San Diego Zoo
We left Betty and Rusty’s Cowboy Camp pretty early as we had a ‘drive day’ ahead of us – which is exactly what it means – a whole day driving and stuck on the trek van. Our next stop was San Diego and although the drive was long, I made the most of it by gazing out of the window and taking in the amazing views of the ever-changing American landscape. I saw some incredible sand dunes and we came remarkably close to the border with Mexico. It took most of the day to get to San Diego and by the time we arrived and had set up camp I was ready to crawl into my tent and go to sleep!
The group pretty much unanimously chose to visit the wonder that is San Diego Zoo. It was our last full day of the Westerner 2 Trek America Tour. Although it was my last day on the tour, I had the Best of the East Trek America Tour to look forward to as well.
San Diego Zoo is pretty much in the city centre of San Diego and so it is close to all the other major attractions that San Diego has to offer. Located in Balboa Park, San Diego Zoo is 100 acres in size and has some very naturalistic habitats for the 3,700 rare and endangered animals representing 660 species. The zoo can be viewed in several different ways by foot through bioclimatic zones and there is also a 35-minute guided bus tour. There are also private tours and a variety of shows and presentations to appreciate the animals in all their glory.
We opted for the 35-minute bus tour to get a quick idea of where all the animals were that we wanted to see and then we planned to go back and spend more time with those animals after the bus tour had finished. Tickets for the guided tour departures can be purchased are near the Flamingo Lagoon which is near to the main entrance of the zoo. It was a warm and sunny day, so we decided to sit on the open deck upstairs for an enhanced view of the animals. Viewing the animals was a bit hit and miss as sometimes the animals were inside their little makeshift homes however there were some spectacular views of some of the animals.
The bus pulled up and gave us an outstanding view of the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge. As it was a warm and sunny day the polar bears were in the pool frolicking around. It was a spectacular sight watching the polar bears play fighting in the pool with all the water splashing about! We had a unique vantage point to watch them rolling around and they looked like they were enjoying playing in the water under the warm San Diego sun. They are intelligent and playful animals, and they could also be viewed through the underwater viewing room where they often come right up to glass to watch you! They were spectacular animals and remarkably interesting to watch!
Lucky for me there were many of my favourite animals on display at the zoo and they all seemed to be treated well in well-maintained enclosures. The African elephants and Asian elephants were on display at Elephant Odyssey and I was keen to check that African elephants really do have ears in the shape of the continent of Africa – they do! There are subtle differences between the two species. African elephants have two ‘fingers’ at the end of their trunks; Asian elephants have one. There was also the opportunity to see the keepers scrubbing the elephant’s feet and learn more about these remarkable animals.
As always, I was incredibly happy to watch the giraffes. San Diego Zoo had Masai giraffes on display at the zoo. These giraffes are native to Kenya and they have patterns that look like oak leaves. They also have exceptionally long, sticky tongues and they like to wrap this around their food. The giraffes were quite active skipping around in the sun however the brown bears, also known as grizzly bears because their fur is tipped with white or tan, were just chilling in the water as it was a hot day. The zoo has two grizzly bear brothers called Scout and Montana and they were born just outside Yellowstone National Park. Also chilling in the water were the hippos and it must be said they seemed a lot more menacing than the bears. From the perspective of the underwater viewing area it was possible just to see their eyes and nostrils just above the water with the rest of their vast bulk underwater! There was a small family of hippos in the zoo including a male hippo called Otis, a female hippo called Funani and their calf Amahle (Zulu for ‘beautiful one’) who was born on February 8th, 2020 so I share my birthday with a hippo calf at San Diego Zoo! Amahle is strong and independent and as she is very adventurous quite the handful for her mother! Although these are just the highlights there were so many amazing animals to observe at the zoo with everyone of them spectacular in their own way!