San Diego Zoo Safari Park is a great place to take the kids

ESCONDIDO, Calif. — My family and I visited the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Calif., on a very hot day last summer. The temperature was 92 degrees. As we arrived, we walked toward the “Wings of the World” exhibit. The host introduced us to an armadillo. They have a hard shell, keen sense of smell and long claws for digging. Kristyn presented Mongo, an African gray parrot. Mongo likes ducks, so he quacked and also made sounds like a chicken. A very talented parrot indeed.

As we were following the African walk, we saw meerkats who live in a tightly knit family. They often sleep either next to or on top of each other, up to five high. As we passed the Mombasa Lagoon, we saw the southern warthog, which live in southern Africa. The skin grows on their faces, called warts, act as bumper bads during territorial fights. Next was the Red River hog, which is the smallest of the African swine. The first breeding of this species in the western hemisphere occured at the San Diego Zoo in 1995.

The bat exhibit had bats hanging from branches. A baby bat is called a pup. These bats normally live on Rodriguez Island off the coast of Africa.

Then, we went on the tram ride, which lasts 15-20 minutes. During the ride, we saw African cheetah, giraffes, gazelles, pink flamingos, pelicans, zebras, vultures, northern white rhinoceros and southern white rhinoceros, wildebeest, crown cranes, and two kinds of antelope, the oryx and eland.

The two baby giraffes were born at the San Diego Zoo about two weeks before our visit. Baby giraffes stand six-feet-tall when born. They stick close to their mother for nursing purposes. The adult giraffes feed on trees. Giraffe saliva is gooey like hair gel, I was informed.

The next stop was the African elephant. They live in herds. The oldest and most experienced female is the leader. She takes the group to food and water. Adult males usually live alone or with other males in the herd. By 2009, these elephants gave birth to six calves. Pregnancy lasts nearly two years. At birth, an elephant weighs about 220 pounds and is about three feet tall.

The Tiger trail is a new exhibit at the Safari Park, which opened in May 2014. Few people have seen the tigers up close, but here at the park, you will. Tigers are a symbol of power, strength and regal dignity. They are beautiful animals.

After the Tiger trail, we went to the Condor Ridge. During our trek upward, we saw a bald eagle. The bald eagle was injured while in the wild. After it was rehabilitated, its injuries left it unable to fly. We also saw California condors, which is another name for vultures, and they do not at all look alike. Young birds have softer, lighter-colored feathers. Juveniles have darker feathers. Adult condors’ head is read and their feathers are dark with white patches on the underside of their wings. Condors are fully developed by age five or six.

Other areas we visited were the gorilla forest, African woods, African outpost, the lion camp, the grove, Nairobi village and the Asian Savanna.

For lunch, we stopped at the Thorntree Terrace, which offered burgers, chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, wraps, paninis and entree salads. We opted for the speciality of the day–an entree chicken salad, which was totally delicious.

I enjoyed my trip to Africa at the Safari Park. It gave me a taste of what Africa is really like.

The Safari Park is at 15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido, California 92027-7017. Tickets are $48 for adults (12+) and $38 for children (3-11). Discounts are offered on multi-day passes. Parking is $12 per vehicle, $17 for RV parking. Diamond Club membership and up receives free parking: all other members receive a $3 discount with valid ID. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. most days, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the months of July and August and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during other days.

For more information or to purchase tickets to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, visit www.sdzsafaripark.org.

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