We knew the San Diego Zoo was a most-see attraction while we were in San Diego. Just approaching the beautiful Balboa Park, where the zoo is located, you know you’re in for a treat. It’s one of the top zoos in the country and for good reason.
First off, it’s big. About 100 acres big. So big it has an “Aerial Tram” transporting visitors from one side of the park to the other and two bus systems. Secondly, The San Diego Zoo is home to 3,500 rare and endangered animals, some species of which can’t be seen in almost any other zoo. Lastly, it also has one of the largest zoo-based research centers in the world. There are reminders all around the park of the good things the zoo is doing to preserve these animals for generations to come.
Guided Bus Tour
Upon entering the San Diego Zoo’s gates, we took the Guided Bus Tour (included with all levels of admission). There was a bit of a line for the half-hour, double decker bus tour, but it moved quickly, and we were on our way before we knew it. Our bus tour guide was very entertaining— periodically even breaking in to song to engage her large group of guests. The zoo tour gave us a good lay of the land, so to speak, and a different perspective on some of the animal areas we’d be seeing later.
Post tour, we walked around the park to the individual animal exhibits. Our first and favorite stop of the day was the giraffes. The San Diego Zoo is home to a small herd of Masai giraffes. These are my favorite type of giraffes– I love their irregular (oak tree-like) spots. The giraffes had two younger members in their group, a 5-month old named Obi (pictured below), and a one-month old calf that had yet to be named. The newborn was kept in a separate, special location at the back of the enclosure. He nursed a bit, but was mostly having nap time while the other giraffes walked about.
The zoo had strategically placed feeding areas placed all around the enclosure. The giraffes actively snacked at each station, circulating frequently and giving guests great views of their signature spots.
The zebra trotted right by us, showing off his stripes.
We observed the San Diego Zoo’s two relaxing dromedary camels, Karima and Zara. These camels have one hump apiece.
The San Diego Zoo has a pretty expansive area for it’s six largest animals on property — three Asian and three African elephants. They have a state-of-the-art Elephant Care Center which helps taking care of their aging elephant population.
The first photo below is of an African elephant, the second is of an Asian elephant. An easy way to tell the difference between the two is by looking at the ears– African elephants have larger ears, while the Asian elephant’s ears are smaller.
Gerenuks (Species of Antelope)
These were interesting animals to watch: The gerenuks can get up on their hind legs and stretch their long necks to reach leaves that the other antelope can’t. So funny looking!
The Secretary Bird was another funny animal. It seemed ready for a photo shoot, striking a different pose for each shot.
The Malayan Tapir is closely related to the rhino and zebra. We watched this guy for a while. He came so close to us!
The gharial hovered just at the surface of the water while long-necked turtles swam around him. The San Diego Zoo is one of a handful of North American Zoos to exhibit this animal.
Great white pelicans played in the man-made stream in their habitat.
These Caribbean flamingoes keep their bright color by eating a steady diet of carotenoid pigments (found in algae and small crustaceans).
Just before leaving the park, we spotted one more animal, not in an enclosure, but hidden in a tree. The peacock seemed perfectly content perched up in the high branches. He was gorgeous!
The zoo had so many different plants and flowers all throughout the park, all a part of its renowned botanical collection. I was amazed at the variety, some of which were so unusual looking!
Our Day at the San Diego Zoo
It was a long (but good!) day at the zoo. We didn’t see everything, which was to be expected with such a large area of ground to cover. Overcast skies threatened overhead all day as we made our way through the zoo. Fortunately it didn’t rain and we had a nice, cool day to enjoy with lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my!
Beyond all the facts there’s something about the San Diego Zoo that leaves an strong impression. The zoo introduced us to new animals like the Malayan Tapir, the Secretary Bird, and the Gerenuks. Many of these we could have watched for hours, and taken twice as many photographs than what we already came home with.
On the Road Again…
As with many of our stops, we hope to come back soon. Maybe next trip we could visit the San Diego Zoo: Safari Park, a zoo 30 miles away also run by the Zoological Society of San Diego. It houses its animal inhabitants in free range enclosures. We got on the road the next day toward our last stop on our California road trip, Anaheim.