Tag Archives: zoo

USA 2019 – 08 Pandas at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC (2019-10-26) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 22 FEB 2021

So having spent the previous afternoon happily exploring the area around the national mall, taking in architecture, statues and so, so many memorials, I changed the pace a little the next morning and headed out northwest via Washington D.C.’s relatively pretty subway stations, exiting at Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan and then taking the short uphill stroll to stop in front of the concrete lion guarded entrance of the National Zoological Park, aka the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Located at the sprawling Rock Creek Park, the National Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in the United States, having been founded all the way back in 1889. Covering an area of 66 ha, this zoo is even larger than the immense San Diego Zoo (40 ha) which I visited back in 2016, and is home to around 2700 or so animals, spread over 390 different species – a fifth of which are on either the globally endangered or threatened species list. (And yes, because this is part of the Smithsonian Institution, entrance to the zoo is completely free.)

So as you might imagine then, with that amount of space and animals at its disposal, the National Zoo demands a fair bit of your time to take a stroll through. The zoo experience is made up of a whole heap of interconnected themed spaces that you can move between, including the various trails like the Asia Trail, Elephant Trails, the American Trail, Amazonia, and Lion and Tiger Hill, as well as big standalone exhibits like the Giant Panda Habitat, the Great Ape House, Think Tank, Cheetah Conservation Station, Gibbon Ridge, the Reptile Discovery Center, the Bird House, Lemur Island and the Small Mammal House. There’s also the children specific attraction The Kids’ Farm – useful if just seeing all these wonderfully exotic creatures isn’t quite enough to hold their attention for the full day!

Discounting the African species which we have enough of back home, the National Zoo definitely held a couple of personal animal highlights for me – like the incredibly floofy Giant Panda, the goofy looking Sloth Bear, and the stoic, powerful American Bison. The Orangutans were delightful (the “O Line” crossing is wonderful to behold), Arapaimas incredibly unusual in shape and size, and of course, just as they did for us back in Kyoto, the adorable Red Pandas totally stole the show.

In addition to all the exotic (for me) animals on display, given that Washington D.C. was starting to move into Autumn territory at the time of my visit, the incredible mass of trees that also call the zoo home were all starting to undergo their colour transformation – leading to an even greater visual experience for me seeing as this isn’t a spectacle that I ever get to witness back home in the Mediterranean climate profile that is Cape Town. (In other words, I took a LOT of time wandering about the zoo with a very big goofy grin on my face.)

The weather was nice and cool, the clouds meant that it wasn’t a sweaty affair, and a little cloudburst served to inject a little extra entertainment into the proceedings. And of course I took photos. Lots and lots of photos…

Fluttering about at Butterfly World in Klapmuts (2018-07-28) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 10 JUL 2019

Klapmuts’ very own Butterfly World has long since expanded since its early days of just breeding butterflies. Up until recently they had suffixed the word “Zoo” to their title, but that wasn’t really all that accurate, seeing as their expansion is based almost entirely on the public leaving unwanted, injured, or abandoned exotic pets with them. In other words, the recently adopted Butterfly World Animal Sanctuary is a much better suited moniker to rally around!

The girls and I drove out for a visit last year and as usual it was a fun, lengthy visit. There had been a number of changes to the premises since we had last visited, and so it was fun to discover the creepy skeleton park (courtesy of young taxidermist(?) Francois Malherbe), the new outdoor animal enclosures, the newly located tea garden, and even the addition of a hopelessly out of its environment Arctic Fox.

(The spider escapees were pretty funny too!)

Butterflies, guinea pigs, exotic birds, snakes, lizards, spiders, monkeys, meerkats and tortoises, Butterfly World continues to exist as a proper menagerie, with all of it beautifully and playfully presented in its iconic tropical styled garden setup.

As per usual, the girls were entertained, informed and occasionally weirded out, making for a properly memorable family outing then.

And then we popped over to next door’s Villa Visaggio for lunch.

