Bronx Zoo – the short version: Frakking awesome.
I woke up extra early, showered and was uncharacteristically super excited to spend an entire day outside, so much so that I was planning on arriving just in time for the zoo’s 10:00 a.m. opening but as it turned out we got there at 10:17 am. Grrr. This is New York after all, so neither of our desired trains were running all the way to the zoo so we had to make a quick Google map search, trudge up a Bronx hill and find the shuttle. (I could tell that Paul was already worried I wouldn’t last a few hours at the zoo with all our pre-arrival wandering.) All that aside, the grandeur of the zoo was remarkable. Just the entry walkway before you even reach the ticket booth was a spectacular tree-lined path to another world.
OK, so we glanced at our maps and after an initial state of bewildered wonder at the scope of the zoo we opted to take what looked like the path less traveled by avoiding the bulk of the “zoo loop” (it was a Saturday and staying away from herds of screaming kids was at the top of my list). We immediately agreed that there would be lots of animals we just wouldn’t see this round so we pretty much ignored all the bird habitats and favored monkeys, large animals, and the monorail.
On the way to our first attraction, Monkeys, it was immediately evident that the grounds are so large they can afford to spread everything out. We passed through a large and beautiful domed building that housed a single rhinoceros. It was air-conditioned and the architecture was stunning and what really got me was that there was a membership desk only a few feet and within sight of the rhinoceros! Seriously, I think I need a rhinoceros to hang out in my office too.
Anyway, the Monkey House was a fun little excursion with lots of smaller monkeys and most notably baby monkeys! They latched onto a parent monkey’s stomach or back and held on tightly as the older primate tried to wiggle to freedom. It was cute.
Outside we checked out the Sea Lions but skipped the “Madagascar” building which now I wish I’d gone into! next time. Madagascar was located right near four different bird attractions (Birds of Prey, Aquatic Bird House, and Sea Bird Aviary, as well as the Stork Aviary) which we resolutely avoided. Anyway, the Sea Lions were near a very beautiful set of concrete or stone steps that led down to a gigantic fountain which set in front of another majestic entrance to the zoo. (internal monologue: “Two entrances to the zoo? How big is this place.”) So, we continued on our path less traveled with our next goal being “Tiger Mountain!” On the winding, hilly, and ginormous tree-lined path we encountered another bird attraction: World of Birds – this one seemed larger that the previous four combined set up on a hill and architecturally interesting with several cylindrical towers. Near that I noticed a path leading to a third entrance to the zoo!!! (“how many entrances does one zoo need? This is getting silly”) We marveled at the trees along our path that reached skyward at unimaginable heights.
Oh and did I mention on our way to Tiger Mountain there were Bison? They were lounging and roaming in their own field (range?). This made me a bit uneasy, you see my favorite Bare Burger is the #4: Swiss, Turkey Bacon, with Bison meat (which they recommend) on a Brioche bun. My stomach turned a little at the sight of them and Paul was quick to point out that he doesn’t eat Bison. He does eat cow, however, in large quantities. Oh and in the brush and woods just outside of Tiger Mountain we caught a glimpse of my absolute favorite non-official zoo animal: the chipmunk! (photos to come). Seriously and rather embarrassingly, I was initially freaked out by the sight of the tiny golden brown mini animal with cute little black stripes down their backs.
Moving on as quickly as possible we found Tiger Mountain! It wasn’t as much of a mountain as say, World of Birds, but whatever, they had tigers! At first there appeared to be two, one lounging on a rock and the other hanging out in the pool, later we noticed a third set up high on a rocky cliff in the shade. The one in the water was quite taken with my husband. I suggested it was all the cow he consumes. Clearly these tigers had a keen sense of smell. The tiger didn’t take his eyes off of Paul and even approached slightly before finally joining his brethren on the cliff. I supposed that if he couldn’t have his meal just yet then he didn’t want it staring him in the face either. As we finally exited there were some very sad displays of what an average poacher’s truck might look like and some very vivid explanations of what they do with the animals.
