A few weeks ago I spotted an interesting photo on a friend’s Facebook page; she was petting a lion cub!!! Turns out the picture was taken at ‘Zoo de Castellar’ a very special place which serves as a rescue centre for all sorts of animals.
Started as a private animal sanctuary way back in 1998, it actually opened to the public in 2002; this has to be one of the Coast’s best kept secrets!
Of course, with two young children, we had to go and see what all the fuss was about. After a quick check on Google Maps, we prepared a pack lunch and set off, for what turned out to be, an amazing family day out.
Zoo de Castellar is located just outside the town of Castellar de la Frontera, about 10 minutes inland from Sotogrande. (See directions below). It’s probably about 1.5 hours away by car from Benalmadena, but well worth the journey
I had been warned that this is not your typical zoo; this became obvious the minute we walked through the main gates and saw the gorgeous lion cub (called Simba) sitting in the cool shade whilst brave visitors attempted to get close enough to pet him and take that coveted photo.
All the animals you will meet at Zoo de Castellar have been rescued from circuses, illegal trafficking, customs or police. They now have over 500 animals, and 120 different species which make for a very interesting and educational visit.
The zoo survives solely on donations, sponsorship and the entrance fees; however, the fact that it receives no government assistance means that it’s a constant struggle to keep up the amazing work they do with these animals. Work to improve and upgrade their installations is never ending; however, be prepared for basic facilities.
Don’t let this lack of fancy installations put you off; the real attraction here is the interaction with the animals. You can buy small bags of seeds for €1 and are encouraged to feed all the animals as you make your way around. This certainly makes for some fun photo moments as you can see in the image above; feeding an ostrich!
You’ll meet tigers, emus, ostrich, rabbits, snakes, monkeys, eagles, vultures, Vietnamese pigs, crocodiles, and even a Hyena named Eddie! The zoo’s staff are extremely friendly and knowledgeable, encouraging you to interact with the animals and providing fascinating information about their habits and characteristics. My girls even got to hold a baby python!
Some parents might be a little concerned or wary about allowing their kids to get so close to some animals; however, at no time did we feel unsafe as all the staff did a fantastic job making us feel at ease at all times. It really is an experience your kids will never forget!
Future plans for the zoo include a large 7 metre x 2 metre tank which will be home to two black tip reef sharks. Apparently, the braver visitors will have the opportunity to slip into a wetsuit and jump in the tank to feed the sharks!
- During the winter months the zoo is open on weekends and public holidays from 10:00am ‘til dusk
- During the summer and school holidays, they are open everyday from 10:00am ‘til dusk.
- Adults: €12
- Children: €6
- Children under 2 years: Free
More information and contact details
Website: www.zoodecastellar.es (under construction at the time of writing this post)
Telephone nº: +34 607 910 393
How do I get there?
Below is a google map of the Zoo’s location and how to get there from Benalmádena.
View Zoo de Castellar in a larger map
If travelling from Sunset Beach Club and the Benalmádena area, you’ll have to take the A7 road towards Algeciras, Cadiz and Gibraltar. When you get to Sotogrande, take exit nº 130 towards Castellar de la Frontera. Just follow the signs for Castellar and you’ll eventually (after 10 minutes or so) see the signs for Zoo de Castellar which is on the right hand side.
A few more photos…
Have you been to Zoo de Castellar? What did you think? Please let us know in the comments below.