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USA 2016 – 28 Exploring the iconic San Diego Zoo (2016-07-19) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 12 AUG 2018

The San Diego Zoo is an iconic, award-winning, world famous zoo. Established in 1916, situated in the mesmerizing Balboa Park and home to over 3,700 animals of more than 650 species and subspecies, the zoo is also known for having one of the largest zoological membership associations in the world – almost a half million people! It was also the primary pioneer in the concept of open-air, cageless zoo exhibits (that simulate natural animal habitats) – much like you would find in our very own National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, aka Pretoria Zoo.

Having originally grown out of the abandoned exotic animal exhibitions of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, these days the San Diego Zoo sprawls across an area covering 40 hectares (about half of Pretoria Zoo’s size) of Balboa Park, and is jam packed with the  most remarkable, carefully crafted and maintained enclosures, exhibits, walkways and gardens.

As an addition to exploring the park on foot, the zoo also offers a pretty neat, open air guided bus tour that traverses about 75% of the park, as well the Skyfari – an overhead gondola lift that gives you an aerial view of the park down below.

The exhibits are all designed around particular habitats, which then groups together animals that tend to be found side-by-side in the wild, usually alongside with that habitat’s native plant life. For example, there were the gorillas in an African rain forest, polar bears in the Arctic taiga and tundra, and elephants and giraffes on dusty African plains.

Massive free-flight aviaries are littered about, and on top of all that, the zoo also maintains its grounds as an arboretum, with a botanical collection that includes more than 700,000 exotic plants!

The animals, the crafted environment, all of it just comes together to form an absolutely breathtaking zoo experience, a place where you can happily spend pretty much an entire day (which essentially I did) moving through the various habitats and exploring all the nooks and crannies of this wondrous zoo.

So a quick rundown of the current exhibits then: Monkey Trails and Forest Tales (monkeys and other animals from the rainforests of Asia and Africa), Owens Aviary and Scripps Aviary (tropical and local birdlife), Panda Canyon (pandas, takins and snow leopards from China), Urban Jungle (giraffes, gazelles, cheetahs and Indian rhinos), Polar Bear Plunge (polar bears, reindeer and foxes of the Arctic), Discovery Output (lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs), Ituri Forest (okapi, duikers and hippos from the rainforests of central Africa), Elephant Odyssey (elephants, lions and jaguars), Gorilla Tropics (gorillas!), Absolutely Apes (orangutans and siamangs), Sun Bear Forest (Bornean sun bears, macaques and silvery lutung monkeys), Tiger Rivers (tigers and gharials of Malaysia), Outback (koalas, wombats and tasmanian devils), and the newly opened African Rocks – which unfortunately was still being built when I was there but which is a massive new addition to the zoo, featuring a variety of distinct African biospheres and the animals that they contain.

While not a massive fan of zoos or aviaries in general, I do understand the need for zoos and enjoy zoos which are really well put together – and in that regard the well financed San Diego definitely does not disappoint. Everything is colourful, the grounds are immaculate, the animals are all well looked after, and as a bonus, I saw loads of creatures that I would almost assuredly never encounter back here in South Africa.

A thoroughly enjoyable visit then, and just as it had been with my visit to Disneyland, I kind of really wished that I had my girls with me in order to show them around this remarkable space!

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(Remember how I said that my phone was charging hence the distinct lack of photos of Balboa Park in general? Yeah well, I took a LOT of photos in the zoo!)

Related Link: San Diego Zoo | Wikipedia | Balboa Park | San Diego | #USA2016

The Big Cats and Crocodiles of Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn (2017-07-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 27 MAY 2018

Celebrating over 30 years of conserving and caring for endangered animal species, the Cango Wildlife Ranch (which originally started life out as a crocodile show farm), is one of the now very iconic Oudtshoorn attractions for visiting families – after all, which small kid is ever going to forget entering the premises through those toothy, gaping crocodile jaws!

A fully accredited, privately owned institution, Cango Wildlife Ranch has worked for years towards the conservation of cheetah and other endangered species – so much so that they are in fact one of the five biggest cheetah centres in the world and has for many years had the highest survival rate of cubs produced globally.

Currently housing over 90 species of animals, all in good condition, and looked after by a large experienced team of both professionals and volunteers, the Cango Wildlife Ranch serves to maintain both excellent breeding programmes as well as robust public awareness campaigns.

Then of course there is that whole entertaining visitors through edu-tourism thing.

