Zoo 

Outdated Interactive Plan OF Riyadh Zoo

Visitors often comment that they are not sure how to get around the zoo. This is because it has no clear starting and finishing point.

However, the unusual layout was part of the original design.

The layout is a series of 3 concentric routes linked by visitor paths. Visitors can start their walking tour at the middle circle, beginning at the large fountain, and then move outwards using the connecting pathways onto the second circular route and then end the tour by going round the third wider circular route. 

Also, they can do the opposite by starting the tour on the wider outer circle, making their way inwards onto the second before finally moving onto the small circle ending at the large fountain. 

How Are The Animals Enclosures Organised?  

Brown Bear Enclosures At Riyadh Zoo

The animals are displayed in groups according to their country/region of origin and genealogical classifications. 

There are 33 main enclosures listed below. Read them to give you an idea of what animals you can expect to see there.   

For example, the Australian Bush enclosures contain kangaroos, wallabies, kookaburras, and emus. In the South American areas reside llamas, tapirs alpacas, and guanacos- animals native to the Americas. 

The 33 Main Animal Enclosures (See Zoo Plan)

New Plan Of the Riyadh Zoo Showing Enclosures
Old Plan Showing Main Animal Enclosures (Arabic)
  1. Flamingos
  2. Seals
  3. Animals From Australia
  4. Animals From Asia and South America
  5. Wolves
  6. Hyenas
  7. Small Mammals
  8. Elephants
  9. Zebra and African Plains
  10. Oryx & Desert Gazelles
  11. Bears
  12. Camels and Giraffes
  13. Birds Of Prey
  14. White Rhinoceros
  15. Rock Rabbits
  16. Bengal Tigers
  17. Lions
  18. Pygmy Hippos
  19. White Handed Gibbons
  20. Mountain Goats
  21. Orangutangs
  22. Small Mammals
  23. Chimpanzees
  24. Small Mammals
  25. Dingo Dogs and Wolves
  26. White Handed Gibbons
  27. Monkeys And Baboons
  28. Birds
  29. Spider & Woolly Monkeys
  30. Lemurs & Marmosets
  31. Parrots
  32. Porcupines
  33. Reptiles
  34. Cheetahs

Riyadh Zoo-Types of Animals On Display 

An old and young elephant love visitors at the Riyadh zoo

There are close to 2,00 animals and up to 196 species. The table and list below describe them in brief. 

Many people complain that there is not enough animal information in the zoo. So, I have provided some useful easy to animal profiles.

My sons Sohaib (left) and Baraa (right) admiring the elephants

Click here to read a more detailed description of all the important animals at Riyadh Zoo, Malaz.

Animal TypesExamples
DangerousLions, Tigers, Cheetahs, Panthers, Rhinos, and Hippos
LargeElephants, Giraffes, Camels, Oryx
SmallMonkeys, Wallabies, Racoons, Chimpanzees, Turtles
BirdsOwls, Parrots, Flamingoes, Pelicans
ReptilesSnakes

List Of Animals Currently On Display At Riyadh Zoo

My Son Baraa Posing With A Blue Macaw Parrot
Two Humped Bactrian Camel
Ostriches
African Crocodiles
Nice Agile Monkey
  • Lions
  • White/Black Panthers in glass cages
  • Bengali Tigers (white)
  • Tigers
  • Jaguars
  • Cheetahs (Behind Glass) 
  • Arabian Desert Leopard
  • Caracals
  • Hyenas
  • Zebras
  • Brown Bears
  • Bactrian Camels
  • Zebras
  • Leopards
  • Rhinoceros
  • Asian Elephants
  • African Elephants
  • Hippopotamuses 
  • Bears
  • Llamas
  • Prairie, Desert Dogs, Jackels
  • Desert Foxes
  • Australian Kangaroos
  • Wallabies
  • Raccoons
  • Monkeys
  • Chimpanzees
  • Gorillas
  • Orangutans
  • Baboons
  • Lemurs
  • Marmosets
  • Deer/Oryx 
  • Rhime Gazel
  • Gophers
  • Tapirs
  • Crocodiles
  • Snakes
  • Burmese Pythons
  • Habour Seals
  • Ostriches
  • Emus
  • Pheasants
  • Eagles
  • Buzzards
  • Parrots
  • Macaws
  • Green Parrotts
  • Toucans
  • Tawny Owls
  • Ducks
  • Flamingoes
  • Pelicans
  • White Swans
  • Peacocks
  • Houbara Bustard
  • Crows
  • Griffon Vultures
  • Pigeons
  • Swamp Hens
  • Curlews
  • Sparrows
  • Bird Species
  • Turtles
Pelicans
Weary Orangutan At Riyadh Zoo
Baboon At Riyadh Zoo
School Children Watching The Monkeys

Riyadh Zoo – The Goals 

Kids Form Khalid International School On A Visit To Riyadh Zoo Next To The Flamingo Pool

The goals are broadly cultural, related to research, and education specifically in the Saudi context. 

