There is hardly a more controversial European zoo than Pairi Daiza in Belgium. This 65 hectare zoo located on the grounds of a former Cistercian abbey has been developing at an astonishing pace with multiple developments every single year. What started as a bird park in 1994 is now one of Europe's major zoos with a solid all-round collection. The name Pairi Daiza comes from Avestan and means walled garden and is the source of the English world "paradise". Pairi Daiza is actually a walled garden and it should show a garden where animal and men live in harmony and where men respects nature. This is off course a hint to a heavenly paradise and the links between culture and nature are extremely strong in Pairi Daiza. I will write this review by going through the different zoo sections separately. Do not expect a species list, which I cannot give, except for mammals and larger birds. The first batch of photos is already uploaded and more will follow soon to illustrate this review. Review 07/09/2018 Cambron Abbaye The area around the entrance was formerly called the gate to heaven, but has been renamed as the Cambron Abbey. After passing through the beautiful Abbey gates one first sees a small but nicely done petting zoo. For zoochatters the highlight is however just around the corner: 2 glass-fronted aviaries for 4 Spix and 6 Lear's macaws. These aviaries are of medium size and have a horrible glare, which makes seeing these macaws a challenge. I do not understand why they didn't choose a type of glass which you could actually see through, especially for some of the parks flagship species. When turning right from the entrance you enter the bird-of-prey village, which is a series of medium to large aviaries for a wide variety of raptors. The highlight is a large walkthrough for African vultures, which is also home to a Long-crested eagle, Gymnogene, Saker falcon and Secretary birds. The other aviaries are not walkthrough and mostly house 1 or 2 breeding pairs with species including Booted eagle, King vulture, Andean condor, Golden eagle and slightly out of place: Saddle-billed storks. Two small aviaries house Eurasian hobby and Snowy owl. Around the corner is a paddock with S-American tapir, Giant anteater and Capybara, with a boring land part and with access to a large stream for swimming. The stream is bordered by the brewery, where Pairi Daiza brews its own beer. It can be tasted on site, but is sadly not for sale anymore in the park. Around the brewery are some small aviaries for some owls and roadrunners. All of which are rare remnants of Pairi Daiza's former life as a birdpark. Going left from the entrance one sees a rose garden and an Andalusian garden. The main sight is however the 55 meter high tower of the Abbey church, the church itself doesn't exist anymore, but the tower is the most visible feature in the park. Beneath the tower is the original crypt, which is now a walkthrough fruit bat enclosure. In the crypt there is also a large enclosure for Naked mole-rat and there are several real mummies on display, with highly annoying Egyptian music blaring out the speakers. Next to the rose garden is Oasis, a large tropical house, which for over half is mistreated as restaurant. There are several free-flying birds, with Southern bald ibises as highlight, but sadly no bee-eaters anymore. Throughout the hall are smallish to medium-sized aviaries and enclosures for Meerkat, Dwarf mongoose, Giant tortoises, several hornbill species, Speke's weaver and the highlight is a large cage for Bear cuscus and Lesser kanchil. For some reason a tiny piece of this enclosure is separated and apparently home to Short-beaked echidna, though we did not see them and they are not signed. The enclosure is however only 2 meter square, so it must have dug deeply... This tropical house is chaotic with loads of different vegetation styles and paths all over the place and it was certainly not designed to get 1.7 million visitors yearly. Next to Oasis are the parrot aviaries and a lawn for Dromedary camels. The parrot aviaries are all medium-sized, but some of the parrots have been displaced by Bulwer's pheasant, Great blue turaco and White-faced saki + Agouti. From here one already enters the first part of the Chinese garden where there are two spacious but ultimately boring enclosures: the smaller for the Giant panda offspring and the larger for 3 Asiatic black bears. From the bears one enters what Pairi Daiza claims is the largest aviary in Europe, which with a size of 3000 square meters it is surely not. It is still a very impressive aviary though and is home to about 20 bird species of which Boat-billed heron and Purple gallinule are the highlights. From here one enters a smaller tropical house, which currently consists of two parts. The first part is a rainforest walkthrough with interesting birds such a Grey-hooded