2 must visit places in San Diego are Sea World & San Diego Zoo. Few weeks back we shared our experience of Sea World and today we want to share about San Diego Zoo & how it's very different from other zoos across the world. And before we start this post, I want to share that there is another similar sounding option in San Diego but little away from the city - 'San Diego Safari Park'. Tickets are also different for these places. This post also covers about a common ticket mistake which we want you to avoid.
Go-Card is useful to get discounted Ticket for San Diego Zoo
Let me start with entry ticket thing. If you are planning to explore places like Sea World, Museums & San Diego Zoo, there is a Go-Card available which offers good discount and that varies on number of options you chose. Please ensure that you don't chose 'San Diego Zoo Safari' and if you chose it, be sure that you have a whole day to explore this place. Like in our case, we bought the ticket but we didn't a have time to go there. It's little away from the city, so planning this place is little tricky in comparison to San Diego Zoo. And I have heard good things about Zoo Safari, so it would be worth if you have time and plan a visit there.
Lot of folks claim that San Diego Zoo is World's best zoo but I can't claim that as I haven't explored many Zoos, but certainly this one would be one of the best Zoos in the world. The very first impression was awesome and as the spent more time in this Zoo, we were sure to recommend it to everyone. San Diego Zoo is not only for families & kids but for solo travellers as well. You would see plenty of new animal and there are chances that you haven't even heard of them.
This was my first experience of Zoo outside India and the very first experience was enough to conclude that these Zoos are made and maintained in a very different way. More organized, technology driven and with sharp focus on upgrading things regularly. Above photograph shows the ticket counter area. If you already bought Go-Card you don't need to queue up here.
Must do - pick the Zoo Map from the entry area.
Above photograph shows the entry queues for San Diego Zoo, but they are quick as they scan the bar code on Go-Card or the ticket. Just next to the entry you would find a stack of Zoo maps, so don't forget to pick one. This zoo is huge, so it's important to get a sense what to find where, routes and create a priority list for you. Without a plan, it would be difficult to make best of your day here at San Diego Zoo. Keep a pen with you.
Take the bus tour at the beginning (just after you enter into the San Diego Zoo)
Before I start sharing about what all to expect at San Diego Zoo, let me share about few basic things to ensure. Wear comfortable shoes as you will need to walk a lot. All routes are made in such a way that wheel-chair can be roam around comfortably. One bus ride is included in your entry ticket fees but the bus just takes the tour of outer route and hardly stops on the way. It's a very good way to get a sense about the place and where to find one. Mapping things with map becomes easy after a round. So it makes sense to take bus ride as first step inside San Diego Zoo.
Since I had heard a lot about San Diego Zoo, I searched a lot about this place, how to reach San Diego zoo, list of animals in San Diego Zoo, appropriate time to explore San Diego Zoo, how much time it takes, main places to eat inside the zoo etc. We have tried to answer all these questions in this post. But if you think we missed something, please feel free to comment and ask your questions.
Let's talk about the very first thing - How to reach San Diego Zoo from different parts of San Diego City.
This post talks very clearly about best ways to commute within San Diego City in USA. Basically San Diego Zoo is very close to Balboa Park area. Both of these are approachable through walk and I found this region best for walking around the green landscapes. This place is well connected with buses but expect to walk a little. And if you are a group, book any cab based taxi.
San Diego Zoo has plenty of animals & birds including Koala, Giant Panda, Giant Anteater, Fishing cat, Elephants, Dolphins, Crowned Eagle, Cobra, Chimpanzee, Caracal, Capybara, Binturong, Bat eared Fox, African Penguin, AfricanPygmy Goose, Spurred Tortoise, Agouti, Anaconda, Andeanbear, Antelope, Armadillo, Bali Myna, Banded Archer Fish, Boa snakes, Bird of Paradise, Bowerbird, Brown Bear, California Condor, Camels, Cassowary, Chameleon, Clouded Leopard, Crane, conquerer’s Sifaka, Dhole, Dung Beetle, Dwarf Mongoose, Fennex Fox, Flamingos, Fossa, Gelada, Giraffe, Gorilla, Guenon, Koi, Lemur, Manatee, Mountain Lions, Nubian Ibex, Ocelot, Painted dog, Peafowl, Pelicans, Porcupine, Red Panda, Rhinoceros, Small cat, Sun bear, Wombat, Wolf, Warthog, Tiger, Toucan, Spotted hyena, Snow Leopard, Sloth Bear, Reindeer, Raccoon, Polar Bear and many more.
