Two Sundays ago we went to the Helsinki Zoo on Korkeasaari (korkea = tall, saari = island) – the zoo covers the whole island (you can see the zoo’s location in Helsinki here, and a map of the zoo here).

Brigitte's a bit taller than a sun bear, but a fair side shorter than a brown bear!


The island is quite close to where we stay (maybe only 2 km – Reittiopas will show you how to get there from anywhere), but it is a much longer route to reach the zoo via land. It might have been faster to take the zoo ferry, which leaves from the Hakaniemi market down the road from us – but since our travel card cover the bus fares we stuck with road transport. The zoo felt a little deserted when we arrived, and looked a little run-down, but that’s probably mostly due to the dead leaves and plants from autumn.

Pete's span is the equivalent of a Eurasian Eagle Owl - much, much shorter than a Steller's Sea Eagle or a Californian Condor


We rushed to the “Africasia” building in the hopes of seeing the mongeese being fed (timetable here – look down on the bottom left) – we couldn’t find the mongeese, but enjoyed watching some of the monkeys. To keep all the tropical animals happy that part of the zoo is a bit of a greenhouse, and they had the heating full blast – so we actually returned there again later with the idea of warming up (and then at least we found the mongeese).


One of the highlights of the day at the zoo was the big male lion. He drew a large crowd when he started roaring. After a while – I’m not sure why – he stopped walking up and down the fence, turned his back to his audience, and promptly sprayed half of the crowd (from a scent gland I presume) – I’m glad he didn’t aim for us, but it was also rather funny to see everyone else’s response!


It was also interesting for both of us to see some of the European and North American animals that are not found in the South Africa zoos. While I was working in Kilpisjärvi this summer I always had my eyes peeled for wolverines – I had no luck seeing one there, but it was a nice consolation to see two very active wolverines at the zoo. I was also surprised how different the forest subspecies of the reindeer are from the “normal” reindeer that we got quite familiar with during fieldwork.


We also walked across a pier to Hylkysaari (= ship wreck island) – this little island used to be home to the Maritime Museum of Finland, until the museum was moved to Kotka. Now it looks a bit like a ghost village…

A view of Helsinki from Hylkysaari


Overall, I’d vote Korkeasaari worth a visit!


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