kingfisher, African jacana and Javan pond heron (which are all not really rainforest birds). There are also loads of Madagascar fodies and Two-toed sloths. The highlights are however three aviary complexes for Birds of Paradise. The Lesser bird of paradise male on show is rather shy, but one of the Greater bird of paradise is not an likes tasty human fingers. The second part has been remodelled from a desert theme and the left part is a walkthrough with Lyles + Giant flying foxes and Pallas's and Striped squirrel. The right is a medium sized enclosure for Clouded leopard, which should have been bigger and not completely glass-fronted. Overall this part is almost completely without excessive theming and it has some wonderful old buildings, loads of interesting bird species and most enclosures are ok, even though some aviaries are definitely on the small side. Zhong-Yuan The Chinese garden is now called Zhong-Yuan and is supposedly the biggest in Europe. It has however lost some of its garden feel as more and more animal enclosures have been built in it. What was formerly the third greenhouse, connected to the one with Clouded leopard and Birds of paradise is now an open courtyard with a large Koi pond in the centre. On the sides are two spacious tanks with loads of glare for Chinese alligator and Chinese giant salamander. It is almost impossible to see the animals when the sun is out, but this area is stylishly done. The next part of the Chinese garden is a mix of nicely done Chinese garden with a mismatch of animal enclosures. The Red panda enclosure is spacious and built on a hill, but is lacking access to real trees. Then there is an enclosure for Giant otters (why not Eurasian....), which has a far too small water part. The rest of this area used to be a series of wonderful crane aviaries and islands. The cranes have partly left, though several species are still present, including Siberian cranes. But there was no sign of Black-necked cranes or Sandhill cranes anymore. They have been replaced by goats: Goral and Blue sheep and primates: Francois langur, Japanese macaque and Golden-cheeked gibbon. Additionally this area now houses Pere-david deer, Chinese muntjac (which are still signed as Indian muntjac), Binturong and more Red panda. Enclosure are mostly smallish to ok size-wise and it is an odd mix to see Goral with Gibbon and Cranes and Blue sheep mixed with Binturong. The final section of the Chinese garden has more of the charismatic megafauna. For starters there is a rocky enclosure for Snow leopards, that is lacking in height, size and separation possibilities, but it manages to look appealing to the public. Next is a small hillside enclosure for Golden taking and next are the real highlights a pair of Giant panda. The outdoor enclosures are the standard medium-sized Panda enclosures, the inside is themed as a huge cave, with some gigantic geodes. The indoor areas are quite dark, but relatively spacious. Overall this area has suffered from the collection drift of the director. What once was a wonderful Chinese garden is more and more suffering from putting too many big Chinese animals in the area. Australis cape This is one of the smallest parts of the zoo and apart from a largish walkthrough aviary with hundreds of Budgerigars and some Straw-necked ibis, White-faced heron and if you look really well some other Australian parakeets, Crested pigeons and some Galah. Apparently there should also be an Australian water dragon around... What follows is a smallish walkthrough enclosure with Red kangaroo, Australian pelican and a mine... Next are two small enclosure for Cassowarry and a wonderful valley full of Tasmanian tree ferns, literally hundreds of them. At the end of this valley is a nicely done Tasmanian devil enclosure, with Emu and Swamp wallaby in the background. They might need to rethink the border between the devils and the wallabies, as one of the Swamp wallabies sat at the edge of the Devil enclosure, one more hop and it would have become enrichment. The last part of Australia is a large koala house, with an even bigger outdoor enclosure (where the koala off course hardly come). Indoors is shared with a pair of Long-nosed potoroo. The whole house is pretty big for Koala, though sadly it has replaced Kori bustards. This is a small but generally nicely done part of the zoo, though naturally they tried to cram to much in limited space. Cambron-sur-mer Cambron at the sea. This area consists of the aquarium which is located in an old mansion. The styling inside the aquarium is completely out-of-place considering the mansion in which it is located. There is loads of mock-rock and pretending to be in a ship. Then there is a treasure cave and more weird things. Additionally most aquariums are on the small side, or far too small for the inhabitants, especialy for the sharks and Sea turtles. If they