Jesse and I had a rare day off together this week so we took advantage of one of the greatest parts of Phoenix: the ZOO! I’ve been to the Phoenix Zoo MANY times, but this was one of my favorite visits. I managed to snag a Culture Pass* so we saved on paying for admission and decided to use what we saved on some extras — feeding the giraffes, riding the train, petting some stingrays, etc.
We got to the zoo as soon as it opened at 9 AM (summer hours don’t start until June 1st) and I was surprised to see that the giant globe that used to be at the entrance is gone. The new entrance is great and shady, but the globe was a sign that I was AT THE ZOO. I hope it comes back.
Anyway…while waiting for the first Safari Train, we spotted the Bighorn Sheep at the top of their little mountain — I’m pretty sure I’ve NEVER seen them on any of my trips to the zoo previously. When we hopped aboard the train, we happily discovered many of the animals were wide awake and active. We got to see the African Wild Dogs running around — the guide was VERY excited that we spotted those (when we walked around later, they were MIA), the lions were chilling out, the tortoises were snacking, and even the cheetahs made an appearance.
After the train, we walked around and saw the Jaguar eating (rarely have I seen this big cat in motion), one of the elephants snacking on some hay, and a snoozing orangutan. We also got to see a VERY angry Mandrill have a FIT! He was slamming himself up against the back wall — apparently he was hungry.
Bighorn Sheep on their mountain and the Savanna.
This monkey was busy in the trees.
This monkey wanted to come home with us.
Just chillin’ with Bess.
The new enclosure for the orangutans is awesome.
Some giant birds and a gibbon just hanging around.
The zoo has A LOT of birds.
I’ve never seen a big cat actually DOING stuff at the zoo.
But this time the jaguar was BUSY.
Boozing elephant. Such a lush.
Gerenuk and turtle just having a snack.
Masai giraffe, Miguu and reticulated giraffe, Jambo.
Zuri knows she’s pretty.
Vicious, biting stingrays.
Then when we wandered back around to the lions and tigers (no bears though) we realized there was fifteen minutes left to feed the giraffes — which was on my list of MUSTS. Coolest thing EVER. The keeper and guides were chatty and friendly — it wasn’t busy AT ALL so we had a chance to ask questions and learn more about each giraffe. For example, they have two kinds of giraffe,the Masei and the reticulated, and Jambo has a heart-shaped spot on her chest. (We also learned that the Mandrill is often angry and one of the scariest critters in the zoo.)
We continued wandering around and made it back to the front of the zoo where we fed some stingrays. I’ve touched a lot of stingrays in my day — I’ve been to Sea World a couple of times — but I’ve never fed one. I was a little nervous about it so I watched Jesse for a few tries and finally got up the courage to go for it. First pass and one of those little suckers bit me or scratched me or something! I told Jesse and he didn’t believe me until he saw the blood on my hand. It wasn’t a major wound or anything, more like a paper cut, but still shocking. I thought these things were nice! I mean, I fed a 2500+lb animal and had ZERO problems. Fed a stingray and it drew blood.
Despite the stingray attack, it was a fantastic zoo visit! Afterward we had lunch at one of my favorite places, Joe’s Farm Grill, AND had cupcakes from The Coffee Shop — the Boston Cream Pie Cupcake is delicious, plus there’s a beautiful rose garden.
However, I’m always super bummed that the Phoenix Zoo doesn’t have a gorilla. The Pittsburgh Zoo (I went to college in da’Burgh) which is smaller DOES, so I really hope Phx gets ON IT. Otherwise we’re going to need to take a trip to San Diego (or Denver) JUST so I can see a gorilla. I’ve been desperate to see a gorilla since reading that wonderful little book: The One & Only Ivan. Granted, I’d much rather hang out with a gorilla at my house; however, that is not a possibility so a trip to visit a gorilla at a zoo will just have to do. (Ivan was inspired by a real gorilla — how sad is that?! Also kind of amazing though that he was able to find such a great family at Zoo Atlanta.)
Pittsburgh keeps popping up in stuff (and just in my head). First, it’s the setting for that wonderful gem of a movie, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Then we go to the zoo and I remember vividly seeing the Pgh Zoo’s gorilla on a visit a long, long time ago. Finally, on Friday I read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (very funny book, BTW) which is ALSO set in da’Burgh — in the very area I lived, too! Perhaps the universe is telling me I need to visit. (We should probably visit our families first in our respective hometowns though…so many places to visit, so little time.)
*What’s a Culture Pass? I’m not sure how the program started or if it’s something available in a lot of cities…but you can get Culture Passes to local cultural organizations from participating libraries. Library staff is not allowed to grab CPs until we’ve been open for a while — so it was pretty amazing that I was able to check out a Zoo Pass. I’m guessing it’s because it’s just so darned hot outside these days (but we’re brave…we aren’t afraid of a little sun and sweat).