Evans Mission Bay Magazine Issue 3 Summer 2022 | Page 34

Above : The entrance to the San Diego Zoo ; Right : the Skyfari Aerial Tram , which features views of the zoo ’ s wide variety of plants and animals as well as the surrounding Balboa Park area .
sugar gliders and magpie geese . In fall of 2019 , the exhibit gained a new area called the Nelson M . Millsberg Platypus Habitat . The two platypuses housed here are the only ones currently living outside of Australia , offering a rare chance to view these semiaquatic creatures up close . Other unique creatures — such as a kookaburra , a blue-tongued skink or an echidna — may also be found here depending on the day .
“ I think what is amazing about ‘ Walkabout Australia ’ is the thematic approach to provide our guests with the ability to see animals in an authentic and immersive environment . They can walk around and see the kangaroo , wallaby and birds in a way they might be able to see them if they could join them in nature ,” Peterson says , noting that the exhibit allows people to connect with Australia ’ s fascinating wildlife while giving the park a chance to help animals that are endangered as well .
Saving endangered species is a major part of San Diego Zoo Global ’ s efforts , with conservation and research initiatives taking place at both the zoo properties and around the world . Two of the safari park ’ s southern white rhinos were artificially inseminated in 2018 in a research project aiming to enhance scientists ’ knowledge of the rhino reproduction process . This is part of a larger effort to save the northern white rhino , a relative of the southern subspecies of which there were only two living entities — both female . The pregnant rhinos , named Victoria and Amani , gave birth in 2019 following a lengthy gestation period .
Though the safari park has fewer events than the zoo does , there are still plenty of annual celebrations to keep visitors entertained . In the summertime , Summer Safari offers extended hours during a cultural celebration filled with music , dancing , acrobatics and more . In the fall , the park also offers free admission for children throughout October , along with an Autumn Festival featuring country music , fall foods and educational experiences along with animal encounters . Then , at the end of the year , Wild Holidays takes over , bringing holiday cheer to the park by way of festive decor , a parade and visits with Santa .
EXCITING EXPLORATION One of the most unique ways to view the San Diego Zoo is from the Skyfari Aerial Tram , where large buckets in the sky transport guests from one end of the zoo to the other while providing bird ’ s-eye views of the animal exhibits , plant life and surrounding Balboa Park .
Those who are interested in keeping their feet on the ground can take advantage of two types of buses : a guided tour bus or the Kangaroo Bus . The former is a docentled experience that lasts for 35 minutes , showcasing the majority of the zoo while offering exciting details about the animals within , while the Kangaroo option gives guests the chance to hop on and hop off at four different stops around the property .
A variety of behind-the-scenes tours are available as well , including the Crazy About Cats tour , where visitors enjoy private viewings of some of the zoo ’ s most famous cat species , and the Inside Look tour , which is a small-group experience focused on how the staff cares for the animals . For an even more immersive day , opt for the Exclusive VIP Experience , which can last five or seven hours and is tailored to visitors ’ interests , ensuring they are able to view and interact with the creatures they ’ d like to see most .
Over at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park , the offerings are a little different . In addition to self-guided and walking tours , the property offers an endless array of safaris for guests to enjoy . Traditional options include the Wildlife Safari and the Cart Safari , both of which provide covered , narrated travel near the African or Asian animal enclosures ( mimosa or twilight options may also be available ). Or opt to view the animals from above on the Flightline Safari , a series of two zip lines set up to 130 feet in the air .
For a more unique experience , consider the Behind-the-Scenes Safari , where visitors can get closer to some of the animals and view their enclosures from private backstage areas . Choose to focus on elephants , rhinos , cheetahs and more . Another option , the Ultimate Safari , lasts between five and seven hours , and offers a customized escapade filled with animal interaction and visits to private areas of the zoo .
But the fun doesn ’ t end with animal adventures . Those of all ages can enjoy an overnight stay within the safari park gates during a Roar & Snore Safari , which includes everything from guided walks and after-hours views of the wildlife to special activities , a campfire program and dinner . While some of these events are aimed at children or families , others are geared toward at those who are 21 and over . g