School children reach out an touch the glass as African River Hippos Funani, left, and Jazi, right, swim at the Ituri Forest exhibit in the San Diego Zoo.
Call of the Wild
The children will love a trip to the famed San Diego Zoo, home to some 4,000 animals
During a long-planned trip to California, we finally made it to the world-famous San Diego Zoo, home of 4,000 animals representing more than 800 species and subspecies, and a botanical collection of 700,000 exotic plants. It was everything we could have imagined it to be and much more.
San Diego Zoo
» Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through June 22. Grounds close at 6 p.m.
» Summer Hours/Nighttime Zoo: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., from June 23 to Sept. 3. Grounds close at 9 p.m.
» Admission: One day with unlimited use of Guided Bus Tour, Express Bus and Skyfari Aerial Tram is $33 adult (12 and older), $22 ages 3 to 11; two days: $39 adult and $27 for ages 3 to 11
San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park
» Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Jun 15. Grounds close at 5 p.m.
» Summer Hours/Park at Dark: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. from June 16 to Sept. 3. Grounds close at 9 p.m.
» Best Value ticket: One-day admission includes Journey into Africa Tour, Conservation Carousel ride and all the exhibits and shows, $33 for adult, $22 ages 3 to 11; two days: $39 adult and $27 ages 3 to 11.
My 6-year-old son, Elijah, was thrilled to be there finally, after the long bus ride from Anaheim. He could barely contain his excitement, bopping and jumping, screeching with glee. His older cousin Cassidy, on the other hand, contained her enthusiasm in the reserved way young ladies her age do.
As we all trotted through the gates, we were astounded by the loud sounds of an annoyed animal of some sort. Straight ahead were flocks of flamingos, but they didn't seem to be making all the racket. I did a quick spin around to see if I could locate the noisy creature, but no luck.
As we walked on, the ear piercing "quaaaaaaaa" seemed to be coming from above. I looked up to see a huge peacock on the roof of the zoo store, glaring down at us as if to say, "What are all you humans doing here? Don't you know this place is for animals?" Mystery solved.
The great part about the enormous zoo is that you can get around without much walking at all. For a small fee, buses take you all around, and a Skyfari ride gives you the full aerial view. It was refreshing to have an easy walking day after two days of hiking more than five miles per day in Disneyland.
After the Skyfari, the kids headed over to check out the cute baby ducks in the pond, paddling around their mama duck and fluttering their little wings. Several feet away was one lone black duckling. "Aw, it's the ugly duckling!" the kids said. They watched to see if he would find his way back to his mother. He was so adorable.
A polar bear cub chomps down on kelp at the world-famous Polar Bear Plunge.
Out of nowhere a huge blue heron swept in, his beautiful blue feathers in full view. Then the unforeseen and the unthinkable happened. The heron swooped in and scooped up the little lone duckling. The small crowd of children and adults all shrieked, watching the heron fly away with webbed duck feet hanging out of its mouth.
My brother, trying to make the kids feel better, said, "Don't worry, the little duck is in ducky heaven!" But my son said, "No he's not! He's in that blue heron's mouth!"
We all chuckled. Though things didn't go well for the duckling, it certainly made the trip unforgettable.
As Mufasa in "The Lion King" would say, "We are all part of the Great Circle of Life."
A female bonobo, or pygmy chimpanzee, holds her baby.
Reserve by calling (619) 718-3000
» Safari Sleepover: Available Saturdays, July 7, 14, 21 and Aug. 4, 11, 18 and 25, overnight from 4 p.m. to 9 a.m. Designed for families with children ages 4 and older. Take a private bus tour of the zoo to your campsite, enjoy a buffet dinner, have a visit from the animal ambassadors, attend an evening Hunt Show with reserved seats, then stroll back to camp for dessert and crafts. Breakfast is served in the morning with a fun scavenger hunt at Camp Timbuktu, ending with a walk to the Children's Zoo for an animal experience and game show. Costs $109 per adult, $89 per child. Admission sold separately.
» Family Caravan Tour at the Wild Animal Park: This tour takes riders up close to the amazing animals of the wild. Riders get to meet and pet all sorts of animals and enjoy the open caravan truck driving them to field exhibits. Available 9:15 to 11:45 a.m. April through September. For families with children ages 6 to 17. Costs $90 per person. Wild Animal Park admission not included.
» Summer Camp 2007: Children can choose up to five days from a variety of one-day camp programs at the Wild Animal Park. Age-appropriate morning programs includes an up-close animal encounter, a visit to a special exhibit area and hands-on activities and games. Many classes include an art or conservation project as well. Students can sign up for as many programs as they like. Summer Camp: July 16 to Aug. 3 for students entering kindergarten through grade 7. Full-day program ( 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is $189 for members, $204 for nonmembers. Extended-day option: From 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; $264 members, $279 nonmembers. Mornings-only program: 9 a.m. to noon; $116 members, $131 nonmembers. Applications are processed by postmark/fax date. Confirmation letter will be sent upon enrollment. If the program is sold out, payment will be returned. No refunds on cancellations with less than two weeks' notice or on fees less than $30. A $10 cancellation fee per person, per program is retained. Please note that some elements of all classes are subject to change due to weather, animal illness, availability, etc. Prices are subject to change without prior notice. Applications and an updated class availability list can be found at www.sandiegozoo.com on the Web.
Tanya Kogler is an executive assistant at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.