San Diego Safari Park, Part Two

San Diego Safari Park

For Christmas I was given an annual pass for the San Diego Safari Park. The annual pass is great because you can go anytime you want and only spend a few hours there if you choose because you can always come back another day. Parking is also included in the pass so the price of gas is all you’ll need. The San Diego Zoo is also included in the package.

I have to admit I was put off at first off by the prices of food and drink at the park, but then I realized that the park is non-profit so all money earned goes back to the upkeep of the animals and the park. However, you can bring in your own food and there are plenty of picnic areas around the park.

The park is 1,800 acres in the San Pasqual Valley near Escondido, California. It is home to a large variety of wild animals including species from the continents of Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. You will see elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros, lemurs, antelopes, lions, tigers, cheetahs, gorillas, and more.

Safari Tours
We just explored half of the park and saved the other half for another day. We also plan on doing some of their extra safaris which are not included in the price of admission. Included in the general admission is the Africa Tram Safari which takes you to the Africa plains for a 30-minute open air truck ride. The other safaris cost a little more because you get a much closer look and personal tour of the animals. As an example, I saw in the distance one of the trucks stopped and it appeared that they were feeding the giraffes which to me would be a great experience. The tram ride will take you farther out into the park to see places where the walking trail doesn’t go.

The zip line platform can be seen way up on the hill, giving its thrill seekers a view of the whole park as they speed down the line. The Jungle Rope Safari looks fun too but a little bit of work for my taste as you traverse through the trees on a series of rope bridges, tightropes, swing logs, etc.   For your safety, you are clipped in with a safety harness and given instructions before you start. There are also behind the scenes safaris as well as overnight stays, dinner events, and more. There is also a giant hot air balloon that takes you up 400 feet to get bird’s eye view of the park.

Hot Air Balloon 800The balloon cage
The Zip Line
High on the hill sits the zip line platform

The Park
Gazing over the park from one of the many outlooks, it actually looks like you are looking over the plains of Africa or somewhere else. Most of the park is wide open with enclosures to separate some of the animals. You don’t want your kids viewing a lion chasing after a cute little antelope. There is a mix of different species scattered over the plains and fields, but they are animals that naturally get along with each other in the wild.

The Plains 800Rhinos 800
Rhinos, antelopes, etc. share the same home.

The Animals
The gorilla enclosure is always interesting to watch. Gorillas are fascinating to me maybe because they are the closest thing to humans. Yet they cross the line between being cute while young and then scary looking when they are older. They looked content relaxing in the shade while getting fed bananas from the zookeepers.   I giggled thinking that one looked like me in the morning, hair standing straight up, eyes half closed, and eating a banana for breakfast. I am hoping that is the only similarity.

GorillaBaby Gorilla 800

The lions were all asleep but I was able to snap a few shots when they opened their eyes for a brief moment. I didn’t make it out to the tigers this time but will next visit.


The new Lemur Walk exhibit lets you walk on a path through their natural habitat. Evidently, they can come right up to you sometimes; however, as cute as they are, you are instructed by the park employee not to touch them. Sadly, the lemurs weren’t interested in us this day as they relaxed in the shadows.

A cute little lemur

Even though they don’t do much except stand there, the elephants are always fun to observe. A few younger elephants were in the enclosure and in the distance you could see a few huge males.

Elephant 800

We decided that we had seen enough for one day but will come back to see the animals and exhibits that we missed this time.

All the sleeping animals made me tired and I just wanted to sit in the shade away from the sun drenched San Pasqual Valley.  Also, for some reason, I had a craving for a banana smoothie. Don’t know what that is all about but still enjoyed my day at the San Diego Safari Park.


Living Coast Discovery Center

The sign

Living Coast Discovery Center

Recently a bunch of friends went to Maui for vacation. I couldn’t go because of work but I was way jealous when they told me that they swimming with sea turtles on a snorkeling expedition.   It sounded so awesome!

As it turned out, a week later I was able to go to the Living Coast Discovery Center to view sea turtles myself.  So ha ha ha!  Well, actually it was only one turtle and never mind that it was behind a thick, smudged  piece of Plexiglas.   Also, too bad I was just sitting on a bench instead of swimming next to them in the warm crystal clear Hawaiian waters.   I guess I need to take back that ha ha ha.   However, we did have one thing in common, it WAS a sea turtle and I had never seen one up close before.

Turtle front view

The sea turtle as well as many other animals can be seen at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista, California. The center sits next to the San Diego Bay and is situated on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. This nonprofit zoo and aquarium is home to many sea animals, birds, snakes, and much more.

