Lost in the wilds of the San Diego Zoo


The San Diego Zoo is marking its centenary in 2016.


These signs kept me from being lost in the zoo.

And loving it!

What’s not to love about getting lost amidst the monkeys, the leopards, the birds and the crowds at one of the most famous zoos in the world?

The San Diego Zoo is definitely one that takes a day to see fully. Set in the breathtaking Balboa Park close to San Diego’s downtown, the zoo offers so much. Besides visiting all the wild inhabitants in the 99-acre park, there are the aerial tram, two different bus tours, shows and even 4D movies. And if you are really into zoos, add a behind-the-scenes tour and get to know the zoo really well.


You don’t see much from the aerial tram but you can hear every growl and roar below you.

Let me start with the sticker shock. A visit here costs at least $50, $40 for kids. But that ticket gets you on the aerial tram, the guided bus tour and the kangaroo bus (a good name for the hop on-hop off bus.) And that’s besides the chance to see more than 3,000 animals in some of the most comfortable looking habitats I’ve seen at a zoo.

I’m a walker so I skipped the buses. But next time I wouldDSCN6048 definitely take the guided bus tour to get a better sense of the park.

I did wait 30 minutes to  ride the aerial tram which takes visitors above the trees. I didn’t see much except trees but the sounds of the animals below me, especially the monkeys, were pretty cool to hear.


The amur leopard usually lives in the Russian Far East. The one seemed quiet content with San Diego.

This park is so huge I got lost. Even the map couldn’t bail me out. Without a schedule or goals, it didn’t matter to me. Now as I look back, I saw just about everything, except for the elephants (couldn’t find them) and the pandas (so popular the line was very long.)

Even so, I watched a gorgeous collared lory nibble at its lunch, a polar bear wandering between shade and sun, an amur leopard lazing under a tree and enough monkeys to keep me amused for hours.


One of the kids waiting for the kids to stop and say hello in the Petting Paddock.

I love children’s zoos so even though I didn’t have a little one in tow, I had to visit. I was surprised at the entrance by a water fountain squirting over the path. I was delighted to meet a porcupine. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one and this one I could see up close enough to count the whiskers on its nose. The playground and Petting Paddock were filled with happy children.


The collared lori, a Fiji native, didn’t seem to mind in the least if I visited during lunch.

I never realized what a bird fan I was until I stopped in the aviaries to see the incredible assortment of birds that don’t seem to mind visitors. I found plenty of other gorgeous birds elsewhere around the park: eagles, flamingoes, and a flock of gorgeous white birds resting in the tops of trees that reminded me of the egrets at home.


These elegant birds rested in the tops of trees. I wonder if they were visitors just like me.

There’s a lot to do at the San Diego Zoo: plenty of places to stop for lunch or a snack, Animal Encounters and other shows and talks. For a couple of extra dollars, add on a 4-D movie; Ice Age and Rio were playing the day I visited. And of course, there’s the shopping. Whether you want a mug or a t-shirt, or something handcrafted, you’ll find it here.

I’ve always wanted to come to the San Diego Zoo. Now I want to go back.

Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman


3 responses to “Lost in the wilds of the San Diego Zoo

  1. I lived in San Diego from 1994 to 2002, and my daughter loved the San Diego Zoo. We went there often, and had a membership. Love your photos.

  2. Those are indeed egrets which are fairly common along the CA coast. I have seen a dozen or more perched in trees along a local creek during the wet season.

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