So you're in San Diego. Other than warm weather, sunshine, and Mexican food, what do you think of? The world-famous San Diego Zoo of course!
The zoo is in Balboa Park, which is just north of downtown San Diego. The whole place is like a giant botanical garden with some animals mixed in. For most visitors, the highlight is seeing one or two of the three resident pandas on loan from China:
Since I reached my panda quota while visiting the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Base in China late last year, I only made a brief stop at their pens. I was in a rush to get over to Hippo Beach because they just had a baby hippo born at the zoo and I wanted to see it swimming in the giant pool:
The San Diego Zoo has two "beach-style" enclosures and I love them. The first is the hippo one above and they also have Polar Bear Plunge. Usually there are a couple of polar bears playing in the pool but, unfortunately, there was only one sleeping bear on duty while I was there. I even went back to the enclosure twice to try to get to see it swimming but didn't have any luck. I counted my blessings to have seen the baby hippo and went on to enjoy the rest of the zoo.
One of the coolest things I saw during the visit was in the cheetah enclosure. When a baby cheetah is born or added at the zoo they pair it up with a dog who then becomes the cheetah's life-long friend. Apparently, the dog helps to calm the cheetah especially when they do human-cheetah encounters. When the cheetah sees that the dog is calm it becomes calmer and since it's (I guess) easier to calm a dog it works out well. It was cute to see them running around and even playing a little together in their enclosure:
Because the zoo was empty, I was able to see the whole thing in a couple of hours. I remember going there with my mom about ten years ago and it being relatively empty too. The photos from that trip were old-school-film style so I don't have any available to post. As a consolation prize, here's a random photo of some animals standing on their hind legs eating branches, which was cute, along with the nearby church in Balboa Park.
The combination of San Diego's weather, the beautiful plants, and Balboa Park make the zoo an absolutely must-do while there. Next time I'm in town I'll go back to the San Diego Safari Park (formerly San Diego Wild Animal Park) up in Escondido as that's even more fun.