Friday, November 6, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Ostrich, Oh My!

We are fortunate to have a neat amusement park,, only a few miles from where I live. It was voted number three for best zoos by USA Travel. Over the years I have gone from taking it for granted to really appreciating it for what it is. When I was trying to think of something fun to do with a few of the grandkids during Spring Break, it seemed to be the perfect thing.

The safari itself is really unique. Upon entering you are given a disc to insert into your CD player and you can follow along with the animals that you are seeing as you drive along. Yesterday, we were treated to many sightings because the weather was not too hot so they were all active.

Even though there is a special area of the park for the ostriches, no one apparently told them because they are everywhere. They are quite funny to watch. When my grandson, Kyle, was about three we were driving through and he hit the window button just as an Ostrich decided to stick its head in. The kids were all screaming and I almost ran off the road trying to find the right button to get the window up and locked. It’s funny now but at the time I didn’t think so.

We didn’t have any mishaps yesterday but we did laugh a lot about Kyle’s earlier encounter with the ostrich. A huge ostrich was standing in the road and wouldn’t move so the cars had to drive around her and she would try to stare you down as you passed and bob her head at you. Who knows what she was thinking but we told Kyle she was looking for him.

One of our highlights driving through the preserve was seeing a new white rhino name Jazzy. She was with her mother and so cute. I always am a little nervous driving past the rhinos. We’ve had them decide to cross the road just as we approached and that is a little scary to see that huge animal directly in front of your vehicle. Even in a large SUV, you really feel quite vulnerable. One of the larger ones looked at us yesterday as if he were thinking of coming over but we didn’t stop to look very long.

The African elephants are on a little island with a moat around it and secured by a tall fence. You are close enough to see them playing and giving themselves sand and water baths. If you sit long enough you’ll see them mosey over to their feeding area to eat.

There are numerous other animals: impalas, water buffalo, wildebeests, zebras, giraffes and of course the lions. The area where the lions are kept used to be completely open and you could drive through with the lions walking around the vehicles but now they’ve fenced in their area to “protect them”. We saw a few males and several females mostly sleeping but we did see the male walk around and find himself a new spot to sleep. He looked quite happy because of all the lionesses around him.

We passed the island where the chimps are kept and watched them playing and swinging on their tire swings and climbing across the ropes that go from one little hut to another. They are very entertaining and you could spend several minutes watching them but it was getting close to lunch so we had to get a move on.

The giraffes are the last exhibit you pass and they are so beautiful. There were several walking around and eating from tall feeders. Sometimes they walk across the road and tower over your vehicle looking down at you. Later we would walk over to the elevated stand built to feed them. You can buy cookies and stand there and they’ll come over and take them from your hand. We, umm the kids that is, love this. The giraffes are so soft and they have those big beautiful eyes and they are so sweet.

You drive through large gates and leave the preserve and head to the parking lot. Our first stop would be lunch because everyone is now starving. There’s a nice little restaurant and we had a pleasant lunch and headed out to ride the carousel and after that the mini golf where I was insulted and complimented all in one by the six year old grandson who is hysterical. It took me about five times to get the ball in on one of the holes and I lamented that I had not done too well. My adorable grandson said, “Oh, Nana I think you did awesome for an ………old………..person.” I was laughing so hard that I forgot to be annoyed that he thinks I’m old. Ahhhhhhhhhhh………………………..

On to the Ferris wheel and to feed the sting rays which are a special visiting exhibit. The sting rays were fun to feed but of course as soon as I stuck my hand with my little piece of raw fish in the water, the largest one in the tank swam directly to me. I was sure I’d lose a finger but he gently took the fish and I was left with all fingers intact. We spent a good bit of time there and several minutes afterwards washing the smelly raw fish off our hands.

The petting zoo was quite fun and we enjoyed feeding the goats especially. They were very excited to see our food and one of the more exuberant ones jumped up on the six year old almost knocking him down. He took it well though after I explained the goat only wanted the food but he suggested I carry the little cup after that.

We watched an alligator show and saw all sorts of birds and snakes and iguanas which made me think I was in my back yard for a couple of minutes. The huge land tortoises are always fun to watch, if you look closely and long enough you might see one of them twitch their mouth or move his head slightly. Hey, it’s the simple things.

Hard to believe but we had spent four hours after all of this and it was time to think about leaving for home but first we had to do something very important….have ice cream.

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