Otters are among the most agile and adorable members of the weasel family. In this listing, we are counting down the 10 best places to see these animals demonstrate their incredible swimming skills and intelligence. Because there are 13 different otter species throughout the world, this list will not focus on any one species. Exhibits were ranked based on viewing accessibility, animal group size, and overall enrichment.
10.) Northern River Otters: The Wild Center, Tupper Lake, NY
This quaint yet state-of-the-art wildlife center nestled in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York is home to 3 adorable North American river otters. This exhibit features beautifully realistic scenery with native terrestrial and aquatic vegetation, river rocks, fallen logs, and plenty of places for the animals to explore and play. For visitor viewing, the Center boasts tall acrylic windows for both above and underwater viewing and has benches along the glass so you can relax and watch the otters in comfort. The Wild Center provides visitors with one of the best places to see river otters in the Northeastern United States.
9.) Giant Otter: Zoo Duisberg, Duisberg, Germany
As one of the only zoos where you can see Giant otters, Zoo Duisberg gives visitors the best views possible of the largest species of otter in the world. With huge panes of glass framed by realistic looking “rock,” guests have viewing access of the animals both above and below the surface. In between the windows, the zoo provides a plethora of information about these endangered otters. Within the exhibits, the animals have plenty of swimming space, as well as logs and rocks to climb on. If you’d like to get an amazing view of one of the world’s most elusive otters, you should definitely check out Zoo Duisberg!
8.) Smooth-coated Otters: Prague Zoo, Prague, Czech Republic
The otter exhibit at the Prague Zoo is among the largest on our list. With a huge pool in the front of the exhibit as well as a river and waterfall that flow several yards behind the main pool, the otters at this zoo are living good. The back “wall” of this enclosure is full of small caves and ledges for the animals to explore, as well as hollowed out logs spread out around the exhibit. There is also a small tree laying across the main pool for them to walk across and places for the animals to step out of the public eye should they become overwhelmed. For viewing access, there are plenty of windows for guests to view the animals above and below the water.
7.) South American Area: Bioparc Zoo de Doué, Doué-la-Fontaine, France
Also home to the endangered Giant otter, Zoo de Doué became the very first zoo in France to house them when they welcomed a breeding pair in 2007. At over 6,400 sq. ft, there is plenty of space for these Giant otters to exhibit natural behaviors and to play. What makes this exhibit so amazing is that over 40% of its water is filtered completely naturally by plants that you would find in the otters’ native South America! There is even a canoe replica for the otters to jump into and play in. Complete with large areas for guests to observe the animals, this is one awesome otter exhibit.
6.) Otter Creek: Buffalo Zoo, Buffalo, NY
Otter Creek is a playful exhibit home to North American river otters, a species that can be found right where the zoo is located in Western NY. Full of luscious vegetation native to the Northeastern United States, this exhibit almost appears to be a natural piece of land that was simply fenced off. This is a result of careful planning and research into the behaviors and lives of river otters in the wild. The main feature of this exhibit is the rock wall lining the back accented by a waterfall that flows into a small river. The river winds beneath fallen logs and large rocks, just as rivers in nature would appear. With a small window for underwater viewing and several angles to see the otters above the water, Otter Creek showcases North American river otters perfectly.
5.) Spotted-necked Otters: Toledo Zoo and Aquarium, Toledo, OH
If you didn’t know how playful otters are, you’ll know after seeing this exhibit! The Toledo Zoo’s otter enclosure features a full length playground slide for the otters! They can be seen running up to the top and sliding down over and over again, showcasing their agility and playfulness. This large exhibit also includes a waterfall, crystal clear water with logs and rocks, and ledges for climbing. There are also viewing windows elevated just above the water for visitors to look down into the water and watch the otters swim.
4.) European Otters: Camperdown Wildlife Center, Dundee, United Kingdom
This spacious and highly enriching habitat is filled with fun and offers the animals plenty of space to run and play. With a small pond in the middle for swimming, there are also logs, hollowed out rocks, small sheds, and trees (among other things) that create an enriching and natural setting for the otters to live comfortably. Visitors to the park can see walk nearly all the way around the exhibit, giving them countless angles to see the otters. We must say, we are highly impressed with this hidden gem!
3.) Watershed Heroes: Sequoia Park Zoo, Eureka, CA
One of the most immersive exhibits on our list, Watershed Heroes does a phenomenal job of bringing its guests into a whole new world of nature and wonder. Part of a $2.3 million expansion, this exhibit lets visitors explore in a unique way: an acrylic tube allows smaller guests to crawl through the heart of the underwater portion of the exhibit. Patrons will be excited to see that the North American river otters are fascinated by the people walking through and will play at the glass with them. Accented by gorgeous natural looking rock and wood and plenty of other viewing areas, this exhibit is truly an impressive and unforgettable experience.
2.) Otter Slide: Akron Zoo, Akron, OH
One of the most unique features of any otter exhibit is this 24 foot long slide through the North American river otter exhibit is an impressive way to view these otters. Made out of acrylic, those who pass through the slide will have 360 degree views of the exhibit and will get up close and personal with the animals. Within the exhibit, the animals have plenty of room to swim, run on land, and climb. The Akron Zoo couldn’t make things any more fun when it comes to seeing river otters!
1.) Freshwater Oasis: Discovery Cove, Orlando, FL
Topping our list is this one-of-a-kind experience at this Seaworld resort tucked away in Orlando. Unique to Discovery Cove is the opportunity to come face to face with Asian small-clawed otters under the water! As visitors wind their way down a slow river, they will come to a small cave. Within it is the park’s otter exhibit. Just a thin pane of acrylic will separate guests from the otters on the other side. Patrons can swim down about 3 feet to the bottom of the river and play with the otters through the glass. The water area features replica mangrove roots for the otters to swim through and the land areas include rocks, plants, and ledges for the animals to play on. For a truly amazing experience and a view of otters you won’t get anywhere else, Discovery Cove is the place to be.
If otters are one of your favorite animals and you want a chance to see them up close, check out one of these ten zoos! These are the very best places in the world to behold these astoundingly adorable animals.