A visit to the zoo is an exciting experience for children, and one needn't travel to Africa to see the animals. A variety of zoos and petting menageries can be found around the country. Though the larger animals can only be seen in the big zoos like the Safari in Ramat Gan, Hai Park in Kiryat Motzkin or the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, the smaller facilities also have much to offer children and enable them to get closely acquainted with animals like monkeys, zebras, bears and even kangaroos.

It might be a little alarming at first to let a child feed a monkey or a kangaroo but if the guides allow it, the experience should be thrilling. While in most zoos the major attraction is the contact with the animals, there are places - such as the Biblical Zoo - where touching most of the animals is not allowed. Therefore it is worth checking out a given zoo's regulations.

The entry price to a zoo ranges between NIS 23 and NIS 55. The prices apply to children over the age of two or three, so parents with two children will have to spend between NIS 100 and NIS 200, not including the costs of food and drink on site.

To save money it is worth calling the zoo in advance or visiting its Internet site to check what discounts are available to various clubs like Hever or Kranot Shotrim, population sectors such as students or local residents, or credit card holders.

It is worthwhile checking out sites offering coupons; for the most part coupons for the zoos will be found under the heading "Attractions" ( attraktziot in Hebrew ). At www.cuponofesh.co.il there are coupons for a 10 percent discount for a ticket to Gan Garoo, 20 percent off to pet the animals at Kibbutz Givat Haim Meuhad, and three tickets for the price of two at Kibbutz Hagoshrim. At www.a-tzofit.co.il you can get a coupon for a fifth ticket free when buying four full-price tickets at the box office, a coupon for 20 percent off at the Monkey Forest (Yaar Hakofim ) and 10 percent off at Gan Garoo. Similar discounts are offered at cuponim.co.il, where there is a coupon for a free third ticket at the Haifa Educational Zoo.

Drive with lions Ramat Gan Safari

At the Safari Park in Ramat Gan, you enter the open area in your vehicle and drive amid rhinoceroses, ostriches, crowned cranes and flamingos. You can see the world's largest antelope - the eland, Thomson's gazelles, gnus, oryx, addax and a huge herd of 33 hippopotami, the largest herd in the world in a zoo. The lions also roam free in the compound, as does Yossi the African elephant.

In addition, there are various species of large and small monkeys, animals from Australia like the kangaroo, cassowary and emu, exotic bats and rare parrots as well as animals from South America like alpacas, capybaras, tapirs and anteaters, which are held in only a few zoos abroad.

Tickets: NIS 55 over the age of two

Discounts: A ticket in exchange for 355 Isracard points, for workers' committees and Hever members.

Impressive reptiles Be'er Sheva Zoological Park

There's an impressive collection of animals at the Be'er Sheva Zoological Park: about 120 species including hares, tigers, monkeys, wolves, raccoons, donkeys, ostriches, llamas, crocodiles and deer as well as an aviary with many kinds of birds and a monkey compound. In the reptile room you can visit several dozen species of snakes, lizards and turtles; in a large lake there are several species of aquatic birds, swans and pelicans. Most of the animals can be fed.

Tickets: NIS 23 for a child over the age of two, NIS 18 for an accompanying adult. Credit cards not accepted.

Discounts: None

Pet a squirrel monkey Monkey Forest, Yodfat

The animals roam tangled paths in the natural vegetation, and visitors can enjoy petting a variety of animals. The squirrel monkeys, for example, roam freely, and instead of watching them behind bars visitors try to get them off their shoulders. There are also various wild animals like deer, oryx, gazelles, macaque monkeys, baboons, spot-nosed monkeys and water birds including pelicans, ducks, geese, parrots and ostriches, as well as domesticated animals like donkeys, goats, sheep and alpacas.

Ticket: NIS 29 over the age of three

Discounts:10 percent for every five tickets, a coupon for a 20 percent discount on a full-priced ticket from the tzofit site and the cuponim site.

