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Help planning an Israel Trip

Discussion in 'Israel' started by nczoofan, 16 Jul 2018.

  1. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Hey. So I am currently planning and booking a 15 day trip to Israel, from mid December through Early January. I will be touring the country for the first portion of the trip as part of a group, yet for the second half I will be on my own. I currently have about 5 days that are unaccounted for and am likely going to rent a car, so I am able to basically go anywhere in the country (since its the size of New Jersey).

    I was wondering what animal attractions: wild or captive y'all would suggest? I will probably be doing one of two big zoos: Jerusalem Biblical Zoo and Ramat Gan. But I don't know much about either and since most information online is in Hebrew/Arabic; its hard to decipher they species they hold.

    In regards to birding and seeing other mammals (such as Ibex), I am open to any suggestions. Right now the only thing I have committed too is a visit to Hula Valley to see the migration of 30,000 Common Crane, White pelican and more. I would love add another birding destination to my itinerary, although I will definitely be birding every day, as almost all species are new to me. Since this is my first time leaving the United States since my childhood.

    So any suggestions or advice would be great. Also general advice about traveling in Israel would also be helpful.
     
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  2. Brum

    Brum Well-Known Member

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    I can't help with advice but it sounds like a fantastic trip. Both zoos seem quite well done, one of which has (if memory serves me correctly) a multi-species savannah with a lake for hippo's. And as for the bird migration, sounds like an epic sight! :)

    Happy travels! :D
     
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  3. lintworm

    lintworm Well-Known Member

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    You might already be aware that Israeli zoos are also represented on www.zootierliste.de so their collections can be seen online.

    Additionally you might want to contact @alexkant through his website www.zooinstitutes.com . He would be the best person to get information on for Israeli zoos.
     
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  4. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Thank you so much, I did not know that. That will be really helpful. I did not know Israeli zoos coordinate closely and take part in European breeding programs, but I guess it makes sense given the nations size.
     
  5. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    It should be a great trip. Traveling all over the country, so hitting up the three largest cities, red sea, dead sea, negev and more. I like history so that should be fun, but my real focus will be the natural beauty and seeing how the nation deals with its rather limited natural resources. The bird migration peaks more in January, but I should be able to see a nice amount of species in the northern areas of the country.

    Ramat Gan in Tel Aviv has the massive hippo herd. Both zoos in Israel on paper seem like half day zoos, so I could probably do both, depending on if they have different species. Most likely I will ignore the regular species (African Elephant, Sumatran tiger...) and focus on the native wildlife. As well a lot of species are of different subspecies than I have ever seen, having never left the US. So that should be great. Want to start doing my research so that I can get a plan together.
     
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  6. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    So I went through the Ramat Gan species list and wow, they have a really great bird collection. This especially is true of their parrot collection and bird of prey collection.

    They have 17 bird of prey species/subspecies I have never seen. Some of the highlights being Grey sea eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Arabian lappet-faced vulture, and more. Besides birds of prey they have other species I have never seen including:
    • Palestine Jungle Cat (Amazing subspecies and a species I have never seen at all)
    • Guinian Weeper Capuchin
    • Arabian Wolf
    • Lyle's flying fox
    • Syrian Striped Hyena
    • Syrian Rock Hyrax
    So i need to do more research (to see which of these species are on display), but I feel a visit to Ramat Gan is likely. Also to see the largest hippo group in captivity.

    Now going to go through the biblical zoo's species list.
     
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  7. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Just did the same for the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. I got 65 species or subspecies that are new to me. So I am probably going to try to do both zoos.

    This zoo seems to have a great native reptile and amphibian collection. This includes species such as the Negev Tortoise, Syrian Tree Frog, Palestinian Viper, Sinai Chameleon, and Levent Water Frog. Other highlights are listed below:
    • Indian Wolf
    • Asian Lion
    • Palestine Gazelle
    • Vicuna
    • Palestine fat-sand rat
    • Gray slender loris
    • Eurasian Otter
    • Cape giraffe (at both zoos)
    So basically both zoos have great collections, especially of the native species or species unseen in AZA zoos. So I am going to try to do both.
     