Of course, the zoo provides the opportunity for adults and children alike to watch animals, to protect and conserve them, and especially it is a chance for people to experience the breeds and species of animals that are native to Saudi Arabia. 

The AuthorOpens in a new tab. Opens in a new tab.AOpens in a new tab.bOpens in a new tab.uOpens in a new tab. HaOpens in a new tab.mOpens in a new tab.zOpens in a new tab.aOpens in a new tab. Opens in a new tab.Gives You A Brief Tour Of Riyadh Zoo To Help You Decide If It Is Worth A Visit
Click Here To Watch Him On YouTubeOpens in a new tab.

Animal & Staff Facilities

FacilityFeatures
Veterinary ClinicFor Treatment and Care of Animals
Animal KitchenPlace For Meals Preparation Area For Animals
Plant NurseryGrowing Of Flowers, Bushes, and Trees For Landscaping
Swimming PoolFor Cooling Off
Director’s HouseThe Director’s Living Quarters
Staff ResidenceThe Staff Live Here 
Riyadh Zoo Signposting
Khalid Saad- Riyadh Zoo Curator
Khalid Saad- Zoo Curator On Duty At The Riyadh Zoo

Principle Visitor Facilities And Amenities

Nice Coffee Shop At The Riyadh Zoo-Cafe Du Jardin
Visitor Facilities/AmenitiesFeatures
1,500 Animals40 + Species & Some Are Endangered
2 X Mini Trains Rides20 Mins / Zoo Circuit / Ticket SR 2 Per Person
Zoo CinemaEducational
Roman Arena/TheaterEntertainment and Educational Shows
Play AreaSwings and Slides For Kids
Push Chair/Stroller RentalsRent Stroller For Small Fee
Collapsable Deck ChairsAvailable For Rent 
Grassy, Shaded Sitting AreasPicnics and Rest Points
Prayer Halls Carpeted Wooden Buildings
KiosksSnacks, Drinks, Sandwiches, Crisps, Icecream, etc
Gift ShopsSouveniers and Momentos
Coffee ShopHot Drinks
Grill RestaurantHot cooked food. 
Café  Du JardinPizza, Good Meals and Deserts
Mini MartGrocery Type Shopping
ToiletsVery Clean and Well Maintained
Large ParkingFor Customers of Riyadh Zoo
Malaz PolyclinicNext To Riyadh Zoo
Nice Food Available At The Grill Restaurant

How Do Visitors Buy Tickets?

You can buy your entrance tickets at the Ticket Counter located at the Main Entrance to the Riyadh Zoo. It is opposite the main car parking area. As you go into the zoo, show your tickets to the security staff, then make your way inside. 

Buying Trinkets Before You Enter The Zoo

One Of Many Toy Sellers Operating Outside The Zoo

Immediately opposite the main entrance to the Riyadh Zoo, you will see a makeshift market area.

Most of the vendors are Saudi ladies. They sell their goods on carpets laid on the ground. Such items are useful to have once you get into the zoo itself. 

For example, they sell: 

  • Picnic Rugs 
  • Collapsable Chairs
  • Sheets
  • Prayer Rugs
  • Hats
  • Parasols
  • Kids Toys, etc

Can Visitors Buy Maps and Guides To The Zoo? 

The Plan Of The Riyadh Zoo At The Main Entrance

No! They may become available at the zoo in the future. However, there is an interactive online plan of Riyadh Zoo on the Saudi Zoos Riyadh Zoo website. Click to view and interact with the Riyadh Zoo map.Opens in a new tab. 

Is There A Special Route To Get Around The Zoo?

Yes! The animal enclosures are located along with a series of four ever-widening concentric circular ring routes interconnected by visitor footpaths. 

This means that there is no actual starting or ending point except at the main entrance. 

There are two ways you can see the animals: 

On Foot 

If you want to see all the animals begin on the inner ring then move onto the second ring, then the third ring, and end with the outer and much wider final ring until you have seen all the animals. 

Alternatively, you can begin your tour on the outer ring before moving onto the second ring and then finally finishing the tour at the ring near the large fountain. 

This will take you about 3 hours and you will spend about 3-4 kilometers walking. If you get tired, you can rest on the benches, use folding chairs or sit on the grassy lawns.  

By Mini Train

Visitors Join The Train At The Station Behind The Flamingo Enclosure

This is a popular option. The colorful mini-train takes you for a complete tour of the zoo. The train is good for families with small children and people who are too weak or unfit to complete the four circuits. 

