San Diego Zoo:
A Photo Diary
I've been to the zoo many times and all I've got to say is this: it's big and you walk a lot. Make efficient use of your time by realizing that not all exhibits are created equal. Some are must-see while others are what I call "ehck". Take what you like, leave the rest - enjoy!|
People from all over the world come to see the Panda bears at the San Diego Zoo (Panda Canyon on this map). They are on the endangered list and are certainly rare creatures. It is best to see the giant pandas early in the day before the line-up starts. I usually make it my first stop as I enter the zoo at 9 am.
Photo: sculptures of a giant turtle, a polar bear, a gorilla, and a lizard bench.
While I'm on the topic of kids, keep a look out for sculptures and structures that kids can climb into, on, and around. They are scattered throughout the zoo and your child will be delighted to discover one when they are tired of pounding the pavement from exhibit to exhibit. They're great photo opportunities too.
Photo: Polar bears having a grand ol' time. Center Photo by David Filiatrault
At the far west side of the zoo (furthest from the main entrance), you will find the polar bears (top of this map). These characters are a must-see: they are big, white, and playful. Don't be fooled though, I bet they are pretty fierce too. About 8 out of 10 times that I have seen the polar bears, they have been active: playing, swimming, splashing, grappling one another, and generally having a grand ol' time. When you see them in this manner, you can't help but smile at their antics. They tend to be sedentary when it's hot (not surprising - they normally live in the arctic, after all). Come to think of it, I too tend to be sedentary when it's hot and I'm from San Diego!
Photo: Skyfari gondola ride & views from above (Wegeforth Bowl & Owens Rain Forest Aviary).
You can explore the zoo casually and weave your way towards the polar bears. Or, take the Skyfari gondola across the park. I recommend this ride: it gives you a bird's eye view of the zoo, it's breezy and relaxing. Words of caution: hold onto your hats; don't jiggle the gondola; don't drop stuff on the people below; and, wish as you may, there is no snow in San Diego and this is not a ski lift. Costs $3 each direction (unless included in your admission ticket).
While you're up in this area of the woods, you should check out the Birds of Prey (top left on map). I'm not really a bird watcher, but these predators are quite majestic and will often strike a pose. They are easy to see because of their coloration and size, but they are hard to photograph. Many times, I have seen the birds perched with a rabbit in their claws - must have been feeding time. The path to see the birds of prey is a boardwalk, so it makes for a pleasant change from the usual concrete paved paths.
Typically, I take the Skyfari westbound (towards the polar bears) and then walk back towards the exit of the zoo. If you walk down Panda Canyon, you can veer towards the gorillas, monkeys and apes (near Lost Forest on map). These primates are fun to watch. The orangutans and monkeys are active and verbose! They swing, they play, and sometimes they come right up to the glass window and look at you! The path that leads you through Gorilla Tropics, Absolutely Apes and Monkey Trails is pretty confusing so be sure to consult your map and read the signs posted.
Photo: Gorilla looks through the glass at the people on the other side. Bonobo fishing out termites (by Mike). Orangutan hanging in a net swing (by Nehrams2020).
The Elephant exhibit is quite good (Elephant Odyssey on right side of map). Unbelievably, the elephants are not the interesting part: it's everything else that is interesting. This strip of land is peppered with life-size models of prehistoric animals and mock excavation sites. Sure, there are elephants (and camels, turtles, cheetahs, llamas, tarantulas, snakes and the like) but it's the climb-on structures that the kids love. Hey, when the kids are happy, the parents are happy too, right?<
Photo: life-size extinct animals and other hands-on displays at Elephant Odyssey.
There's much to see at the San Diego zoo but it's just a matter of how much ground you can cover in one day. If you still have energy and time left, I recommend that you see the koala bears (bottom right on map). These characters are cute! Unfortunately, they rest for about 16 to 18 hours per day so most of the time, they will look like they are sleeping. On occasion, if you are lucky, you might see one who is awake and looking around. These creatures have the uncanny ability to wedge themselves at the crotch of trees and they balance like this seemingly forever. One year, an albino koala was born at the zoo and that drew quite a crowd.
By now you must be exhausted. Time to follow the sign and get something to eat. There are 8 or 9 eating establishments scattered through out the zoo. Most of them serve fast foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, sandwiches and such. My favorite eatery is Albert's Restaurant (see review). This is a full-service dining room with a indoor/outdoor seating and a waterfall - need I say more? On the other hand, if you have a bunch of kids in tow, maybe hot dogs is just perfect. Kids meals are served in buckets which can be kept as a souvenir or used later at the beach
Information is accurate at time of publication but can change without notice.