Charlie Sammut is the heart and soul behind the Monterey Zoo. His love for animals was evident early on in his life – early pets included boas, pythons, sharks, alligators as well as dogs, cats, rats and horses – but back then even Charlie couldn’t have guessed how his life’s work would unfold. As a young man, he worked in law enforcement. One arrest led to an unexpected turn of events. The suspect told the young officer about a pet cougar in his garage who would now be in need of a new home. Charlie couldn’t say no. That was his first exotic pet, but not his last. Before long Charlie acquired a lion cub, an animal that would change his life. Josef was not your ordinary lion. He had a calm and sweet temperament unusual for an African lion. He was so exceptional that a trainer in the film industry asked if Charlie would allow Josef to participate in a Dryfus Fund commercial to be filmed at the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Josef was a hit and went on to star in many commercials and Hollywood films, including The Lion King. Charlie calls Josef the single most important influence in his life. What started out as a hobby and a business now became a passion to educate people about animals and how to preserve the places they call home.

In 1994, Charlie purchased the beautiful 51 acre Vision Quest Ranch located in the sun belt between Monterey and Salinas, California. The Monterey Zoo, formally Wild Things Animal Rentals, Inc. is now home to 100+ exotic animals ranging from spiders to African elephants. The zoo continues to run full-time educational programs that touch thousands of children and adults annually. The Vision Quest Ranch B&B helps support the animals by offering exciting alternative means of overnighting in Monterey County while providing a unique adventure for animal enthusiasts.

With the help of a dedicated staff, a patient family and a generous community, Charlie has now brought Monterey County its very first zoological property to benefit all who visit Monterey County as well as the many underprivileged children who might not otherwise be able to travel to the nearest zoo. Coupled with the incredible new home for all the animals, this project is now a win-win-win for all. 

Monterey Zoo was proudly accredited by the Zoological Assoc. of America in June of 2020, a tribute to all who worked so hard to with so little, to build a zoo. 


For those interested, we invite you to click here 2023 June Monterey Zoo Newsletter to view a PDF that will bring you up to speed on our concerns, our efforts and the hopeful future of Monterey Zoo. Past Newsletters: 2022 June Monterey Zoo Newsletter   PDF Newsletter – June 2021   PDF Newsletter Oct.2020


Open 10am-3pm Every Day. (Closed on Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day)

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$35.25 ages 15 and up
$25 ages 2-14 (under 2 free – $8 stroller fee)

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Annual Passes

Enjoy the Zoo year-round!
Individual and Family Plans Available
Starting at only $110

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While providing exemplary animal care, Monterey Zoological Society is dedicated to providing an entertaining yet educational and conservation minded experience which fosters public awareness and respect for all wildlife.

Vision Quest Ranch

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400 River Road, Salinas, CA 93908 Phone: 831-455-1901


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