Pittsburgh Zoo | Wild Encounters

Wild Encounters

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Wild Encounters are behind-the-scenes tours at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Each encounter is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience designed to foster positive, lifelong connections to the natural world. Please note that reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance. Price is per group, up to six people. 

Some tours are only available at certain times of the year because of animal behavior factors, including but not limited to mating, molting, or weather conditions. Although some of the following tours are not offered right now, they will be available in the coming months, so check back regularly. Below is a listing of all tours, both current and off-season, along with the guidelines for each tour. You can also find important guidelines, such as general information and scheduling information below.

For more information or to book a tour:
call us at 412-365-2545
or email us at wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org

Schedule At Least

2 weeks in Advance

Contact us for dates available.
Times vary.
Multiple areas throughout the Zoo.
$350 non-members
$250 Members
(up to 6 people per group)

Education Ambassadors

The Education Ambassadors Wild Encounter is a one-of-a-kind experience that includes unforgettable up-close encounters with the Zoo’s most popular animal ambassadors. During this 30-minute private encounter, your group will meet with a variety of animals representing more than 30 species that are featured as part of the Zoo’s educational programs. A member of our knowledgeable education staff will guide your experience and provide opportunities to touch animals and pose for photos.

Animals that may be featured in your Education Ambassador Wild Encounter include but are not limited to an owl, a kinkajou, a fennec fox, and a ball python. Specific animals will vary for each tour and are dependent on a variety of factors.

The Education Ambassadors Wild Encounter is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every three children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

Education Ambassadors Encounter tours are available select Saturdays and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. with an advanced reservation. The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

Flamingos

Take a walk on the wild side and join our flock of flamingos. During this 30-minute private encounter, your group will get up close and personal and mingle with these feathered friends. Learn why flamingos are pink and just what all those vocalizations mean. Bring your camera for a beautiful photo souvenir.

The Flamingo Encounter is open to guests ages 6 years and older. Maximum group size is six people and must include one adult. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking.

The Flamingo Encounter is available Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. with an advanced reservation. The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for Members. The price is per group (up to six people).

Penguin Encounter

Only available October through March.
Not available April-September.

Discover the birds of the Antarctic without leaving Pittsburgh. Be sure to bring your camera for once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities when you meet with our penguins and their keepers at the PPG Aquarium. The tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the entrance of the PPG Aquarium.

This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group. The Penguin Encounter is open to guests ages 6 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking. 

Penguin Encounter tours are available Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. with an advanced reservation. The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).

Reptiles

Discover what it takes to wrangle the Zoo’s reptile collection. Learn how to use the tools-of-the-trade and handle live reptiles while working alongside our experienced reptile keepers. Bring your camera for the numerous once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities. The tour is approximately 30 minutes. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the entrance of Worlds of Discovery in Kids Kingdom.

The Reptile Encounter is open to guests ages 10 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

Reptile Encounter tours are available Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 p.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).
 

Sea Lions

Discover the unique characteristics that make California sea lions a visitor favorite during this 30-minute behind-the-scenes tour. Begin your visit admiring the underwater acrobatics of these graceful sea dwellers. Then witness first-hand the challenges and successes of the Zoo’s world-class sea lion training program. The tour is approximately 30 minutes. Tour participants will meet the keeper who will be their guide at the sea lion pool underwater viewing window in the Kids Kingdom.

The Sea Lion Encounter is open to guests ages 8 and older only. A ratio of one adult for every two children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking, as each time slot is reserved and closed once it has been filled by a group. This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group.

Sea Lion Encounter tours are available Sundays and Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. (with an advanced reservation). The cost is $350 for non-members and $250 for members. The price is per group (up to six people).
 

Sharks

Experience the thrill of getting up close with sharks of the Indo-Pacific without leaving Pittsburgh! During this tour, your group will meet with an aquarist and go behind the scenes of our large ocean exhibit in the PPG Aquarium. Your group will see firsthand what it is like to care for these iconic animals and learn about their importance in the wild.
This tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet an aquarist in the lobby of the PPG Aquarium.

This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group and is open to guests ages six years and older. A ratio of one adult for every 2 children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking.

Shark Encounter tours are available Thursdays and Saturdays at 2 pm. with an advanced reservation. The cost is $250 for Zoo members or $350 for non-members which include the tour and Zoo admission for a group up to 6 guests.


Red Pandas

This encounter gives you the opportunity to come face to face with one of our most charming animals at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, the red panda.  You’ll step into a staff only area to see what goes into their daily care and will learn important conservation information about this unique species.

This tour is approximately 30 minutes in duration. Tour participants will meet a keeper at the red panda exhibit located in the Forest Passage section of the zoo.

This tour can accommodate a maximum of six people per group and is open to guests ages six years and older. A ratio of one adult for every 2 children is required. Only one group is permitted to reserve each booking time. Please be sure to include your entire group at the time of booking.

Red Panda Encounters are available with an advanced reservation only. The cost is $250 for Zoo members or $350 for non-members which includes the tour and Zoo admission for a group up to 6 guests. 

  • All tours are scheduled on a first come, first served basis. If a member of your group has a special need or mobility issue, please contact us in advance so accommodations can be made, if possible.
     
  • All Wild Encounters include general Zoo admission and guests are free to explore the Zoo before or after their tour.
     
  • Reservations are required and must be made at least two weeks in advance. Reservations close two weeks prior to each tour date.
     
  • Cancellations must be made seven days in advance or payment will be forfeited and donated to the Zoo’s Conservation Fund. All cancellations must be made in writing and sent to wildencounters@pittsburghzoo.org.
     
  • As a result of the unpredictability of working with live animals, the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium reserves the right to cancel or reschedule Wild Encounters at any time. All tours are scheduled based on animal and staff availability. Cancellation for health and safety reasons are made at the sole discretion of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. In the event of a cancellation, the Zoo will contact you to reschedule as soon as possible.

  • All tours are guided walking tours; guests will not board a tram or other vehicle. We are unable to accommodate strollers during Wild Encounters.
     
  • Guidelines of established age ranges and maximum number of guests are non-negotiable and strictly enforced. 
     
  • Please plan to arrive at the designated meeting area prior to the tour start time. Tour times are fixed. Late arrival will result in a shortened tour experience.
     
  • All guests are required to wear closed-toed shoes (no sandals or high heels) in behind-the-scenes areas. Wild Encounters participants must have a signed Waiver of Liability before beginning the tour. Participants under 18 years of age must have the waiver signed by a parent or guardian.
     
  • Food and drink are not permitted in any behind-the-scenes areas. For safety reasons, service animals are not permitted on behind-the-scenes tours. Interaction with or touching of the animals without explicit direction from a Zoo staff member is not permitted during Wild Encounters.
     
  • Other restrictions may apply.