It costs SR 4.6 per person for adults and children.

The train takes visitors for a complete circuit of the outer circle path. It lasts about 15 minutes.

Author and Son Sohaib Riding The Popular Mini Train Tour

Is There Adequate Labelling And Descriptions Of Animals?

Animal Information At The Green Monkey Cage

Yes, and No! Signposts give the general directions to animal enclosures. However, many visitors have complained about inadequate information about the animals at the enclosure viewing points.  

Can Visitors Bring In A Pushchair or Stroller?

Yes! They are also available for hire inside the zoo. However, small cars or kids’ vehicles, scooters, etc are not allowed. 

Are Visitors Allowed To Use Umbrellas, Parasols, Or Sun Shades?

Yes, they are. Also, it is recommended to wear wide-brimmed hats and to apply sunscreen lotion.  

Is Any Area Of The Zoo Shaded For Visitors?

Shaded Walkways
Lots Of Trees in Riyadh Zoo

During the hot summer months, the animals are artificially shaded using canopies that cover their enclosures. 

In the zoo, you can also find plenty of shaded areas, covered walkways, and trees to shelter from the sun. 

Are there Family Tickets- Seasonal Passes, Event Tickets. Etc?

Riyadh Zoo Ticket Counter

No! Visitors purchase tickets for each individual person! Events are planned in the new Roman arena. 

When Is The Best Time Of Day, Month Or Year To Visit?

The best time is when the weather is coolest. This means that the cooler winter season December to March is the ideal time. 

Also, on warmer days, the early morning or late afternoon is the best time to see the animals since the sun is at its lowest points and there is plenty of shade. At these times animals will come out of their dens.

NOTE: The days of the weekend Thursday & Friday afternoons and Saturday all day are VERY busy with families. Access to facilities and to the animal enclosures gets crowded and viewing is restricted.  

What Are The Zoo Timings?

What Time Does The Zoo Close?

The zoo closes at 6pm ish and visitors are ushered out of the zoo before the Maghrib prayer time. 

Can Visitors Feed The Animals? 

All The Signs Say ‘It Is Prohibited To Feed The Animals‘, but many people ignore this injunction.

Visitors are prohibited from feeding animals. It is for their safety and wellbeing. However, this is difficult for the zoo officials to control. Regular daily nutritious meals are prepared for animals in the Animal Kitchen. 

Human food is not intended for animals and can cause them harm. However, many visitors deliberately ignore this prohibition. 

What Are The Earliest And Latest Visitors Can Enter The Zoo?

The earliest time is 9:00 am and realistically the latest time is 3 pm. Since the zoo closes at 6pm, this will allow you a minimum of 2 hours to complete your visit.  

Can Visitors Pet The Animals?

You Can Pet The Animals At the Riyadh Zoo At Your Own Risk

No! The Riyadh Zoo is for viewing animals only. There are enclosures separating visitors from the animals. Also, unlike in the Madagascar movies, the animals are not expected to perform for visitors. 

For reasons of safety, some enclosure partitions are made of glass, some have high metallic fences and others have open railings with ravines that stop animals from climbing up and out of the enclosures. (And humans falling in)

Are Conditions At The Zoo Good For The Animals?

Gazelle At Riyadh Zoo

Yes! In general, visitors report that the animals are fed well and very well cared for by zookeepers and vets. They have good living spaces and conditions similar to their natural environments.  

Can You Photograph or Film Inside The Zoo? 

Yes!

Are There Any Special Animal Shows?

There are daily feeding times. They are not shows but visitors can view the keepers feeding the animals. 

Check The Feeding Schedules

Are There Educational Programs Talks, and Courses?

Riyadh Zoo’s New Amphitheater- The Entrance
Riyadh Zoo Amphitheater- Interior View

Yes! In 2020, the Riyadh Zoo installed a new Roman Arena & Theater. It is intended to provide educational, cultural and entertainment shows for families at the weekends. There also are corridors and four hangars. 

Contact the Riyadh Zoo for the events schedule. 

Can Visitors Buy Books, Momentos, And Souvenirs, etc?

Yes at the zoo gift shop! 

Is The Zoo Safe For Visitors?

Yes! Visitors Are Safe, But Are The Animals?

Yes, very! On the contrary, there is a great concern for the safety of the animals as visitors routinely shout, scream, torment, throw trash, and harangue the animals from outside the enclosures. 

Also, the security guards are on duty and the staff is very helpful indeed. 

Have There Been Any Accidents Involving Visitors In The Past?

Yes! A Sudanese man, aged 24 voluntarily entered into the leopards’ enclosure and got mauled by a Bengal tigress. However, he survived. 

The horrific event was captured on video. 

Are There Doctors Or First Aid Available For Visitors?

No, but there are First Aid kits and trained staff on hand to administer medical assistance. 

