The second attempt to visit the San Diego Zoo went much more smoothly. I only got off at the ‘a’ exit rather than the ‘b’ exit coming off the freeway, so the googles had to route me on a little tour around the neighborhood, around a block, and back the way I needed to go to get to the zoo.
The zoo it turns out has free parking – something I wasn’t expecting. $58 for a day entry was also more than I expected, but it comes with a free bus tour (not interested) and a free sky tram ride (interested, but closed for maintenance). Oh well, the free parking takes some of the sting away from the $58. I’m only there once. I’ve blown that much on gas money going to a beach that was closed – this isn’t going to kill me. I don’t get people that have the money who don’t see sights because they feel they are getting ripped off. Fine, go sleep with your money – I’d rather have the experience, and it was still good value for my money.
The zoo has something that I define as evidence of civilization – they sell beer and you actually can walk around with a plastic beer cup and view the animals, if you want. Where I’m from, prohibition has never truly been completely repealed – still can’t have a beer with my picnic in a park. Most people get around those rules by – putting the beer in a cup. Don’t become a drunk ass. Why do I call it civilization? Because civilized people should be able to drink alcohol without going to excess and becoming a nuisance to their neighbors. San Diego zoo, civilized. Any public venue in Calgary, not so civilized. I’m not counting the liquor done by license in limited outdoor venues in Alberta – that is tightly controlled and you need to literally fence off or wall off the area like you’re corralling a bunch of animals. Speaks volumes to the attitude the authorities have to people that drink. Now, I’m not saying there are no problems with people that drink in my part of the world, in fact part of the problem is people get to a place where they can drink and then they go nuts, causing problems. We need to become more civilized and stop doing that, and then get rid of the silly laws. But enough talk about that particular animal, back to the zoo animals.
I’m pretty much going to randomly post pictures interspersed with my thoughts, sometimes related to the picture, sometimes not. You can point at the pictures with your mouse if you don’t know the animal – I managed to identify everything except one bird I’m not sure of.
The zoo was not crowded at all. Even mid-week, I expected a few more people, but the lot was perhaps ten percent full an hour after opening, and while walking around I never felt there were a ton of people around anywhere. Perhaps the threatening rain kept people away. Good for me, there still was plenty of sunshine for photos.
I was taking a lot of pictures – ended up with right around 500 in total between SLR, point and shoot, and cell phone. Each camera had it’s advantages, but the SLR dominated here. Wish I’d remembered to turn the GPS on so I knew where every photo was taken.
Even so, I skipped a lot of exhibits for photos. Zoos are great for re-visit as there are different animals out every time. Just sucks when you are there one time hoping to see a particular animal.
There was one other reason to skip an exhibit for photos. The San Diego zoo has a lot of birds, even more than the many I am showing today. But they are behind wire mesh. It’s not great for viewing, and pretty much pointless for photography. Creating glass viewing areas on more of them would help for viewing and photography. Money, I’m sure restricts these nice to do things.
This nice bird was behind glass and came right up to me. I had to back away, we were beak to nose. That’s what I’d like to see a few more of. But you can’t have everything.
Being the mild climate it is, San Diego Zoo had a ton of great flowers and plants too. These Bird of Paradise plants just grow outside here all on their own. In Calgary, people try to grow them indoors with some difficulty, and I’ve only ever seen them in a greenhouse there.
The variety of animals is more than any zoo I’ve been to. This is a world class zoo, and there no stretching the term here, this zoo is one of the best you will see anywhere.
These Gerenuk demonstrate some of the great features of this zoo. They naturally go up on two legs to forage (on trees, I presume in the wild). So, they put their food up high so they mimic their natural behavior in their pens. This leads to great viewing and great photos.
But I did not linger long on any one exhibit. I was trying to see as much of the zoo in a day as I could. I had been told it couldn’t be done in a day, I wanted to show that it could, with a quick stop only at any exhibit, and skip anything that wasn’t open/there/seen before a million times.
Not being crowded helped a lot too. I wasn’t stuck with a gaggle of people in front of me, unable to march to the next exhibit. I walked around freely for the most part, only waiting a bit sometimes for people to clear so I could get a shot from a particular angle.
I had not seen polar bears in many years. The Calgary zoo used to have an arctic exhibit, but it was torn down as newer research revealed it was a bad polar bear habitat. Since polar bears and seals were it’s main attractions, it got removed in favor of the current awesome African exhibit there now. This polar bear has a lot of black fur – wondering if it is a response to the warm southern climate, or just a particular strain of polar bear?
