I am not a big zoo person. I love the animals, but there is just something about them being in enclosures that makes me sad. I know all the reasons why it is good to have zoos, but I get bummed anyway.
Mr. Misadventures and I had no plans to go to the zoo the day we headed to Balboa Park, but after just a few minutes of walking through the gardens and seeing sign after sign for the zoo we decided, “why not?”
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It has literally been at least twenty years since I had been to the San Diego Zoo (and about as long for the San Francisco Zoo, to be honest) so I was excited to go again because by reputation they are supposed to have one of the best zoos in the country. I figured if I was going to go one, why not the best?
While waiting in line (a long line, after all, it was the Christmas break) I began studying the ticket board and notice the mention of a Backstage Pass. Backstage passes to concerts are cool. Backstage passes to shows are pretty cool. Why not a zoo?
It was the coolest thing I have done in a long time and I think I have I do my fair share of cool things.
The Backstage Pass is a custom program allowing 90-minutes of up-close access to a wide range of animals. It is a daily event that is limited to a small group of people. I think the maximum group size is 40, the day we went there were about 25 people – the $99 per person probably keeps a lot of people away (P.S. going to the zoo is not cheap! but all the money goes to supporting the animals and the zoo).
I learned interesting things about each of the animals and had the opportunity to take some great up-close photos. I used a 100 mm lens and got these amazing photos. We got to feed and touch two rhino brothers.
We got to get near a precocious zebra who's best friend is a donkey.
We got to check out a wolf with a distinct personality. I learned how cool aspect of how wolves howl. The trainer had also do our best wolf howl and while we were doing that the wolf listened. She had us do it a second time and then the wolf howled back, but he howled back in a tone that was missing from the group…who knew they were that “musically” inclined!
And isn't this utterly adorable?
The markings on these cats were impressive.
Another highlight was learning about the cheetah and his best friend, a pound puppy. Cats of all shapes and sizes are nervous by nature and the zoo matches them up with dogs that are unflappable which calms the cheetah. Since they are buddies since they were babies, the cheetah doesn't see the dog as a meal!
It was such an awesome experience and if you have the extra dollars to set aside to do this on a future trip, do it. It is well worth it.