Dianne here -- Yesterday we spent the day at the famous Miami Metrozoo. It was incredible, as the photos will show. All of you who know me personally and know what an animal lover I am, can just imagine the number of photos I took at the zoo! I'll let Roger describe it in more detail as I'm worn out from just downloading them all!
First we made our morning trip to the dog park to wear out our "boys" so they would sleep while we were gone. That being done, I turned Animal Planet on the TV for them (now that we have our cable channels) and zipped them into their crate.
The zoo was about a 45-minute drive from our camp site.
Just a note to all of Roger's co-workers who are following our adventure: I know you remember how stressed out he was at work before he retired. Check out some of his poses in the photos, and you will see that he has dropped his "grumpy old man" persona and has reverted to the playful Roger that I first met in 1970. The transformation has been complete!! :-)
Roger here... Despite Dianne's comments about my playfulness, the practical side that my friends know is still very much entrenched. I (with Dianne's input, of course) planned the visit on a weekday with record low temperatures to avoid the crowds. I was right :-) We had the place pretty much to ourselves, walking the six spacious miles on a beautiful, sunny, but chilly day (by south Florida standards). At home in Indiana we would have considered the day balmy. Please note the unnecessary playful risk that Dianne took with the hippo. I tried to tell her that hippos are especially dangerous, but she did not listen.
The Metrozoo in Miami is without a doubt the best zoo I have visited. The animals are all in the open in spaces that resemble their natural habitats, arranged logically by continents - appealing to my sense of order :-). In most of the areas, it appears that you are walking right next to the animals without barricades. In fact the animals are separated by deep trenches. None of the animals are in cages. Since it was not a hot day, many of them were very mobile. It was great fun to wander from one area to the next and see the animals move and interact.
Speaking of interacting, we timed a few of our arrivals perfectly.
The zoo docent was feeding the three Bengal Tigers just as we arrived at that area.
She insisted that, by name, they sit in their assigned space before tossing them their snack of raw meat.
We also were able to watch the dominant silverback male gorilla chase the other gorillas away from his drinking area.
One of the younger gorillas climbed on his mother's back during their escape.
I guess he wanted some privacy when he got his drink of water.
It was also fun to watch people feed lettuce to the giraffes. You could walk right up next to them and look into their eyes - know that they were looking only at you and the food that they hoped you had.
We saw many animals that I had never seen before, including a double-humped camel (huge)
and an Indian Hornbill.
The hornbill, in the Asian aviary, (also very large and very strange looking) hopped from branch to branch and put on quite a show. It was amazing that it was only a few feet away. At the same location Dianne took a picture of a turquoise bird that had absolutely no fear of people. We were able to walk to within a foot of it while it just watched us with curiosity.
Speaking of fear, the aviary was enclosed with netting - a good thing because high above several hawks circled the area hoping for a good meal. I envisioned them thinking, "I am in the mood for some Chinese/Thai/Indian tonight."
One of my favorite areas was the Lemur exhibit. The only place that they live is on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa.
The sable lemur was beautiful with one of the richest reddish-brown coats I have ever seen on an animal, but my favorite was one of the ring-tailed lemurs. I was able to imitate the call that it made. It responded to me every time - what fun!
Dianne again -- As Roger mentioned, the zoo is arranged by continent: Asia, Africa, Australia, and a new Amazon exhibit that shows great potential. Don't let the six miles scare you away; there are lots of choices to get around. We chose to hoof it on purpose, in the hope of burning a few calories. There are some really nice pedal buggies you can rent (especially nice if you are traveling with young children) that looked like the proverbial "surry with the fringe on top" complete with bicycle bells to warn pedestrians that you're coming through. There is also a monorail, a tram, and for those techie-types even a Segway rental. The only Segways I saw out and about were with a guide, so not sure if folks can strike out on their own on a Segway or not. If I wasn't on such a quest to get back into shape, the Segway looked like a lot of fun.
There weren't just bears, but sun bears and koala bears. There weren't just elephants, but both Indian and African elephants. There weren't just camels, but both dromedary and double-hump. Not just zebras, but "cloud" zebras. Not just monkeys, but chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons, spider monkeys - the whole lot. There were Australian singing dogs, hyenas, storks, geckos, and too many more to name. If you get my point, this wasn't just a zoo, but an incredible zoo!!