But I was skipping a lot of northern exhibit stuff – seen it for real in the wild, or could see it anytime at the Calgary Zoo. Walk by the deer, the cougar, the Canada goose. But it was really only a small fraction of the zoo I walked by – there are a lot of animals to see here.
I mentioned the bus tour I wasn’t interested in as part of the ticket package. I was even less interested when I saw the route the bus takes. First, it doesn’t near cover the whole zoo – there are a lot of exhibits the bus doesn’t even go near, and the ones I saw it pass are passed from far, far away. But if you can’t walk the zoo, it’s better than nothing.
I was getting hungry, and looking to spoil myself a little with a really nice lunch, with a beer! There was a large “food complex” sort of central located hosting a couple of eateries. One, “Albert’s” was a higher scale sit down service restaurant, the only one at the zoo I was later told.
I ordered the Seared Albacore Tuna, with a salad. You must eat seafood if you are by the seaside, just as you must eat steak if you are in cattle country. I tried the Tuna, really good. But the salad just blew me away – amazing! OK, when in big city California, you must have salad, I’m adding that to my list. One great meal and a pleasant beer later, I was refreshed and ready for round two in my whirlwind tour of the zoo.
The monkey / ape building was really nice – good viewing areas behind glass to see and photograph by.
One of the few crowds I encountered was in front of the Orangutan / Chimp enclosure. There was a baby Orangutan out with it’s mother, and people were ooohing and awing over that. The juvenile wasn’t cooperating for a really good picture, but the mother was holding her lunch in front of her face like a bouquet, making for a nice photo.
There are not one, but two large aviaries you can walk into at the San Diego Zoo. Now these I can photograph great in, no wires in the way! There were a lot of birds in here I’d never seen before.
I could have spent an hour in here trying to photograph the more elusive birds, but I was on a mission to see the whole zoo in a day, so onward!
One thing of note at this zoo is it’s layout is really three dimensional. Khan would be confused. There are places where overhead walkways are above you, the monkey and apes being one of these. You can be up high and look down on the monkeys, for example. Or they may be up there with you, look back at you while swinging from a tree. Other than the wire cages, I really liked the layout. But few photos through the glass were really what I could manage where they had glass.
I visit the second large aviary, nice scenery in here and a walk up along some water with falls and everything. Fewer birds being cooperative in here, and some of those I’m familiar with from my local zoo. Again, I could spend an hour in here waiting for birds to be just in the right place to shoot.
It is an impressive area though – large enclosure! But it’s easier here compared to colder climates. Just wire, and I spot heating lamps for the bird that might be feeling a bit chilly. That would all have to be glass and heated in a part of the world that sees freezing temperatures.
I start back up – consulting the map. I’ve actually seen most of the zoo, and I still have a couple of hours before closing!
I make my way up to the entrance along the one area I have not been through yet. There is another area I have not been to yet, the “Wegeforth Bowl”, but I need to go back to the entrance to see that area.
I see the reptile house, right where I need to go back down to the Bowl. Go touring through that – impressive collection of snakes and lizards, a fair number actually visible in their enclosure, and some even active. Feeding just happened, that explains it.
I get a pretty good number of decent photos for reptiles; they do tend to hide and lay in some corner otherwise. I can’t see them at all, or I see one little bit of reptile – not photo worthy for sure.
I had been told at Imperial NWR that the Galapagos Tortoise they had tend to hibernate a bit between January and March, so you don’t see them outside. Same thing here, but at least the African Tortoise was out for a slow little stroll about.
At the bottom of the bowl is a cool water display including this Gharial, something else I had not seen before, although my memories of the old reptile house at the Calgary zoo, and the Berlin zoo are so dim now that forgetfulness may make this guy seem new again.
I backtrack, wanting to go over the Bashor Bridge, crossing the gully the zoo is in high above. It is an impressive view, even if the rain that was threatening is finally starting to fall. I contemplate the map, making one trip all the way to the back to see the hippos, before I turn tail and head out of the San Diego zoo for the day. Lots of people have left already, and 4 pm rush seems like it might be a little easier to stomach rather than trying to find all the little corners of the zoo I might have missed.
Did I visit everything at the San Diego Zoo in a day? Basically, yes. I’m sure I missed a building here or there – it’s a big zoo! But if you move along you can see most everything, including time for a good sit down lunch. I head back to my campground, thinking about all the pictures I have to go through to select, edit and post. Its been a good day to make up for all the crap of the previous day!