If you’re a long-time follower of the blog, you’ll know that elephants play a big role in CJ’s life – from the string of elephants I bought on the holiday he was conceived to his nursery furniture and his favorite toy. It was a given for me that over this summer, we would try and take him to see a real one! With Papa M having two weeks off over Christmas, the timing was great and we made a date to visit Auckland Zoo.
We live a fair distance from the zoo so set out with the intention that he would have his morning nap on the way. I must have talked it up a little too much because he didn’t sleep at all! It might have also been the excitement of having daddy in the car with us! Arriving at the zoo, I bought the tickets and looked at the map with CJ while Papa M parked the car – the one downfall of the Auckland Zoo site is that there is very little on-site parking, unfortunate for those of us who live too far away to catch public transport. Not knowing how long the little dude would hold up, I decided that our main targets would be the giraffes, the monkeys and the elephants, with anything else being a cherry on the top.
Our family reunited, we headed into the Pridelands section to watch the giraffe encounter. Passing the queues of people waiting for a chance to feed the giraffe, we found a spot just past the observation platform and got to watch the giraffes meander up for a feed. CJ looked utterly stunned that his “Sophie” had come to life. He was not so interested in the zebras and ostriches in the same enclosure, but who can blame you when you have giraffes to look at!
It was late morning as we continued on with our journey so we weren’t sure how many other animals we would see – those zoo animals do tend to like to hide as the temperature rises. The lions were nowhere to be seen and the cheetahs were hiding at the back of their enclosure. The elephant was on her daily walk – we were 1 for 4 so far! We decided to head towards the monkeys and they didn’t disappoint. CJ didn’t seem as keen on them as I had thought; he’d been quite excited seeing them on TV but the mellow, languid spider monkeys didn’t inspire the same amount of thrill.
We decided to head towards the band rotunda area for our picnic lunch; a place with fond childhood memories for both Papa M and I. While much of the zoo has been revamped, this area remains largely the same. On the way we passed the lemur enclosure and this was a surprise hit where the monkeys had failed to excite. We set up our picnic lunch and Papa M got us ice creams from the rotunda kiosk – it was exactly like old times!
Fed and watered, we meandered our way back to the elephant enclosure. It was just about time for the tiger encounter and the crowds was already about five deep around the enclosures so we decided to leave it. We were again surprised to find that the meerkats were a hit with CJ – one was particularly inquisitive at our enclosure window and I think he thought he’d made a new friend! We detoured through the coastal enclosure for some shade and I think CJ got as much of a kick out of the crowd reactions (“ooooooh” “aaaaah”) as he did the underwater views of the Californian Sea Lions.
We arrived back at the elephant enclosure and Burma the elephant was there and about to go for a swim. We lifted CJ out of the stroller and got right up to the fence as Burma came round by her pool. Wow! I feel sorry for the tourists recording video footage because all they will have got on audio is my little guy squealing with glee and “narrating” what was happening. He was SO happy and kept looking at us like “Are you seeing this Mum & Dad? It’s a real life elephant!”. It honestly made the entire day for me!
We didn’t see anywhere near as much as we have in the past when we went as a couple but I think you measure success by a different metric when you’re visiting a zoo with a child. We had a happy boy the entire time and he got to see the giraffes and the elephants, the only animals that truly mattered to him. We’re definitely considering getting a couple’s membership – CJ is currently free – to use over the next year. Within four visits it will pay for itself and I can definitely see us heading back there more frequently to create some more fantastic family memories.
Do you enjoy visiting the zoo? What’s your (or your family’s) must see animal?