Habitat Africa and the Giraffes - Brookfield Zoo

Habitat Africa encompasses a large area in the northwest corner of the zoo. The highlight is the giraffes, but there are a variety of other great animals, including the African painted dogs and okapi. On the Brookfield Zoo map, it’s split into two areas: “Habitat Africa! The Savannah” and “Habitat Africa! The Forest.” The Savannah is by far the more popular area. In inclement weather when the giraffes are inside, go inside the Kopje building to get up close to the amazing animals.

A less-seen but nice area is Habitat Africa! The Forest. It includes the okapi, an animal that looks like a cross between a giraffe, zebra, and horse, and some other nice animals. The Forest is far from a must-see, but I like it, and it’s a nice way to get away from larger crowds, or a good way to mix it up if you’re a frequent visitor at Brookfield.

During the summer, you can feed the giraffes outside. $15 buys three pieces of lettuce. For this, go to the very north end of the open field; the feeding starts at 11 and goes until they’re out of food or about 1:30, whichever comes first.

The closest bathrooms are the best in Brookfield Zoo—by the entrance to the Great Bear Wilderness, just across from the African Painted Dogs.

See More Information to get additional details on the two Habitat Africa areas and the animals there.


The Savannah

There is one main building, the Kopje, which is tucked away in the Southwest corner of the Savannah (not to be confused with the small painted dogs building—if you’re looking at that, go to your left and follow the walkway’s curve around to the right. With cold or inclement weather, the giraffes may be inside the Kopje; although unfortunate for the giraffes to have less space, it is an amazing experience to go in and be so close to the giraffes. A nice bench there is the perfect place to have a snack break.

When the giraffes are outside, you can see the best from a covered cabana just north of that building. If there are large crowds, or your kids want to run around more, go to an area at the south of the large field, just east of the painted dogs.

The African painted dogs are beautiful creatures, and often fairly active. They get a nice animal carcass to eat, typically once every two weeks on Thursdays, which adds to their activity. You can also see them from inside the kopje building—when you’re in the free-flight area, look for a viewing area in the back.

Speaking of the kopje building, it also has the klipspringer, a random favorite of mine. This small doe-eyed antelope lives has a rocky habitat and when they’re active, they jump down it or climb up it gracefully and quickly.

The Forest (also labeled Hidden Gems of the Forest)

The Forest is definitely off the beaten path, and it definitely doesn’t have the draw of several areas of the zoo. However, there are some animals to enjoy here so if you’re a frequent visitor or just want to escape the crowds for a while, definitely check it out.

The Forest primarily showcases animals from the Ituri Forest, a rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The main draw of the Forest area is the okapi, which looks like a cross between a giraffe, zebra, and horse. The giraffe shows up the least when looking at it, but they are actually relatives. I enjoy the duikers, meaning “diver” in Afrikaans because they dive into the forest to escape trouble. They’re particularly amusing to find because they often tuck just behind the walls of the exhibit—low enough that small kids may not be able to see them well, but teenagers and up can try to lean over edges and spot them. There is one small building (bring strollers into the building since you leave on the other side) as part of the Forest which includes an African dwarf crocodile, geckos, chameleons, and other small animals. A random favorite of mine is the African giant shrew which you may occasionally catch popping out from its home to move around the habitat sneakily. After leaving the building, there’s a split asking if you want to exit or see more animals. The more animals route is short, and may have another duiker or okapi or two, as well as several red river hogs. Nothing there is a must-see, but if you didn’t get to see the okapi before, try following that path.