San Diego Zoo

by CameronM Tue, November 30 2010 19:41

After seeing everything aquatic at Sea World yesterday, today it was time for everything that walked, flew, slithered or crawled. The San Diego Zoo boasts some 4000 species of animals including lions, hyenas, elephants, monkeys and pandas. Add in a few goats and sheep at the petting zoo and a fun playground and you have all the essential elements of an interesting day out for the family.

The Southern California City Pass includes either the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Wild Animal Park, so we had a difficult choice between two very different experiences. In the end, the proximity of the zoo, being only a few miles from downtown and the fact that we thought it may be easier for our 2-year to see the animals in the smaller enclosures meant that the Zoo was our choice. The Wild Animal Park by contrast is about 30-minutes north of San Diego and spread over 1800 acres, with large enclosures each housing a number of species.

Your admission includes unlimited use of the double-decker buses that regularly loop the main areas of the zoo and the Skyfari, aerial tram that gives a great view of the grounds, the neighbouring Balboa Park and glimpses of downtown.

We started with the guided 35-minute bus tour, which was informative and also helped you plan what animals you wanted to come back and see on foot. Even though it is much smaller than the wild animal park, getting around the zoo still requires a fair amount of walking, although you can use the express bus service, that stops at a number of places around the grounds, if you just want to get from A to B.

After the bus tour we headed to Skyfari that would take us from the front of the zoo towards the Elephant Odyssey. This was a recent $45 million addition to the zoo and is home to a pair of lions, a jaguar, an enclosure of rare condors and of course a herd of elephants (7). The elephant enclosure was certainly impressive, complete with mechanical trees and a large care centre where the pachyderms could come for daily grooming and pampering, including pedicures.

The Elephant Odyssey also included an interpretive walk linking past and present species with a number of exhibits portraying the discovery of fossils and a large selection of statues of prehistoric animals such as the sabre-toothed tiger. In my opinion this was a little excessive as the statues seemed to attract the younger visitors far more than the real, live animals did. There was also a lot of space given to artistic elements of the display that seemed to add little value to the exhibit, but no doubt helped some local bronze artist pay the rent.

What was impressive about the enclosures was that you could certainly get up close and personal, which in the case of the lions, was a rather scary prospect. Like most cats, the lions seemed completed uninterested in us and treated us with a reasonable amount of distain, which I must say in this case was just the way I like it.

What is interesting when travelling with little ones is the thing they find interesting. While walking along the Monkey Trail, Zane repeatedly wanted to go back to see the “clever monkey”, a monkey that had jumped from a tree onto the side of the enclosure about 3 or 4 meters away. His preference was certainly for animals that were active, as we also had to drag him away from the gorilla enclosure, where the 16-year old male was having a great time charging towards the visitors. Something that was a little scary even though we were standing behind very thick safety glass.

Food and drinks at the zoo are expensive, a simple chicken wrap costing about $9, so next time I would bring our own. Both the Zoo and the Wild Animal Park allow you to bring food, although large containers, such as coolers (eskies) are not allowed, but you’d have to crazy to lug around a huge cooler all day anyway.


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