Evans Mission Bay Magazine Issue 3 Summer 2022 | Page 33

ZIPPING THROUGH THE ZOO In March of 2022 , the San Diego Zoo launched its largest undertaking yet : the Denny Sanford Wildlife Explorers Basecamp . The space , which was created atop the land that once belonged to the Children ’ s Zoo , was designed with all ages in mind , resulting in a spot that encourages learning while still offering fun for the kids .
The state-of-the-art basecamp clocks in at 3.2 acres , aimed at “ the future caretakers of the planet ” in an effort to foster love and appreciation for not only wildlife , but the natural world as well . This innovative area combines play spaces with high-tech , interactive experiences in a variety of different ecosystems .
In Desert Dunes , there are rocks to climb and caves to explore , but visitors can also learn about burrowing animals that aim to beat the heat , like prairie dogs , tortoises , fennec foxes and more . The waterfall grotto in Wild Woods offers a chance to cool down with splashing water along with rope bridges and spiral staircases to wander while learning about squirrel monkeys and coatis . Two other habitats — Marsh Meadows and Rainforest — delve into rising waterlines and damp , tropical environments . Also at the Wildlife Explorers Basecamp are the Cool Critters Reptile House , with an underwater theme and microscope stations , and the Spineless Marvels Invertebrate House , filled with bees , butterflies , ant colonies and more .
Also in March , the zoo introduced the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Adventures , a sustainable travel program that is led by conservation experts . Sign up for future programs heading to Yellowstone National Park , Patagonia , Botswana , Galápagos Islands , the Amazon River and more , where you ’ ll wander while learning about wildlife local to the region .
In 2021 , two new habitats were established as well : the Kenneth C . Griffin Komodo Kingdom and the William E . Cole Family Hummingbird Habitat . The Komodo dragon habitat , a 2,700-squarefoot indoor / outdoor space , is located next to the zoo ’ s reptile house , and features lizards from the beach , woodland and mountain highland areas of Indonesia .
The zoo offers engaging and educational experiences for visitors , while also helping to protect and increase populations of endangered species from around the world .
The latter is housed in a building shaped like an infinity loop that educates guests on hummingbirds and other rare birds from the Americas alongside flowing streams and native plant life .
Elsewhere at the zoo , guests can visit “ Africa Rocks ” to see leopards , meerkats , hamadryas baboons and West African dwarf crocodiles in addition to the African penguins and Coquerel ’ s sifaka lemurs ; pass through “ Asian Passage ” to spot snow leopards and endangered sun bears ; visit the Urban Jungle to see rhinos and giraffes ; and journey to “ Elephant Odyssey ” for views of camels , jaguars , lions and California condors as well as , of course , elephants . Another exhibit , “ Northern Frontier ,” showcases indigenous North American creatures like reindeer , polar bears , mountain lions and arctic foxes . Seasonal events offer even more unique experiences . When the weather warms up , guests are treated to an annual summer spectacular called Nighttime Zoo that includes extended hours , special festivities centering on the animals and other live entertainment . In the fall , the zoo participates in Kids Free San Diego , a citywide tourism initiative that promotes San Diego as a family-friendly destination ; as part of this program , the San Diego Zoo offers free admission for children throughout the month of October . The holidays feature special events as well ,
with the light-up HalGloween experience ( also in October ) and Jungle Bells taking place around Christmastime . Both of these events include holiday-specific activities and decorations .
SETTING OUT ON A SAFARI Known for its popular free-range exhibits and safari rides , the San Diego Zoo Safari Park offers a whole different experience than that of the San Diego Zoo . At the wildlife park , the enclosures are much larger and more spread out , giving animals plenty of room to roam . While this means guests may not see their behavior up close , they can view them in a more natural habitat .
One of the newest exhibits , “ Walkabout Australia ,” opened back in May 2018 and offers a special look at some of the most unique animals from Oceania . “ Australia is an extraordinary place , and we are thrilled to provide a snapshot of some of the wonders from Down Under ,” says Lisa Peterson , director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park .
This walk-through trail showcases the homes of the animals while also teaching guests about how the park cares for them and appropriate behavior for encountering these creatures in the wild . With a lot of space to wander and no fences or plexiglass to hinder views of the animals , it ’ s a unique , interactive experience . In addition to kangaroos and wallabies , visitors have the chance to spot vibrant cassowary birds ,