Summer vacation is incomplete without a visit to the famous Arignar Anna Zoological Park, known more popularly as Vandalur Zoo. It is a must visit for most households of Chennai and for tourists visiting from far and wide.

Home to several innumerable species of flora and fauna since 1985, the Vandalur Zoo plays hosts to several hundred visitors everyday, a number that swells to several thousand during the vacation and also on occasions like Kaanum Pongal.

The history of the Zoo goes back to 1855, when the Madras Zoo was established by Edward Balfour, Director of Government Central Museum, according to an official note. Unable to cope with the stress and pressures of urban development in Chennai, it was decided to relocate the Zoo outside the city limits.

In 1985, the Zoo was established over an area of more than 1,200 acres in the Vandalur Reserve Forest. The Zoo, according to the note, the first among Public Zoos in India, has a lot of similarities to similar facilities nestled in the midst of reserve forests like Nandankannan Zoo in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, for instance.

Authorities have been initiating a lot of measures to make the Zoo as free from pollution and garbage dumping as possible. Visitors are frisked at the entrance and all plastic goods are restricted. However, visitors are allowed to take water bottles. The rest of the goods are transferred to paper.

Visitors have a choice of taking a tour around the Zoo in a battery operated vehicle or even in bicycles that are very popular among the young boys and girls. There is plenty of space for children to play in slides and other play equipment.

Any time of the year, the temperature inside the Zoo is a couple of degrees lower than outside, thanks to the lush greenery. However, there is a threat during the peak of summer when the ground water level dips. Authorities take a lot of care to ensure that the Fodder Farms are unaffected as most of the herbivores are fed with grass.

Even today, visitors are treated to the delight of many animals being showered with water to keep them cool.

Zoo authorities told Downtown that anticipating the ‘summer rush,' they had put in place a lot of visitor-friendly initiatives, most important being guiding them to the enclosures of most sought after animals like the big cats.

According to the Zoo authorities, the big cats – lion, tiger, especially the white tiger, leopard and panther were a huge hit among the visitors.

The flightless ostrich, now seen with her chicks and a couple of unhatched eggs, evokes a lot of questions from school children about what they eat and how the adult ostriches raise the young ones.

There are many inquisitive visitors who want to understand how animals live in forest and they are able to adjust to the artificial environs. But there are also many others who come to the Zoo only to sit in a bench and spend time with their family and friends.

Whatever the reason is, Vandalur Zoo is certainly a ‘must visit' spot for residents of Chennai and its suburbs who want to take a day's break from the regular routine and spend quality time with their children.

With ample shade and green cover and plenty of open space, Vandalur Zoo offers the perfect getaway for a family.