Sunday, November 30, 2008

San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California

One word to describe the San Diego Zoo...WOW!. We both agree that this is by far the best zoo we have ever visited. After one visit, you too will understand why this zoo is internationally recognized. The San Diego zoo not only has more animal exhibits and shows than you can do in an entire day but is the largest botanical garden in the world. Right away you notice the plant life throughout the park is just amazing and complements the exhibits and layout of the park very well.

The crowning exhibit at the San Diego Zoo are the giant Pandas. At the Giant Panda Research Station, there are two viewing pens where you are able to watch up close one male and one female with her cub. When we were there the cub in one pen was actively climbing around a tree while mom slept and in the other exhibit the male sat upright eating on twigs of bamboo. It was special to see these much heralded animals in action. We beat the crowds by making this our first stop in the park, so viewing was relaxed and unhurried which made the experience even better. (tip: There were long lines the rest of the day, so be sure you hit the Pandas first thing.)

The rest of the zoo hosts many wonderful animal exhibits that in several cases are grouped together by like botanical zones and the animals that share the same natural wildlife habitat. This was evident by the jungle area you walk through to see the gorillas, other apes and many species of birds. Speaking of the gorilla exhibit, this was extra special to see for two of the females in the group had babies. It was very interesting to watch the mothers cuddle these babies and take care of them while the group's huge patriarch vigilantly watched over his family. Another highlight exhibit for us was the koala bears. Here we were able to watch several bears eating and sleeping in their stands. We were surprised and thrilled to see one female with her cub riding on her back. We learned that like the panda breeding program, the San Diego Zoo has one of the most successful koala bear breeding programs in the world.
In addition to all the wonderful animal exhibits, there are several bird aviaries throughout the park. The most spectacular being the Scripps Aviary. If you like beautifully colored birds, then don't miss this exhibit and the other amazing aviaries.

In general, the park and exhibits are setup so there are multiple viewing locations for most exhibits. This seemed to disperse the crowds so even visiting the zoo on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, it didn't seem that crowded. This is another reason this zoo is world class. Lastly, we spend 8 hours at the park and felt like we still had more to do and see when the zoo closed. This zoo and botanical garden is a must see if you are in southern California...don't miss it!!

Tips and info:

1. Our CityPasses included the narrated tour bus ride of the zoo which we did, but wished we would have ridden on the top deck for better viewing. Also, we rode the bus at the end of the day when the lines were less. The CityPass ticket also included a tram ride where you see an aerial view of the zoo and San Diego, but as we said, we ran out of time and didn't get to this.

2. Parking is FREE.

3. All purchases within the park go directly to support the zoo in it's endangered species conservation efforts, education, and purchase away at the numerous shops and restaurants, it's a great cause.

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