Is There A Place For Formal Prayer? 

The zoo has prayer halls and there are two mosques close by.  

What Do Visitors Say are The Riyadh Zoo’s Good Points?

Simba’s Dad and Mum
  • Good for Families & Kids
  • Low Entrance Fee
  • Plenty of Animals
  • Plenty Of Singing Birds 
  • Good Animal Habitats 
  • Clean and Well Maintained 
  • Average Food and Drinks Prices
  • Well Fed And Healthy animals
  • Easy To View Animals-No Obstructions Close Up 
  • Beautiful Spacious Gardens
  • Some Information and Sign Boards 
  • Good Security And Helpful staff
  • Renovations And Developments 
  • Lots Of Green Spaces For Sitting and Picnics 
  • Good Caramel Corn Snacks
  • Nice Food In Grill Restaurant
  • Good Variety Of Snacks In Kiosks

What Do Visitors Say are The Riyadh Zoo’s Bad Points?

Lots of Dangerous Visitor Trash at Riyadh Zoo
  • Facilities Are Outdated And A Bit Old Fashioned 
  • Areas In Need Of Renovation And Better Branding 
  • Ongoing Renovation Causes Disruption
  • No Official Zoo Guides Or Tours
  • No Zoo Plans Or Guides Provided
  • Some Old Weak Animals
  • Animals Seem Too Hungry And Thirsty
  • Dirty Trash Infested Enclosures
  • Possibly Some Circus and Rescued Animals
  • Key Animals Exhibits Are Missing i.e. Elephants, Gorillas, Giraffes,  Crocodiles, Snakes, Peacocks, Dolphins and Fish
  • Lack Of Rare Species Of Animals
  • Over Crowded Car Park 
  • Long Waits At Ticket Kiosks -Especially At Weekends 
  • Over Crowded Enclosure Viewing Areas
  • Reptile Exhibitions Always Closed
  • Lacks Variety of Restaurants And Food
  • Food And Drinks Overpriced 
  • No Entertainments, Shows, Cultural Or Educational Events (soon to change)
  • Poor Signage Boards
  • Few Animal Information Plates
  • Different Animals Are Mixed i.e White Tigers and Cheetahs together
  • More Empty Space Than Animals
  • Poor First Aid Facilities 
  • Visitors Throw Plastic And Trash Into Enclosures
  • Kids Feed Animals With Popcorn And Snacks
  • Kids Scream, Torment and Harangue The Animals 
  • Walkways Paving Stones Broken And Dangerous For Strollers And Kids

Top 10 Tips & Recommendations For Zoo Visitors

Standing Sign At Riyadh Zoo
  1. Plan Visit Early Morning/Late Afternoon (November to March) 
  2. Check Visiting Times for Men, Women, and Families 
  3. Read Map At Entrance For Zoo Plan 
  4. Go on Train Ride To See Around The Zoo 
  5. Check Mini Train Timings 
  6. Buy Mini Train Tickets in Advance
  7. Find Out Timings Of Official Zoo Tours
  8. Have a Good Lunch BEFORE You Go
  9. Or Bring Your Own Picnic 
  10. Use An Umbrella, Hats, Suncream And Collapsable Chairs

Related Questions?

Are there any good hotels close to the Riyadh zoo? Yes! You can find 2*- 5* hotels and a number of apartment rentals. Click the Expedia link to read about the Top Ten Hotels Near Riyadh Zoo. 

What else can visitors see in Riyadh? Visitors also like to see the 1. Kingdom Tower, the 2. Heritage Park, the 3. National  Museum, 4. Masmak Fortress, the 5. Al Nakheel Mall, 5. Al Rajhi Grand Mosque, 6. King Abdullah Park, 7. Old Diriyah and the 8. Riyadh Gallery Mall. 

Kids Play Area Inside The Riyadh Zoo

References and Useful Resources

  1. A Capital Zoo in Riyadh-Opens in a new tab. Arthur Clark Aramco World
  2. Riyadh Zoo All You Need to KnowOpens in a new tab.-Tripadvisor
  3. Riyadh Zoo Timing and Entry FeeOpens in a new tab.-SaudiExpatriates.com
  4. Riyadh Zoo-Opens in a new tab.Whiteboard
  5. The A to Z Of AnimalsOpens in a new tab.-AZAnimals
  6. All About KSA- Riyadh ZooOpens in a new tab.– Farukh Pervez
  7. New Roman Arena and TheaterOpens in a new tab.– ArabNews
  8.  Top Ten Hotels Near Riyad Zoo -Expedia
  9. Things To Do In Riyadh Opens in a new tab.-TripAdvisor

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Mohammed Francis

I am a UK national, a college teacher, father of 3, writer and blogger.

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