  8. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    Make sure you try and visit Petra if it’s remotely possible. I’ve seen quite a few sights and Petra is among the seven wonders of the world for a reason.
     
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  9. Nisha

    Nisha Well-Known Member

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    Have you considered adding the Gan Garoo Park onto your itinerary? It has an Australian theme with Koala's, various birds and Marsupials. I think its on ZTL as well although the species list might be out of date

    Gan Guru - An Australian Park in Israel

    Edit: ZTL says the Koalas are no longer held but I wouldn't take this as gospel given how many people (With edit rights to ZTL) are likely to visit often.. They do have a few odd species though.

    Edit part two: Nisha went digging and as of February 2018 they HAVE still got Koala's. Southern I think (sorry Longleat!)
     
    Last edited: 18 Jul 2018
  10. Mehdi

    Mehdi Well-Known Member

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    Petra is in Jordan though, and that's a whole different country. I don't think access to Jordan from Israel is easy.

    I hope you will have a nice trip, definitely sounds like one! :)
     
  11. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Yes Jordan is hard to get to from Israel so that will likely not be an option.
     
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  12. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    I will definitely consider it, since its in the Northern part of the country where I will spending time birding. Its interesting to such an extensive Australian collection and definitely has some new species. I have a lot of decisions to make, but no matter where I go their are plenty of species not held in the US.
     
  13. ThylacineAlive

    ThylacineAlive Well-Known Member

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    I don't know how old you are or what the laws are like in Israel, but I know in most places it's almost impossible to rent a car if you're under 26 without having to pay ridiculous fees... This fact has always been a huge hindrance to my own travel plans unfortunately.

    Otherwise it looks like you have a great trip lined up and I'm quite jealous! :)

    ~Thylo
     
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  14. nczoofan

    nczoofan Well-Known Member

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    Currently 21, and have rented a rental car recently when I ran into car issues. In Israel being under 25, they charge you an extra fee to rent a car. It looks to be about $50 USD. Its annoying, but I am gonna have to do it to get to the northern part of the country. Only need to rent a car for like 2 days, as the rest of the time I will be either on a tour or in one of the 2 big metro areas. I kinda look at it as the fee sucks, but am I going to let it stop me have a once in a lifetime opportunity?

    It should be a great trip. Almost every animal I see in the wild will be new to me and 1/3 of the zoos collection should be new species at either of the major zoos. Plus the cultural/historical sites will be amazing. And I might even fit in a little partying :D
     
  15. jwer

    jwer Well-Known Member

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    I knw the region has changed from when I was there, but a few years ago day tours from Eilat to Petra where going every single day without a problem? The Eilat to Aqaba border crossing was actually quite easy and straightforward at the time.

    According to quite a recent site here: Eilat Aqaba Border Crossing - How to get from Israel to Jordan

    It still is? Probably depends on what country you’re from, but Petra and Wadi Rum are spectacular so worth finding out imho.
     
  16. Daktari JG

    Daktari JG Well-Known Member

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  17. zoo_enthusiast

    zoo_enthusiast Well-Known Member

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    I have made two extended trips to Israel and visited many of the country's zoos. My first trip was in 2015, and during that trip I have been to Ramat Gan Zoo, Jerusalem Zoo, and several zoos in the north part of the country (Gan Garoo, Haifa Zoo, Hai Park, Nahariya Zoo, Hai Bar Carmel, and a couple of smaller "road-side" establishments). My second trip was in August of this year - I again visited Ramat Gan and Jerusalem and also several zoos in the south of the country (Hai Bar Yotvata, Hai Ramon, Negev Zoo, Arava Antelope Ranch, and some smaller establishments). My main interest has also been seeing a photographing the species missing from the AZA institutions, and Israel has a lot of them. I did not really do birding, but it is fairly easy to see several interesting mammal species in the wild: wild ibex regularly visit outskirts of some smaller towns in the desert area, and this summer I've seen many very close (including several impressive males) on the premises of a high school in the town called Sde Boker. During my 2015 trip to the north of Israel, my friend took me to see wild hyrax somewhere very close to the city of Haifa. I've seen several hyrax couple minutes walking distance away from the parking lot!
     
