Today my family and I met up with my parents at the San Diego Zoo to spend some time together. They were in town for a conference of Vietnam Vets, and there is no better place to take a veteran, my dad, than to the San Diego Zoo. His birthday is also on Tuesday, so our trip served a dual purpose.
The last time I visited the San Diego Zoo was over 10 years ago when I lived in the area. Now, since relocating to Orange County, I rarely get back down to San Diego. So today was extra special for the entire family.
During our visit, we enjoyed seeing the wide range of animals that the zoo had on display in their natural habitats. From elephants to lions to giraffes and more, the San Diego Zoo does an outstanding job at providing a safe place for some of the world’s most endangered species, while educating the public about wildlife conservation.
5 Must See Animals at the San Diego Zoo
Here are the top 5 must see animals at the San Diego Zoo that we enjoyed the most.
Gregarious River Hippos
These little beauties (I mean big beasts!) were delighted to entertain and watch us for hours. Back and forth the mama and baby hippo swam as they greeted visitors at their special underwater viewing window. The state-of-the-art pool lets you see the hippos in all their glory, from above and below, whether in or out of the water! I learned from the display that an adult hippo can hold its breath underwater for up to 30 minutes. That definitely beats my son’s record of 10 seconds while in the bath tub!
I was quite enamored by the orangutans who perched themselves upon on a deep layer of mulch right in front of the viewing window. They happily devoured their snacks (daily treats consisting of papaya, corn, turnip, onion, popcorn, raisins, peanut butter, and walnuts) as they gazed bewildered upon us – the onlookers. They didn’t seem to mind one bit that we were in their presence. Now everyone can watch the orangutans from home on the zoo’s Ape Cam!
The San Diego Zoo is home to the second largest cock-of-the-rock group in the US after the Dallas World Aquarium. Native to South America, the cock-of-the-rock not only has the coolest name ever, but the best fashion sense. They are stunning to watch! Located in the Parker Aviary at the San Diego Zoo, the Guinean cock-of-the-rock was friendly to my stepmom as he perched himself on the railing next to her. He also happily fluttered about and put on a glorious show of flight.
Mountain Lion (Puma, Cougar)
Mountain lion, puma, cougar, panther—this cat is known by more names than just about any other mammal! But no matter what you call it, it’s still the same cat, Puma concolor, the largest of the small cat species.
As a resident of Southern California, local authorities regularly advised us to watch out for mountain lions in the wilderness and canyon areas. But at the San Diego Zoo, the mountain lions are behind a fence, so you able to watch them freely roam about.
Today was the first time I have ever seen a gerenuk. While strolling through the African Woods, one gerenuk in particular surprised me by jumping up to grab a plethra of tree branches.
The gerenuk is also the oddest-looking of the antelope family. It has a slender body, impossibly tall, thin legs, and a long neck. As I later learned online, giraffes feed at the top of the trees in the African savanna. Other antelope graze around the bottom. But the gerenuk gets the good stuff right in the middle by standing completely erect on its hind legs—an amazing sight!
The San Diego Zoo is located at 2920 Zoo Drive in Balboa Park, just north of downtown San Diego.
Happy Field Tripping!
Disclosure: We received complimentary tickets to the San Diego Zoo as a member of the media. All points of view and opinions are my own.