The Cango Wildlife Ranch setup is fantastic. The grounds, pathways, and enclosures are interestingly presented, well maintained, and in fact just well done, while the guided tours which lead you through everything are slick and very informative – and for those in search of something even more adventurous, experiences like crocodile cage diving and big cat interaction are also available.

There was of course no way that Chantelle, the girls and I could pass up the opportunity to pay the ranch a visit as part of our June Holidays road trip last year, and I’m quite glad that we did make the time to do so in the end.

The girls were enthralled, I was happy to relive pleasant childhood memories, and most pleasing of all, Cango Wildlife Ranch remains still well worth the visit.

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Seriously. If you find yourself in Oudtshoorn and have kids in tow, then missing a visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch (which is open 365 days of the year just by the way) is pretty much unthinkable!

Related Link: Cango Wildlife Ranch | Oudtshoorn | #JuneHolidays2017

Japan 2014 – 33 The Kyoto Municipal Zoo in Sakyo, Kyoto (2014-10-07) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 20 DEC 2015

So with a Goddess of Mercy, dolphins and trains now spotted on the day, Ryan and I next decided to take a lengthy march through to the Kyoto Municipal Zoo, passing by the massive red torii gate of the Heian-jingu shrine in the process.

IMG_20141007_150232 massive red torri gate of heian-jingu shrine, kyoto, japan

Kyoto Municipal Zoo is a small 3.4-hectare zoo located in Sakyō ward, Kyoto. Established in 1903, Kyoto Municipal Zoo is the second oldest zoo in Japan, after Ueno Zoo in Tokyo.

Although facilities have been added and removed over the years, most animals are housed in concrete and steel cages constructed between 30 and almost 90 years ago – which is probably what made this one of our least favourite experiences whilst in Japan.

IMG_20141007_161915 giraffe sculpture at kyoto municipal zoo, kyoto, japan

The zoo as mentioned is reasonably small, yet still houses quite a large variety of animals, ranging in size from big to small. Our favourite without a doubt was the cute as a button red panda, but sadly it was the bigger animals that were at the heart of our discomfort.

While South African zoos tend to be spacious with large enclosures for the animals, this zoo was the complete opposite: A lion pacing about in a tiny concrete room, an elephant stuck on a concrete slab – well, you kind of get the picture.

IMG_20141007_154642 elephant getting a wash at kyoto municipal zoo, kyoto, japan

Look, zoos are always controversial for this very fact, but upsetting enclosures aside, we did enjoy viewing animals that we weren’t necessarily familiar though – though of course, being from South Africa meant that all their main exhibits were things that we already ARE quite familiar with!

IMG_20141007_152431 animal enclosures at kyoto municipal zoo, kyoto, japan

There was a quite a few areas to explore (though some were closed due to construction), and despite my by now aching feet, it was a good little excursion.

Naturally, I didn’t take very many photos at all (fences and glass don’t usually allow for decent photos), so you’ll just have to take my word that they do in fact have around 721 animals from 175 species there!

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Once we eventually made it back to our lodgings, I put my feet up and drank beer, whilst Ryan plodded out again for the night. Seriously, the man is a walking machine I tell you!

Related Link: Kyoto Municipal Zoo

Photo Gallery: Honeymoon Road Trip – Pretoria Zoo (2009-11-13) My Life | Photo Gallery 13 NOV 2009

Pretoria Zoo is probably South Africa’s premier zoo, and so it was only natural that this was to be one of our highlights on our stopover in Pretoria. (I guess the Union Buildings are pretty cool to)

The zoo itself is very large and features some fantastic animals and enclosures, and Chantelle and I managed to get some great views of the zoo’s more popular inhabitants.

Highly recommended if you’re ever in the area! :)

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Photo Gallery: Cango Wildlife Ranch (2007-11-17) My Life | Photo Gallery 17 NOV 2007

No trip to Oudtshoorn is complete without a visit to both the Cango Caves and the Cango Wildlife Ranch. These photos are of the latter, taken on our weekend away of discomfort, when both Chantelle and I bravely struggled on in the face of rather messy tummy bugs!

(And the worst part of it all – we had just started going out with one another, so not exactly a situation one wants to be in when you’re still in the trying to impress mode!)

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