  18. zoo_enthusiast

    zoo_enthusiast Well-Known Member

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    As far as the zoos, Ramat Gan and Jerusalem Biblical Zoo are the largest. Ramat Gan is half a drive-through safari (with large herds of hippos, white rhinos, zebras, elands, nyalas, Arabian and scimitar oryx, wildebeest, gazelles, addaxes, ostriches, etc., and also lions in a separate drive-through section) and a walk-through zoo.
    The walk-through zoo area looks pretty dated and many animals are in cages. The zoo has an Australian section (with emus, red and western gray kangaroos, cassowaries, flying foxes, and several parrot species), a primate section (with open enclosures for gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, hamadryas baboons, mandrills, guerezas, Celebes black macaques, weeper capuchins, and several lemur species; also two small islands for cotton-top tamarins), a South American paddock (with giant anteaters, Brasilian tapirs, capybaras, maras, and rheas), a carnivore section (with 2 grottoes for Syrian brown bears and Asiatic black bear, cages for sand cats and jungle cats, nice enclosure for Persian leopards, also coatis, and fennec foxes), a series of enclosures for Israeli wolves, African wild dogs, and striped hyenas, cages for lion-tailed macaques and sloths.
    The newest section (and the construction there is still ongoing) is for Asian species, but currently feels pretty empty since it only houses 2 species - Sumatran tigers and Komodo dragons. I beliebe that in the future other Asian species (such as lion-tailed macaques) would also move to this area from their current cages.
    The most famous inhabitants are elephants - Ramat Gan is famous for breeding both African and Asian elephants and they currently have a head of Asians (where a breeding bull is kept together with females and young), while the African bull is kept separate from cows (I believe I only saw 2 African cows and 1 very large African bull). Near the elephants are giraffes (there are also a couple in the safari section) and Somali wild asses.
    The bird collection includes several bird of prey aviaries (the biggest rarity is the Negev lappet-faced vulture, but they also have Eurasian griffon-vultures, white-tailed sea eagles, and couple other species - I believe I recall caracaras and Egyptian vultures). They also have a couple enclosures for owls - all native species (eagle-owls, long-eared owls, Syrian little owls, tawny owls, and the biggest rarity was Hume's owl Strix butleri which I never seen anywhere else). Much of the rest of the bird collection is housed in a large parrot section with many different macaws (including Ara maracana), palm cockatoos, and some non-parrot species (crowned pigeons, Bornean fireback pheasants, etc.). The zoo also has African penguins, a big lake with some waterfowl and an island with siamangs,
    And then there are meerkats, two crocodilian species (American alligators and Nile crocodiles), Aldabra and sulcatta tortoises, and a couple of larger glass-fronted enclosures for pythons, anacondas, and monitor lizards.
    I think one of the main highlights of my 2015 visit was seeing and photographing a pair of very active ratels in an open exhibit where photographing was amazingly easy (my previous attempt to photograph the species in one of the old cages at the San Diego Zoo was frustratingly unsuccessful). Unfortunately, the ratels are no longer in collection, and during my most recent visit their enclosure was occupied by fennec foxes (which are fairly commonplace in AZA zoos)

    My overall impression of Ramat Gan is that of a large and fairly ABC zoo. However, for someone coming from the United States and looking for species missing from or rare in the mainstream AZA collections, there will definitely be interesting animals there.
     
