Top 10 Things to See at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo 

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Omaha, Nebraska is home to one of the most famous zoos across the world— the Henry Doorly Zoo!

Spanning for more than 100 acres, the Zoo is home to numerous animals from different parts of the world and has more than a million visitors every year! Nationally renowned for its leadership in animal research and conservation, the Henry Doorly Zoo offers a variety of exhibit that will leave in awe and creating a whole new fun for friends and families.

Here are the top 10 must-see things at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.  

1. Cat Complex

Considered the largest cat breeding and management facility in the entire North America, the Cat Complex was first opened its doors in the year 1997. The complex features 10 outdoor enclosures and 11 indoor enclosures with a capacity of up to 100 cats! The Association of Zoos and Aquariums awarded it with the “Edward H. Bean Award” for tiger husbandry.

The large Cat Complex features 9 cat species. These include:

  • Siberian Tiger
  • Indochinese Tiger
  • Bengal Tiger
  • African Lion
  • Snow Leopard
  • Jaguar
  • Fishing Cat
  • Cougar
  • Amur Leopard

2. Scott Kingdom of the Seas Aquarium

A must-see exhibit for the ocean lovers, the Suzanne and Walter Scott Kingdoms of the Seas Aquarium allows you to walk on the bottom of the ocean and come face-to-face with sea turtles as scary sharks circle above you in the 70-foot shark tunnel.

The aquarium features displays of aquatic habitats from the flooded Amazon rainforest, temperate oceans, coral reefs, and Polar Regions. The tank features coral reef fishes, sea turtles, stingrays, and sharks.

Other tanks come with jellyfishes and open-ocean schooling fishes. There is also a new addition of a portable touch tank that allows you to feel the rubbery skin of a stingray and a shark’s scale. During the warmer months, penguins can also be found outside the entrance of the aquarium.

The freshwater display of the Amazon rainforest includes mammals, turtles, invertebrates, and fishes, including common squirrel monkeys.

The aquarium brings you aquatic animals from around the world such as:

  • Jellyfish
  • Sea turtle
  • Stingray
  • Sharks
  • Coral reef
  • Weedy sea dragon
  • Leafy sea dragon
  • Moray eel
  • Pufferfish
  • Lionfish
  • Nautilus
  • Gentoo penguin
  • King penguin
  • Little penguin
  • Tufted penguin

3. Desert Dome

The Desert Dome is one of the world’s largest indoor deserts, located under the world’s biggest glazed geodesic dome, and has become quite the landmark of Omaha. The Dome offers animal and plants life from 3 desserts around the world: the Sonoran Desert of the southwest US, Red Center of Australia, and the Namib Desert of Southern Africa.

These 3 desserts are divided by Central Mountain which is a 55-foot tall mountain at the center of the dome. Surrounding the mountain are a variety of desert plants including shrubs, herbs, grasses, mesquite trees, palms, succulents as well as the endangered Welwitschia that is only found in the Namibian deserts.

The Namib Desert portion offer meerkats and klipspringers climbing among cliffs. The desert caves house 21 reptile species from Australia and Africa including venomous snakes such as cape cobras, death adders and the world’s venomous land snake, the inland taipan.

The Sonoran Desert shows off ocelot and peccaries wallow. You can also see bobcats and entering the Rattlesnake Canyon, you will see the largest indoor rattlesnake exhibit in the world. Lastly, Red Center offers rock wallabies and wave rocks which is the showpiece of the desert— an overhang of colorful granite.

4. Kingdoms of the Night

Before leaving the Desert Dome, see under exhibit just below it. Considered as the largest nocturnal exhibit, the Kingdoms of the Night unearths the animals of darkness. In his exhibit, the day-night cycles are reversed so you can experience the creatures in their natural activity patterns.

It is divided into several exhibits with each representing a different environment— a swamp, a dry bat cave, a eucalyptus forest, an African diorama, a canyon and a wet cave that comes with a 14-foot deep aquarium.

Venturing through the canyon area, you will see fossa and naked mole rats. After that the African diorama allows kids of all ages to stand inside a Baobab tree in order to see the transition from dusk to night as well as showing off animals like greater bush babies, springhaas, and aardvarks interact.

After a while, you will see a wet cave sporting stalactites and stalagmites dripping into a “seemingly bottomless” pit which is home to blind cave fishes. After that, the bat cave offers you hundreds of short-tailed fruit bats flying or hanging around.  Traveling through the Eucalyptus Forest, you can experience the Australian nightlife as you wander past short-beaked echidna and Tamar wallabies as well as strolling alongside an Australian stream full of freshwater fishes, turtles, and crocodiles.