have some extra money to spend, they should redo the whole aquarium.... Outdoors are two enclosures, one for Fur seal, which features loads of mock rock and is kind of smallish. The second is basically a beach and a fenced of part of the lake. This makes a perfect Harbor seal enclosure, if it were not for the hideous Lighthouse that has been built here without reason. The African penguin that also live here are not too happy at all with the seals and all the visitors and prefer to stay in one corner of the enclosure and apparently don't go in the water. For a new enclosure this is just not good enough.... Izilwane sanctuary The formerly Land of Origins has now been rebranded as the Zulu name for Animal. It starts of with what used to be a nice wooded island for Colobus monkeys. Unfortunately the trees have mostly been killed and the island is now home to a bachelor group of the famous Savanna gorilla. The Colobus are also still there and have a "typical" African mudhouse as their indoor enclosure. This was off course not good enough for the gorilla, so a hideous volcano was built to serve as Gorilla indoors. The volcano can off course be entered and for a Gorilla indoor enclosure it is quite good, though more could have been done with the height and they should have left out the Christmas lights in the top of the building, which completely destroy any atmosphere that was left. From the volcano one enters an island with Ring-tailed lemurs and Ruffed lemurs. This island is considerably smaller than it used to be, but still a good size. From here one goes to a second Gorilla island, smaller than the previous, but just as open and with an equally hideous volcano attached to it. After all the volcano madness one comes to the boring underwater viewing for Common hippo. The pool is a proper size and the water surprisingly clear, the land area does however look unfinished and I hope there is more land behind the scenes, as the land area is very small. Next is a simple paddock for Sitatunga which is fenced-off in a way they can exactly not enter the water. One of the Sitatunga clearly disagreed and walked on the other side of the fence and it took a surprising number of keepers to get him back in. Opposite is a boring paddock for White rhino and Warthog and the centrepiece is a village from Benin with among the food court aviaries for African openbill and Grey parrot. In the middle is an enclosure for Red river hog mixed with Yellow mongoose. Adjacent to this is a paddock for Giraffe, Ankole cattle and Ostrich and naturally there is a platform from which the Giraffe can be fed. Adjacent is just another African village, this time from Togo and built on stilts. The centrepiece here is an enclosure which formerly held the Fur seals, but is now a completely inadequate enclosure for Pygmy hippo and some Pelicans. The rest of the African part consists of two boring water-moated enclosures for Zoo lions (Panthera leo obesitas) and Spotted hyena. On top of these is an absolutely hideous cage of approximately 6x6x4 meters, which should never have been built and has kept White tiger in the past and now holds one African leopard. On the back is a medium-sized enclosure for two African elephant females. This enclosure has now been linked to the Savanna, but the Crowned cranes, African buffalo, Brindled gnu, Grant's zebra, Blesbok and Impala chose to stay on the Elephant-free side. The final enclosure is a well-done paddock for a few Cheetah. Overall this zone feels as if it has been built as quickly as possible for the much-wanted ABC megafauna. Most enclosures are rather simple and two African villages + two fake volcanoes is a bit much, fortunately I counted only 1 crashed plane here. Kerajaan Ganesha The Kingdom of Ganesha is the SE Asian themed area of the zoo and is crammed full of temples. This area was originally opened in 2009, but since then multiple temples have been added. The first animal you see when coming from the African parts is a Javan leopard. This is a new enclosure and is completely lacking in space, height, structure and privacy for the animal. It is spectacularly inadequated and only one Leopard can live here as there is no other outdoor enclosure. Next is another complex of Elephant enclosures, this time the Temple of Ani, built in remembrance of a Sumatran elephant that died in the park. The temple consists of two medium-sized outdoor enclosures, with a water moat that is off-limits. For swimming the elephants are walked/ridden by mahouts to one of the two elephant baths (one of which is the lake). Pairi Daiza is proud to have the largest number of elephants in any European zoo. But these are always separated between 5 different enclosures as they have multiple groups and two different species. Two of these enclosures are located outside of the Abbey walls and are large but open boring grassy