First sabra penguin Hai Park, Kiryat Motzkin

Giraffes, elephants, primates of various species and sizes, parrots and snakes are just some of the animals in the Hai Park. There you can also see the yellow squirrel, a flock of Humboldt penguins with the first sabra (Israeli-born ) penguin, which hatched four months ago, some special birds like the largest pigeon in the world - the Victoria crowned pigeon, which looks as regal as its name implies, or the Australian brush-turkey. Children can ride a camel around the park and pet and feed sheep and goats. If Dvash (Honey ) the red-ruffed lemur is awake when you arrive and is in an agreeable mood, you will be able to pet him as well in the lemur exhibit near the elephants.

Tickets: Children over the age of two - NIS 35, adults - NIS 38

Discounts: Fifth ticket free with a coupon from the tzofit site, discount arrangements for members of workers' committees

Chat with a parrot Jungle Kef Hai, Beit Zera

Talking parrots and an exhibit of reptiles from around the world are among the main attractions at Jungle Kef. At the zoo there is also a troop of squirrel monkeys, giant deer, gazelles and ducks, porcupines, coatis, meerkats, foxes and farm animals like chickens and peacocks who wander freely among the visitors.

There is direct access to most of the animals. It is possible, for example, to enter a huge cage with a troop of squirrel monkeys and feed them right from the palm of your hand, and you can also hold a snake. To complete the experience, there are also inflatable bouncers, a sandbox, playground and tractors.

Ticket: NIS 35 over the age of two

Discounts: 15 percent discount with a coupon form the cuponofesh site; 10 percent discount to local residents. Discounts for Hever members.

Tie me kangaroo down Gan Garoo, Nir David

There is no need to travel to Australia to see baby kangaroos peeking out of their mothers' pockets or pet full-grown kangaroos and even hand-feed them. In addition to kangaroos, the Australian park in Kibbutz Nir David features two koalas - the only ones in the Middle East - and dozens of lory birds, a kind of parrot which approaches people, sits on their shoulders and eats food provided by the zoo from visitors' hands.

The variety of Australian fauna includes cassowaries and emus, large birds that have lost the ability to fly, a variety of reptiles including the goanna lizard, and giant fruit bats also known as flying foxes. There is also a petting zoo with dwarf goats and lambs.

Tickets: NIS 39 over the age of three

Discounts: A coupon for 10 percent off on the park's Internet site, 10 percent off for Tapuz surfers, 10 percent off with a coupon from the cuponim and cuponofesh sites. Arrangements for members of Kranot Hashotrim, both teachers' unions, The Israel Electric Corp. in the south, Hever, Lean and Mega Lean; 20 percent discount for local residents.

Tigers in Jerusalem The Biblical Zoo

Exploring the Land of Biblical Animals and the Noah's Ark visitors' center can be an enjoyable experience for both parents and children. At the zoo are examples of endangered species from around the world, like lions, giraffes, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards and jaguars, many species of tropical birds and birds of prey, many herbivores, snakes and monkeys.

But these are not the only attractions. At the zoo there is an exhibit of tigers, you can observe elephant training and there is also an area called "The Story of a Drop," with aquatic environments including an aquarium with electric fish, seahorses and a koi petting pond.

Tickets: Children aged three to 18 - NIS 36, adults NIS 46

Discounts: None

Meet the predators Hai Kef, Rishon Letzion

Walk along shady paths and see a variety of animals from close up - this is the advantage of the Hai Kef in Rishon Letzion. Along the way you can meet large predators, small predators, monkeys, herbivores, reptiles, exotic parrots and other birds.

There's a petting zoo with reptiles and small herbivores, and exhibits of birds, snakes, spiders and lizards. There is also a playground.

Tickets: NIS 39 for children up to the age of 13, NIS 34 for adults

Discounts: Special reductions for residents of the city upon presentation of an identity card; for holders of Isracards, each ticket in exchange for 265 points.

Personal touch Sensory Safari, Hasolelim

At the Safari at Kibbutz Hasolelim they believe there is nothing like the personal contact between children and animals for experiencing their world. Children can go into cages with snakes, lemurs, fennec foxes, meerkats, chinchillas, parrots, lizards and more to feed and pet them. There are also unique "touching boxes" and activities and games along the route. Every visit is accompanied by a guide.

Tickets: NIS 36 for children over a year old, NIS 21 for adults

Discounts: 20 percent off with a coupon from the cuponim site