It's recommended to keep a water-bottle with you, along with some munchies. Usually walk around the zoo keeps you engaged, so it's important to keep hydrating your body.
Different zones in San Diego Zoo has areas dedicated for restaurants & places to do some shopping or relax.
Here is a photograph of Brown bear in San Diego Zoo. It was huge and we were lucky that he was in active mode. I clicked lot of his photographs and I found this one as most interesting. He was continuously moving around the water body and the caves. There was very low light when he was around the caves.
As I said earlier, take the bus at first to get a sense about the routes. Walk around the place and try to maintain silence.
This sloth bear was having fun. He had a lovely place to relax and soak the sun.
San Diego zoo animals are kept pretty well and there is enough space for everyone. I loved the way things are taken care at the Zoo and when I interacted with some of the employees at Zoo, their EQ was amazingly good. That's what is more important for these things. I found a little higher level of human-animal interaction at Sea World but there animals are essentially trained and forced to work. I believe 'force' is the right word. Let me know if you think otherwise.
I loved the way these cats are kept in San Diego Zoo. They have huge space to play and there is a one part from where you see them through solid glass. There was time when this leopard was sitting at a distance of 1 meter and clearly visible to everyone standing close to the glass wall.
This guy was sitting on a high rock at a long distance and focussed on people boarding rope-way inside San Diego Zoo. Can someone tell me the name, as I forgot. Please drop a comment if you know the name.
Don't miss the rope-way ride inside San Diego Zoo !
Did I miss telling that there is a Rope-way inside the Zoo which is an awesome way to take an aerial view of the Zoo. I intend to do a separate post because it's special and there are reason for not to miss this ride, even if there is a little longer queue.
After Panda, Tiger was the most popular animal in San Diego Zoo. I noticed lot of folks navigating towards Tiger during first half of the day. Usually people ensure that they see things in priority order, so that in worst case if they have to miss anything that should be ok. Going to San Diego Zoo and missing Panda, Koalas & Tiger is not done.
This is most healthy Tiger I have ever seen. I have seen tigers in different Zoos in India and Wildlife sanctuaries like Ranthambore National Park. The recent one I saw in Kabini National Park in Karnataka state of India and that one was also huge.
This is one of my favorite photograph from San Diego Zoo. The way she was hugging her kid was awesome and I loved the fact that at San Diego Zoo, many of the cages have glasses installed to see the special landscapes built for these animals and their action full of fun. This photograph is clicked through glass wall and these guys were sitting pretty close.
It's important to keep watch on time, as there is lot of explore in San Diego Zoo.
Koalas are one of the most lazy species on this earth :). There were 8 koalas sleeping on the trees and there was hardly any movement. We waited for at least 15 minutes and during this time, one of the koalas moved his head & slept again. It was so quick that I couldn't even point the camera towards this particular Koala.
Red Kangaroo was enjoying the sleep when we were walking through his area in San Diego Zoo. Lot of kids were eagerly waiting for this Red Kangaroo to get up and show them the walk on 2 legs :).
Patagonian Mara. Almost all the places had these signages with appropriate details. This was extremely helpful, otherwise I hadn't heard many of the names mentioned in San Diego Zoo.
Reptile park inside San Diego is awesome. There are dozens of snakes & other kinds of reptiles. Each section has appropriate details like name, habitat, geo location where they are found, life, physical description etc. I have seen a similar reptile park in Bengaluru, India and that one also has huge variety. The good part about Bengaluru is that each reptile has lot of space allocated, which was a little disappointing in San Diego Zoo. There were very small sections, although I am not sure how comfortable/uncomfortable those areas are for these snakes.
Malayan Tapir were quite lazy when we were walking around this part of San Diego Zoo in California.
It was fun to see this Hippopotamus swimming in water. I loved the fact that whole water pond had 75% area visible through this glass wall. So it was fun. It's hard to imagine how active Hippos are in water, which is hard to imagine otherwise. I have also created a video but yet to be processed, before sharing.
We had lot of fun at San Diego Zoo and highly recommend this when you are in the city. San Diego Zoo ticket is worth the experience it offers.