Meet Jamba at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

IMG_8973Before heading back to Los Angeles from San Diego, Katie and I were looking for something that would only take us a few hours in the morning to check out. We decided to stop by San Diego’s Safari Park Zoo. We had found a groupon which only added to our excitement to see what the park was all about.

The park is located outside of San Diego in Escondido, CA and is open anywhere from 9am-5pm to 9am-7pm depending on the season. There are many safari passes you can add onto your general admissions pass. Everything from the Caravan Safari to the Behind-The-Scenes Safari to the VIP Ultimate Safari. These range from about $80 up to $599/person. Some focus on just one animal while others give you a general overview. There is even one that you can customize to meet your specific needs. We decided to skip the add on this time and just explore the park by foot.

We arrived around 11am and made our way directly to the entrance. We showed our groupon on our iPhones and were immediately let in through the gates. Lucky for us, the zoo was not as busy as I had expected it to be. Maybe it was because it was a Monday and a lot of schools first week back, but I was very happy about it.

We started out up the trail and made our first stop at the gift shop to purchase some Safari Park pennies. Then we followed the path and came across the first Animal Ambassador Stage. On the stage was a small bird with a trainer that was asking him to do different behaviors such as pick out the red block, jump onto her hand, and make different bird chirps. She rewarded him with seeds after each behavior. After the short session and talking about the bird and his feathers and such, they had to leave. She reminded the audience about the other animal encounters throughout the park and left the stage.

We continued down the Safari Walkways and came to the tigers enclosure, Tiger Trail. I believe one of the volunteers told us that there were 5 tigers living in the exhibit. We saw one by the house, another right by the fence and two around a corner. They were so beautiful. We followed the walkway to the condor’s area. They had 3 that were all tagged as part of the Condor Recovery Program. Numbers 525, 35, and 607. One was rescued from the wild after having a broken wing while the other two that were born in captivity.

All throughout the park there were volunteers and employees that were extremely helpful and friendly. Some were able to direct us in the right location of the different animal exhibits. Others had specific animals that they were extremely knowledgeable about. Sometimes we listened to other guests questions and answers and sometimes we asked our own questions. As we continued through the park, we caught the end of the bird show. Turkey’s ran around the stage uncontrollably and then an eagle soared over the stadium.

We headed out of the stadium and came across another Animal Encounter at a different Animal Ambassador Stage. As one employee came out to speak to us about the animal, a trainer came out with Jamba the Zoo Safari Park’s blind fossa from Madagascar. Since he is blind, they are less concerned about him harming one of the guests, plus we aren’t on his lists of things to eat. They allowed him to come pretty close so everyone can get a good look.

Fossas are cat-like animals and are the largest carnivore on the island. Jamba would never survive in the wild so the park adopted him. He is one of their main animal ambassadors helping guests to learn all about his kind, even though there is not much known about his kind.

As one employee spoke to us about the facts they do know about Jamba, the trainer kept him engaged with her. She had his favorite toy, a ball on a rope and played with him with it. After he finally caught it we could hear him growl. This growl was the same noise he would make in the wild after making a kill. He was so happy. The trainer also showed us how he climbs trees similar to a cat, up and down going forward. His ankles can rotate way more than ours can. After each time he did something she asked him to do she would reward him with a big chunk of meat. She would toss it so it would slap against the ground so he would know where it landed. She even tossed some into his water bowl with a big splash.

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Jamba was cool and soon it was time to move onto see one of his favorite animals to feast on in Madagascar, the lemur. The park allowed you to walk through the enclosure to get a better look, but unfortunately when we went they were all hiding and sleeping where we could not see them. One of the employees mentioned to come back around 4pm, but we weren’t staying that late.

We continued on through the park and saw the gorillas, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, and elephants, plus many other birds and animals. With only have a half day to explore we realized we could have easily spent a whole day at the park. Unfortunately too soon it was time for us to leave.

The park is definitely fun for all ages, young and old alike. With a different set up than most zoos, the Safari Park seems more spacious and gives you a chance to see the animal living in a habitat much like it’s natural one in the wild. There are animals from all over the world and something for everyone to see. Take a safari park tour or walk the park on your own, either way you are bound to have a great time.

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