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San Diego Zoo

The San Diego Zoo is world renowned for being home to 4,000+ animal from over 800 species as well as a substantial botanical gardens. The zoo is operated by the Zoological Society of San Diego, which was founded in 1916 and is the largest zoological society in the world. First off, the zoo is a huge place and there is no clear sequence of traffic flow, so you go to whatever you are interested in first. The sequence below is the path we took, which was somewhat dependent on what my daughter was interested in at that instant versus some underlying plant. My suggestion is that you first take the bus give you some idea of what is around the zoo and then decide where to go on foot.

Just to the left of the entrance is the stroller rental and information. Stroller rental is suggested for small kids as they will likely be tired from all the walking especially due to the steep grades in places.

Children's zoo
Just to the left of the entrance is the Children's zoo. Over 30 animal exhibits for kids and adults. You might see macaws, pygmy marmosets, wombats, and spider monkeys. Also there is a petting zoo area with goats, sheep, and other animals you can touch and feed (be sure to wash hands afterward!).

The skyfari is an arial tram that runs from one corner of the zoo to the other. Be advised that it is a one way trip and if you want to come back you will have to stand in line again or walk, so don't leave your stroller with anything valuable while you ride.

Reptile House and Mesa
The Reptile House is home to snakes of all kinds, tortoises, and gila monsters. Most kids won't have any problems since they are safely behind glass, but some look pretty intimidating. Reptile Mesa is home to some rock iguanas from South America, tortoises, and a different looking type of crocodile. If you are not careful you might miss the small exhibits inside on either side of the mesa which contain frogs, toads, salamanders, and smaller turtles.

Monkey Trails
An elevated walkway from the entrance will give you a unique view of the monkey habitats as if you are up in the trees yourself.

Absolutely Apes
Absolutely Apes contains the many orangutans and siamangs of the San Diego Zoo. It is a pretty large habitat with glass on one side that features numerous trees, play structures, ropes, and sway poles.

Gorilla Tropics
Gorilla Tropics is simulation of an African rain forest. The gorilla area has waterfalls, and open grassy area, and climbing areas. It was a little strange when near the glass fronted viewing area when there was two gorillas sitting looking at the people on the other side, and one obviously showing off for the crowd...

Scripps and Rain Forest Aviary
Walking through these enclosures makes you imagine you were in Africa. Birds are flying free among native flora. We were there on a cool day and the birds seemed to be prety active and not that shy of the people (probably since there were so few).

Tiger River
Tiger River is home to, yes you guessed it, tigers. Also fishing cats, tapirs, crocodiles and a few species of birds also call this area home.

Ituri Forest
The Ituri Forest habitat is named for the real Ituri Forest, which is an equatorial rain forest in the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the San Diego Zoo it is home to species such as h
ippos, okapis, and Turacos (among others). This is one of the few areas that has several species in one enclosure. It was interesting for us to sit and watch them as they played together. We used this as an object lesson for our daughter.

Giant Panda Research Station
The Giant Panda Research Station is obviously one of the biggest draws of the San Diego zoo. There are currently six giant pandas at the San Diego zoo. As you enter the enclosure there is a zoo employee there to talk about what the pandas are doing and answer any questions.

Polar Bear Plunge
There are four polar bears which call the San Diego Zoo home. As you enter the area you can see them close up underwater. If they happen to be taking a swim, it is surprising how agile they can be! The one I was watching, actually came up to the window and was checking us out (but my camera was out of batteries). At the picture to the left I think one of the keepers had left something in the enclosure as this bear was digging at something which he eventually ended up eating... The water in the plunge is cooled to about 55 degrees Fahrenheit (12 degrees Celsius) so it will be comfortable.

Horn and Hoof Mesa
Following the Polar Bear Plunge, the road winds through Horn and Hoof Mesa, which is home to a number of gazzeles, zebras, giraffes and other animals of the plains of Africa. There was a baby giraffee when we were there that was only six weeks old. The driver on the bus tour told us that baby giraffes give birth standing and the baby comes out and hits the ground. Talk about a rude awakening!

Cat Canyon
Along Cat Canyon are goats, pigs, small meat eating animals and cats. If you want to get a veiw of these cats, especially the jauguars, you probably need to make it a point to get there early. We saw them out walking when we took the bus tour, but by the time we got around to them of foot it was early afternoon and they were all sleeping.

Bear Canyon
Along Bear Canyon are lions, bears, and a few species of monkeys. As with the cats above, you need to get to them early in the day to see them active.

Elephant Mesa
Elephant Mesa is a interesting area with a number of elephants. Some were obtained prior to culling from two major game reserves in the Kingdom of Swaziland. There are a number of items placed in the habitat for them to play and interact with as seen on the right. While many might think that these animals should be returned to the wild, these were rescued prior to being culled. I think it is preferable for them to be here than not... 2005. All Rights Reserved.