Very few activities are more family-friendly and educational than a trip to the zoo. The zoo is generally known for its preventative measures with regard to conservation, and protecting endangered animals from the tragedy of extinction. The San Diego Zoo, however, now in its 101th year, is in an acclaimed league of its own, as perhaps the highest rated zoo in the world and as one of the West Coast’s most sought-after destinations. In the summertime, this is even more true as families brave the heat to create lasting memories together.
Of course, the San Diego Zoo boasts the 100-acre-wide allure of a multitude of different species to be observed and appreciated. Curving around ample dining and shopping opportunities are an array of trails (of varying difficulty level) that lead to fascinating sights of monkeys, tigers, bears, hippos, birds, orangutans, and so on, which are absolutely worth the effort that their respective treks entail. Nonetheless, for those not inclined to walk as much, there is the Kangaroo Bus (which makes four different stops throughout the zoo), 35-minute guided bus tour for a nominal added cost, and the majestic Skyfari Aerial Tram that will reveal a tree-lined view of the expansive zoo below.
The zoo’s cornucopia of beautiful animals is further demarcated by appropriately named areas like “The Lost Forest,” “Panda Canyon,” “Northern Frontier” (polar bears), “Urban Jungle” (giraffes), “Outback (koalas),” “Elephant Odyssey,” and the “Asian Passage.” Practically every mammal, amphibian, reptile, bird, fish, and bug that we are aware of and never knew had existed are on display in all their terrific splendor.
Depending on one’s affinity for certain animals, there will undoubtedly be certain species that are preferred over others. That said, among some highlights are the snake-necked turtle (a frog-turtle-snake triumvirate); the astonishing Komodo Dragon that struts with an imperiously regal disposition; the larger-than-imagined hippopotamuses that wade through a 150,000-gallon tank; the awe-inspiring gorillas and orangutans, who are undeniably self-aware and very intelligent (make sure to say hi to Satu the Orangutan, who hangs out right next to the window); and the mandrills, whose resplendently colored noses remind us of nature’s sheer artistry.
With the San Diego Zoo continuing to add to its palette of animal appeal, this summer boasts even more incentive to visit the premises in Balboa Park. One of the summer’s attractions, which runs through September 4th, is “Nighttime Zoo.” The all-day entertainment extravaganza is a must-do for all ages, which features assorted events and activities to indulge in. These include the zany-fun “Dr. Zoolittle” and his speeches about bugs, death-defying trampoline artists, energizing songs spanning many decades (“Rock and Roar”), impressive dance choreography (“Funky Monkeys”), a brass band, animal puppets, costumes, hula hoops (“Zoolahoops”), and 4-D theatre viewing (for an extra cost).
The main-event attraction, though, will be Conrad Prebys 8-acre “Africa Rocks” exhibit. It underscores six venues or habitats in Africa, much of which are characterized by their unique rock configurations. One of these venues, which will premiere on July 1st, is “Cape Fynbos.” It will depict the big boulders and rockiness of the region, as well as be headlined by the African Penguin, which can be found on 24 islands along the South African coast. Not to mention, Leopard Sharks and the Pincushion Protea plant (a reddish-orange orb with sprouts emanating from it) are additional reasons to visit “Cape Fynbos.”
Another venue coming soon is the “Acacia Woodland” — an open-plan canopy of flat-top Acacia trees — where the Leopard, in addition to the female-dominant Vervet Monkey, Bee-Eater Bird, and the Black-Headed Weaver can be viewed. The “Madagascar Forest” is similarly expected to be a popular destination with its limestone formations providing accommodations for the Coquerel’s Sifaka (a type of lemur with outstanding jumping ability), the Ring-Tailed Lemur, the Fossa (a dog-cat hybrid), and the Honey Badger.
The fourth habitat is slated to be the dry, desert portrayal of the “Ethiopian Highlands,” where the Hamadryas Baboon (adapted to dessicated conditions), the Gelada primate (distinguished by hourglass-esque red patches on its upper chest/neck), and the Nubian Ibex goat (with its spectacular horns) will reside in. The monolithic rock-land of the “Kopje Woodland” will house the familial-bonding Meerkat, an expert climber known as the Rock Hyrax (or Rock Badger), along with the Klipspringer (dwarf antelope) and Dwarf Mongoose. Last but not least is the sweltering “West African Forest,” where the five-foot West African Dwarf Crocodile (one of the smallest of its species), and the Floating Fig Tree, which feeds a myriad of animals, can soon be observed at the San Diego Zoo, delighting and enlightening crowds.
For more information about the San Diego Zoo and its summer attractions, please visit zoo.sandiegozoo.org