The Houston Zoo’s Animal Encounters are unique opportunities to meet the zookeepers and get up close to your favorite animals. Each encounter is an interactive experience designed with the animals’ welfare in mind. Animal Encounters are 45 minutes long beginning with a 15-minute, front-of-scenes tour. Spend the remaining time with a keeper meeting the animal(s), learning about how they are cared for, and the challenges these animals face in the wild.
Interactions with the animals will be determined by the zookeepers based on the animal’s behavior that day.
Allow plenty of time for parking and arrival. The zoo opens at 9 a.m. and you are welcome to explore the zoo before and after your Animal Encounter. Guests arriving five minutes or more past the scheduled start time will be unable to join the experience.
Meet your guide just inside the zoo entrance. From there you will be escorted on your Animal Encounter. There is no need to print tickets; simply show the ticket on your phone when you enter.
Plan on walking with zoo staff throughout this Animal Encounter, and dress comfortably for the weather. Closed-toe shoes are required.
Animal Encounters are rain or shine. The encounters are primarily outdoors; dress for the weather and for walking. All guests 10 years and older are required to wear a mask, face covering or face shield for the safety of our guests, staff and animals.
Okapi Encounter — Thursdays, 9-9:45 a.m.
Interact with one of Africa’s rarest species during this one-of-a-kind experience. Guests will get eye-to-eye with Kwame “Kwaa-mey” and Sukari “Sue-car-e” as they feed them their favorite treats and learn about the closest living relatives to the giraffe.
VIP Sea Lion-Training Experience — Wednesdays, 9:30-10:15 a.m.
This is truly a VIP experience! Join the zoo’s sea lion-training team for a rare opportunity to participate in an interactive training session complete with a little play time. Guests will spend time tossing a ball or throwing a Frisbee with the California sea lions while learning how to save these animals in the wild. This experience also includes a perfect photo opportunity with one of the zoo’s sea lion ambassadors.
Sea Lion-Painting Experience — Wednesdays, 9:30-10:15 a.m.
Participants will collaborate with the sea lion artists and their keepers to create a one-of-kind masterpiece to take home! During this private experience, guests will select the colors and see their artwork come to life through broad and sweeping brush strokes or delicately placed nose prints.
Galapagos Tortoise Encounter — Sundays and Tuesdays, 10-10:45 a.m.
Guests can take the perfect tortoise selfie when they’re up close with some of the zoo’s longest-lived residents, the Galapagos tortoises. During this experience, participants will have special access into the Galapagos tortoise habitat, learning all about Daphne, Seymour and Pinta while offering them a favorite snack.
Elephant Encounter — Fridays and Sundays, 12:45-1:30 p.m.
Get hand to trunk with one of the zoo’s Asian elephants and see firsthand how keepers build relationships with these amazing animals! Guests will have an opportunity to feed, hear stories about the Houston herd, and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity.
Elephant Bath Experience — Thursdays, 10-10:45 a.m.
Participants will experience firsthand what it’s like to bathe an elephant! After helping to scrub down one of the elephants, guests will feed and touch one of these amazing creatures with a photo opportunity.