  19. zoo_enthusiast

    zoo_enthusiast Well-Known Member

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    Jerusalem Biblical Zoo is already being reviewed on this site, and so I will not give an extensive review. I liked it better than Ramat Gan. It definitely felt more modern, there are no old cages, and enclosures are moated, walk-through, or glass-fronted which makes the photography easy.
    It's also growing fairly rapidly. Between my 2015 visit and this past August, they've added a small nocturnal building with interesting animals (Slender Loris was the highlight for me, but they also had African brush-tailed porcupines, galagos, clouded rat, Egyptian fruit bats, and Eurasian hedgehogs), a fairly large aquarium (with a separate entrance and tickets, though managed by the zoo), exhibits for Bactrian deer, striped palm squirrels, rhinoceros iguanas, and are finishing the new exhibit for orangutans and Javan langurs (both will be the new species for the zoo).
    They have several walk-through exhibits and aviaries, some fairly typical ones (for ring-tailed and ruffed lemurs, gray kangaroos, feeding aviary for lories), but others more unusual (for Australian flying-foxes, Eurasian eagle-owls, and a large walk-through aviary with multiple species of vultures, eagles, and buzzards).
    Between my 2 visits (2015 and 2018) I have seen and photographed the following species which I haven't seen in the US zoos: grey-headed flying foxes (I believe in the US they are kept in the Baltimore Aquarium, where I have never seen them despite annual visits, and in Lubee Bat Foundation, where I haven't been - but in Jerusalem they can be easily seen in a nice walk-through aviary which they share with a tawny frogmouth), lender loris, striped palm squirrels (I've also photographed them in 2 other Israeli zoos), fat sand rats (I've also photographed them in 2 other Israeli zoos), beech marten (I've also photographed them in 2 other Israeli zoos), yellow-throated marten, Eurasian otter, Syrian brown bears (I've also photographed them in Ramat Gan and Haifa zoos), Israeli wolves (also in several other zoos in Israel), Persian leopards (also in Ramat Gan), Asian lions, Brazilian tapirs (there are some in the US, but I've only seen them in a couple of non-AZA zoos), vicuna (they only have a single animal with a crooked neck), Palestine gazelle (also in several other Israeli zoos), Persian fallow deer (also in several other Israeli zoos), Bactrian deer (I've also seen them in San Diego Wild Animal Park, but they are in the Asian section that is only open for expensive caravan safari tours), many birds of prey native to Israel and missing from US collections (Eurasian griffon vulture, short-toed snake eagle, etc.), many parrot species (especially lories), many native reptiles (Palestine viper, saw-scaled vipers, chameleons, etc.)
     
  20. zoo_enthusiast

    zoo_enthusiast Well-Known Member

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    Other zoos in Israel are much smaller than Ramat Gan or Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, but have some nice species as well. For example, there is a mini-zoo in Raanana (which is pretty much in the outskirts of Tel Aviv) which is very small, yet had a number of very interesting species that I very much wanted to see. There I photographed jungle cats, Eurasian badger (the first for me, it was very elusive and I was only able to photograph it with keeper's help), Egyptian mongoose (also very elusive), some very active pine martens, Indian palm squirrels, and 2 eagle species (steppe and greater spotted).
    Then there are two Hai Bar parks which are ran by Israeli government and are dedicated to breeding and preserving species that were once native to Israel. The two parks have very different landscape and feel. The Hai Bar Carmel, located in the north of Israel, manages species native to mountainous forested Mediterranean region of Israel, while the Hai Bar Yotvata, located in the Negev desert in the south, focuses on the desert fauna. In Hai Bar Carmel one can see very large wooded enclosures with Persian fallow deer, roe deer (very elusive and hard to see in the forest), Cretan wild goats, and Urmian mouflon sheep, and also large aviaries for vultures and eagles which unfortunately can only be seen from afar. Hai Bar Yotvata has huge drive-through paddocks for desert species (Somali wild asses, kulan/onager hybrids, addax, Arabian and scimitar oryx, northern ostriches). Up until a few years ago, they've also had a very nice section with native carnivores, small nocturnal rodents, and birds of prey, but unfortunately that is now closed.