paddocks, which are shared with Brow-antlered deer and Blackbuck. The rest of the Asian section is dominated by two Sumatran Orangutan islands. The islands are both of a good size, though currently somewhat lacking in shade.Fortunately there are some large Plantains that have been replanted on the islands, so in a few years these will provide shade and extra structure. One of the indoor enclosures is very standard by Pairi Daiza standards and doesn't feature too much art. The other is the much-discussed Orangutan temple, which is fantastic from a cultural point of view and provides a complex environment for the Orangutans. It is however so overdone that it both repels and attracts at the same time. Photos show this temple, but they don't do justice to seeing it in person. Then there is a part with two glass-fronted enclosures for Komodo dragon, a nice Sulawesi-crested macaque enclosure and an out of place and smallish Wombat enclosure. The indoors is similar to a Naked mole-rat enclosure, but then much bigger, with several tunnels. In this area there is also a cave with more art and an enclosure for Porcupines. Visually very pleasing is a rice paddy with good views on the lake and an enclosure for Water buffalo mixed with Visayan warty pig. The final part of this section is a horrendous White tiger enclosure. The enclosure can be viewed from all sides and provides hardly any structure. Even worse, what is now a separation enclosure (though connected on my visit) was built for Clouded leopards. As only two layers of glass separated the glass, the Tigers and the Leopards were not exactly pleased. The only good thing in this enclosure is the large water moat. Overall the Kingdom of Ganesha shows everything that is wrong about this zoo: excessive theming at costs of animal welfare. There are some good enclosures, but also some appalling ones have been built here in the past years. The theming is extremely well done though and everything was built by Asian experts. Mersus Emergo This replica of a former whaling ship is probably the only replica in the whole zoo. The lower section is off-limits to the visitors and houses the indoor enclosures for the Pygmy hippo, Giraffe, Shoebill and some primates. Attached to the ship is a walkthrough enclosure for Squirrel monkeys and Howler monkeys, a spacious shoebill aviary, a Siamang island and the aforementioned Pygmy hippo enclosure. The upper sections are the zoos reptile house and the vast majority of the inhabitants are. owned by the Carapace foundation that rescues pet reptiles and confiscated animals. When going to the bathroom one has a good view on the many off-show terrariums. The terrariums before the scenes are mostly large and nicely done and often large snakes are mixed with turtles/tortoises. Highlights are a confiscated Ploughshare tortoise and a pair of young Indian gharials, which arrived from Czechia last year. Terre du froid The newest developments of the zoo all take place in the western corner of the zoo, the Terre du froid, which focuses on arctic species. Currently there is not much to see with some Raccoons, Bison and Reindeer. Next year a large complex with Siberian tiger, Polar bear, Walrus and King penguin will open though. There is however already a hangar for a plane, the original trains of the park and a huge Russian restaurant, which is extremely impressive. Concluding Each section of the zoo feels pretty consistent, the problem however is that there seems to be zero consistency between the different parts, except the link between animals and people. This link is mostly shown in building temples and gardens and tucking animals in it, amongst excessive amounts of art. There is no acclimatization zone between any of the parts, so the different parts don't feel connected into one. This is something that other zoos have done consistently better. It also doesn't help that most new enclosures are built to impress, so the amount of crazy sights is impressive. There are however loads of things that are nicely done and the animal collection is very good, including the bird collection, which has suffered somewhat over the past years. This certainly is a must see zoo and preferably 2 days should be allocated to properly see it and soak up the atmosphere of the park. It does however feel very strange that so much money is available and so many unacceptable enclosures are built. Especially the cats have drawn the short straw, but also the primates and elephants have rights to complain. That is certainly a pity, because if those shortcomings are addressed it could compete with the best zoos in Europe. Pairi Daiza is already loved very much by the public, but more needs to be done to not only let things look great, but make them actually great. Sometimes less is more, but with a fanatic collector in charge, this lesson will probably not be learnt soon.