Next, you get to see the largest indoor swamp in the world which is under the Namibian sand dune of the Desert Dome. The swamp features cypress trees, a beaver lodge, a Trapper’s cabin and 38 swamp animal species in habitats that are barrier-free. The swamp is also home to 9 adult American alligators with an albino alligator!

5. Lied Jungle

Explore and experience the natural rainforest setting as you walk on the largest indoor rainforest in all of America— the Lied Jungle. Inside the exhibit, you will see gibbons swinging, hear waterfalls crashing and feel the tropical environment!

You can walk along the trail on the jungle’s floor as well as on the walkway around and above the animals. Pygmy hippos, macaws, tapirs, monkeys, and crocodiles are just a few of the animals you will see in the 90 species it houses.

Many different plants also thrive throughout the jungle and the exhibit is broken into sections by continent including South America, Africa, and Asia.

6. Expedition Madagascar

Madagascar is home to some of the most unique and amazing animals in the world such as the giant jumping rat and aye-aye. And Henry Doorly Zoo offers you a chance to see some of those creatures in person with the Expedition Madagascar.

This exhibit highlight an area in the world which is considered as one of the top hotspots for biodiversity since it is home to the biggest number of endemic animal and plant species. Throughout the building, you will see animals native to Madagascar such as fossa, aye-aye, and different species of lemurs.

7. African Grasslands

Recently took the second spot in the 10 Best Reader’s Choice list of Best Zoo Exhibits in North America by USA Today, the African Grassland spans 28 acres and is the largest project undertaken yet in the whole history of the zoo.

This exhibit features amazing African wildlife and breathtaking panoramic views of grasslands. Acacia-like trees, grasses, kopjes, and minimum visual barriers were used and include 25 new structures and buildings.

The exhibit includes new concessions, restrooms and accessible pathways which guides you to different areas:

  • Giraffe Exhibit and Herd Rooms: Filled with spur-winged geese, ostriches, giraffe, white rhino, and impala.
  • Children’s Kopje: The area allows you to go through a rocky outcropping called kopje. Hyrax, meerkats, klipspringer, white-throated monitors and Kenya crested Guinea fowls can be seen here.
  • Elephant Family Quarters: Being the largest herd room in all of North America, the elephant exhibit offers mixed species including Impala, plains zebra, and
  • African Pygmy Goat Kraal: An interactive exhibit that gives you the chance to play and brush an African pygmy goat. It also provides viewing of rhino and giraffe exhibits.
  • Pelican Lake and Bridge: It highlights new species such as the white-faced whistling ducks and African pink-backed pelicans.
  • Mammoth Plaza: Here you will see Archie— a life-sized bronzed replica of ancient Nebraska Columbian mammoths.
  • Cheetah Exhibit: See the fastest land animal on earth, cheetahs, on their natural habitat.
  • African Lion Viewing Area: Offers you a closer view to the king of the jungle.

8. Butterfly and Insect Pavilion

A total immersion exhibit that is located next to Scott Aquarium, the Butterfly and Insect Pavilion, when viewed from above, take after a winged insect. Walk through the butterfly conservatory that features Amazon water lily pool, waterfalls, exquisite butterflies, hummingbirds, and moths. Meanwhile, the insect pavilion houses beetles, roaches, centipedes, mantis, walking sticks, scorpions, spiders, ants and a host of other amazing critters!

9. Hubbard Gorilla Valley

Unlike any other exhibits, this is where gorillas roam free while you are on display. The exhibit is a 3-acre site which includes 2 acres of visitor and gorilla space. If you are lucky, you get to see them bang on the windows.

Some of the species you can see here are:

  • Black-crowned crane
  • Yellow-backed duiker
  • Abyssinian ground hornbill
  • Diana monkey
  • Wolf’s mona monkey
  • Western lowland gorilla
  • Mantled guereza

10. Garden of the Senses

The Garden of Senses really lets your senses go wild. Filled with birds, fountains, plants and a giant sundial, this is the perfect area to relax and take a break before heading off to see other exhibits. And with over 250 different species of trees, perennials, herbs as well as roses and other types of flowers, taking too many photos here is an understatement. Plus, the whole area is INSTAGRAMMABLE!

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