After 4 days of conferencing I had most of a day to myself to see what I could of San Diego. That turned out not to be much, but I opted for the zoo since you can’t go to San Diego and skip the zoo, right?
My expectations were pretty high. In my experience the zoo is the talk of San Diego. Growing up in Maryland, I’m accustomed to the National Zoo, which I think is awesome and is also free. The SD Zoo had a lot of competition with that kind of bang for your buck.
One thing I noticed almost immediately was all the vegetation. I’ve only been to a few zoos, but they have all been very sunny and pretty sparse — a lot of wide concrete paths with little plant life outside the animal habitats. The SD zoo is totally different; with no effort on my part I was able to stay in the shade for most of my 5+ hour time at the zoo. According to my bus tour guide, the zoo is also a registered arboretum.
The polar bears are a popular attraction with everyone, but me especially. I wanted to get a better look at my competition when I’m in Norway next month. There were 3 in the exhibit when I was there and they were all jumping in and out of the water and generally goofing off. A few toy balls were keeping them entertained. Harmless.
I was surprised overall by how active the animals were. I’ll give credit to habitat design and not size (wishful thinking), but many of the animals I saw were close to the front of the exhibits where they were easily seen and admired. I’m sure everyone who’s ever been to a zoo is familiar with the game of trying to figure out if there even is an animal in the exhibit or if it’s off somewhere else.
The polar exhibit included a few other animals too, like an arctic fox and some reindeer. It was also updated in 2010 to reflect the pressing threat of climate change in the arctic. Below are some displays demonstrating the loss of arctic sea ice over the past few decades.
They even tackled the sometimes controversial issue of climate change with a well-made display of changing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. They made a gigantic plot of carbon dioxide which was probably 30 feet tall. It was a great way of giving people a better sense of how significant modern climate change is and where we’re heading in the future.
After checking out the polar bears, I hopped on the Skyfari which took me back to the front of the park. When I got up there I got some lunch and then I hopped on a guided tour bus which drove us around to see many of the exhibits I hadn’t been to yet.
Our bus passed by as some VIP visitors (read: people who could afford the price tag) were out petting the rhino. Here she is getting a snack after all that work.
A separate trail housed all the big cat exhibits. This was one of my favorite parts of the park. Again, I was surprised by the fact that even though it was midday all the animals were out and about. I guess the visitors weren’t the only ones enjoying the shade.
Some of you know giraffes are pretty much my all-time favorite animal ever. And the San Diego zoo had so many! Here’s a giraffe family for you. The little guy is only a few months old. He was 6’2″ when he was born.
As the day wore on, the animals succumbed to the heat of the day and settled in for a nap.
Not all the animals were struggling in the heat though. The camels looked to be going about their business. In my experience camels are a little less common to see in a zoo, but San Diego has it covered.
Final verdict: the San Diego Zoo has it figured out. Even their gift shop was nice. I spent about 5 hours there and it was the perfect amount of time. I’m sure I’ll end up back here one day.