Just one mile west of Nassau going toward the Cable Beach stretch of the island is the bus stop for Ardastra Gardens and Zoo. A 1/3 mile ten-minute uphill walk will get you to the gates. Be careful of traffic going in directions you are not used to.
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On a hot spring or summer's day I would suggest taking a cab. The gardens also offer a shuttle-ride/entrance combination for $20 per adult from most of the major hotels. Admission on its own is $12 Adult, $6 Children 4-12. After paying check out the easy to use map and guide they give you. There are two events involving Flamingos and the Lory Parrots that you do want to experience.
World Famous Marching Flamingos
We laughed, or I should say I laughed at my wife when she insisted we go to this place to see these birds. Hey, I was all comfy sitting in a lounge chair with unlimited Bahama Mamas coming my way, I wasn't really thrilled with the thought of actually moving...but I did.
The map guided us to a small ringed arena that had benches and a shaded area around it. This was the Flamingos marching grounds. At the arranged time a "drill sergeant", a local Bahemian trainer, came into the ring giving precision marching orders to the birds. Though we were told the birds we a little "edgie" due to mating season, they did indeed walk in lockstep. My wife got a few good photos showing this. Fortunately I managed a few good pictures of my wife too. After the marching part of the show the sarge picked a few people to go into the ring and have some candid shots taken with the birds. We have a few winner photos.
Feeding the Lory Parrots
The schedule also gives times for feeding the Lory parrots. It's worth a try...maybe. After some brief history of, education about and feeding know how all guests are allowed into an open aviary area under the close supervision of two caretaker/animal trainers.
Everyone is given slices of apple. The medium sized birds will fly down onto heads, shoulders and arms for the food. It's amazing how cleanly they eat the meat of the skin of the apple. This was enjoyable and the birds beautiful. It's also another photo opportunity.
Be sure to bring some kind of wet-naps or such. They don't provide much and there's a good chance of getting "stains" on hats, shoulders and arms. My brother-in-law was the recipient of three. They were nicely balanced though with one on each shoulder and one on his hat. The rest of us got away cleanly.
The grounds exhibit over 300 mammals, birds and reptiles. They have a couple of Jaguars that are beautiful. Large too! I liked that you could get close up to many of these animals. The habitats were natural looking and the animals seemed well cared for. The zoo has animals representing the Caribbean including some on the endangered list. Animals from both North and South America were also on display.
The layout of the 5 1/2 acre property takes one through gardens and jungle settings via narrow and winding paths and small wooden boardwalks. This again is a haven for any photo bugs who can easily spend hours making photographs of the flowers and natural settings with mango trees, banana trees and much more. My wife took her obligatory orchid pictures.
Little Shop of Horrors
On one end of the gardens is a souvenir shop. No there really isn't anything wrong with it. I just can't stand waiting for my wife to shop while I'm on vacation. I do have to admit the shop did offer items that weren't available in other local Nassau shops. Just outside the shop are more photo opportunities with large parrots. I don't recall any places to eat on premises. I would suggest a snack and some bottled water for the trip. Yes, there are rest rooms.
I would rate this is a good side trip while in Nassau, Bahamas. This zoo and garden was worth the trip and the dollars. We were there for just about an hour and a half. One could easily make a half day of it if taking a lot of time in the gardens. We didn't. We went off to town to the straw market and the high end jewelry stores (not that we purchased much) afterward. It was the perfect combination of a day. We were back in our hotel after just four hours taking in a bit of shopping and the gardens.
The zoo and gardens, though not huge, are different than most in the USA. They aren't the best marked but the pamphlet they give does help. There are semi-uniformed people around to question. They are quite enthusiastic about the place.
Perhaps it's because of the jungle setting that I liked the place and the tall trees within kept us out of the sun. My wife enjoyed herself taking photos of the flamingos and ducks that were walking around free. She also made a magnificent photo of a male peacock showing off his feathers in a mating dance. My wife gets that reaction from male birds, although she calls me a butterball turkey.
Even with the zoo, the photo opts, the gardens and the comfortable walks the best part and must see is the World Famous Marching Flamingos. I still smile when I say that.
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Best Time to Travel Here: Dec - Feb