A leopard shark in the main aquarium

Some of the animals are rescued because of injuries and other issues. As an example, the beautiful bald eagle we saw had an injured wing and couldn’t fly.   A cute little owl had eyesight only in one eye so it could now only survive with the help of the center.

The cute little half blind owl

Eagle smiling
Eagle side view
Franklin the bald eagle, now I know why it is our national symbol

The facility is a great place for field trips or any educational programs. Volunteers walk around and show you some of the birds up close and give you information about them. We also were able to see Franklin the bald eagle being fed as well as the sharks and the turtle.

The bald eagle is normally a fish eater but they soon discovered he only likes dead rats. So watching him feed is not for the squeamish. At every exhibit there were crayons and paper for kids to draw and there was a scavenger hunt asking for participants to find certain species. There were kid’s crafts and interactive exhibits, making this a great family activity.

The facility isn’t huge and it won’t take up your whole day, so keep this in mind if you are ever looking for something to do.

I personally found the birds the most interesting. I have seen a bald eagle from afar but never that close and I was in awe of the massive sized owls.

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A beautiful barn owl.

The center also features day camps, overnight adventures, kayaking, nature discovery tours, field trips, and walking trails through the wildlife refuge.

View 2
View 1
The view from the center

Here is an update from their website on the upcoming Turtle Lagoon:

*UPDATE* We are excited to announce we are enhancing Turtle Lagoon! The project will give the turtles more room to swim freely and add interactive elements to better educate visitors about these endangered sea turtles in the wild. The turtles are currently off exhibit, but they will be splashing into their new home in March 2016, upon project completion. 

So more turtles!!! Instead of going to Maui, I can save my money and just see them here.  Well, maybe not, there is that warm water thing and swimming next to them in their natural environment just can’t be duplicated.   I guess I’ll save my pennies for the next Hawaii trip.

For now… I’ll just go visit them at the Living Coast Discovery Center…and so can you!

Things to do in 2016

6. Play and Laugh like a Kid

Whenever I go on a cruise, the one thing I tell my travel mates is that at some time on the cruise, I want to do something that makes me laugh like a kid.   That means doing something that is so fun that you actually giggle like when you were a child. The very first cruise I took, I felt that way as I sat on a rented banana boat that was being pulled behind a Sea Doo.   I was laughing so hard that I could barely hold on as the inflated banana flew across the water bouncing back and forth.   As we finished, I realized that I had gone back in time to my youth, to a simple time of fun and laughter…mission accomplished.

Children have no boundaries, no inhibitions. Sometimes as adults it would do us all good to go back to that feeling of pure joy and fun.

This week’s pictorial is about kids as well as adults having fun and enjoying life here in our back yard of California.

Sometimes it is the simplest things liking getting airborne on a swing at the beach, or riding a carousel, enjoying a Ferris Wheel, or any beach activity should do the trick.   Surfing, as an example can be enjoyed by all ages and with 840 miles of coastline, I think you can find a beach.

California has so many things to do to bring back your inner child. The obvious attractions are Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Legoland , etc. but what about your local carnivals, or arcades such as they have in Newport Harbor or Belmont Park in Mission Beach.

If anything else this year, try to find something that gives you the same joy and excitement that a kid would have. Laugh and giggle out loud…it does the soul good.

Parker 800
Young Parker laughs with delight on a bungee swing at an event at the embarcadero in San Diego

Arlo Surfing 800
Surfing can be enjoyed young or old and all year round in California.

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This Ferris wheel is right on the water in Newport Harbor

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These kids were laughing and enjoying themselves all afternoon. I know this shot makes them looked bored but believe me they weren’t. (faces blurred intentionally) On the dock across from Coronado, San Diego.

Fishing Girl in thirds 800
This young girl was enjoying the sunset while surf fishing in Northern California

This picture is a perfect example of an adult laughing like a kid. Here 70 year old Joyce, (pink hat on left) is enjoying this excursion to its fullest on Kern River by Bakersfield.

Race-Them coming down the obstacle course 800
50 year olds can still slide like the best of them.

Roller Coater
Enjoyed by both young and old, a roller coaster is the perfect ride. This one is on Santa Monica Pier.

Alina flower 800
We are often told to slow down and enjoy life by stopping to smell the roses. Here, young Alina shows us how it is done at Seaport Village in San Diego.

Swing 800
There is nothing like a swing to take us back in time. This one is right on the beach in Ventura.

Carosel 800
Belmont Park In Pacific Beach has rides and carnival type games. Here an adult and a child share the same joy in simple moment in time.

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Bare feet on a warm summer day. I never had shoes on when I was a kid, I don’t know about you.

Photos and story: Debbie Colwell