From Tiger Mountain it was a stroll past some very nice ducks hanging around their very own pond as well as some antlered animals. This led to our 2nd and also highly treasured chipmunk sighting! At this point I decided he was following us. Seriously, chipmunks are awesome and really tiny. Oh and it was right about this area that the Zoo Shuttle zoomed by us. As it turns out, the zoo is so awesomely large that people can choose to take a shuttle from one major attraction to another. It’s a glorified string of golf carts, but very cool.
This already seems like a full day but we really had just scratched the surface. Again we referred to the map and opted against attractions including: World of Reptiles, Butterfly Garden, and the Bears. Well, we did make time for the Polar Bear ’cause he was outside of the main bear attraction and on our way to the Himalayan Highlands and, seriously, look at how cute he is. Who could resist? We bellied up to the railing and were utterly enthralled in how enthralled he was in his toy. It was non-stop cavorting with these two balls attached to the white strap. It was after the Polar Bear that we encountered Leo the Leopard, and yes that actually is his real name. He was orphaned as a cub in Pakistan and now he gets to live in the greatest city on earth. After wandering away from Leo there were a few other animals (which are honestly beginning to blend together in my brain) and then a very close encounter with a Peacock. Apparently the Peafowls and Peacocks are allowed to wander the zoo untethered to an enclosure. I’ll admit this blew my mind.
Eventually we made it to these really cute Bambi looking deer who shared an enclosure with a slew of Peacocks and Peafowls as well as baby Peas (I don’t know the technical term for babies). I kept thinking to myself why would these Peas choose to stay inside when they have the entire zoo to roam? Anyway, these guys shared a wall with an awesome lion that decided to give us a good roar while we were in ear shot. After that we FINALLY made it to the Wild Asia Monorail (which was free with our membership!). By the way there was yet another Zoo Entrance near the Asia area. The tour guide had lots of cheesy jokes, my favorite of which was prefaced by the fact that he is a resident of the Bronx and then he went on to let us know he encourages us all to visit the Bronx more often because it was recently voted the 5th happiest boro! Serious bragging rights! It was also on this tour that I learned the zoo is about 260 acres – that is big. I’ll post a bunch of pictures from the tour at the end of this post. Lets just say it included (among others): elephants, rhinoceroses, red pandas, and some very interesting looking horses. Wild Asia also offered camel rides. This was both neat and sad. these camels line up with giant harnesses on their backs to slowly walk zoo guests around a small track while they are led by a zoo guide. There aren’t interesting views while on the camel save for the line behind you and the women’s restroom in front of you. I’m not sold on this zoo offering just yet. BUT on the bright side I did catch a glimpse of other camels hanging out in a much larger enclosure so I think they are rotated.
Ok, In the African Plains we saw some wild dogs. This was really odd. They were
specifically African wild dogs but still, they’re dogs. The Zebras were especially awesome. I guess what I was most taken by at the Zebra enclosure and the entire zoo was that the animals all seemed like they were really in a natural setting (except the camels, of course). Everything was so spacious and there was very limited use of concrete in favor of natural trees and grasses. Yes there was concrete and high walls but somehow it was camouflaged better at the Bronx Zoo than any other I’ve visited. The Giraffes on the other hand had a cold concrete building which was kinda bursting my idyllic bubble. When I first entered I was nearly knocked over by the wretched smell of I honestly don’t know what but I braved it to catch a glimpse of what was surely going to be amazing creatures. Once we waded through the stench to the actual giraffe habitat we found a sign that said it was such an awesome day out that the giraffes just couldn’t stay in. Their outdoor area turned out to be humongous and not stinky whatsoever.
Congo Gorilla Forrest was our next major stop which again was covered by our membership! We didn’t notice until after we came out that there was actually a “free” gorilla viewing area – but upon further inspection, there were no gorillas anywhere in view. Through the pay wall though there were gorillas galore. Seriously, big, little, amazing, wandering freely, eating, and overall being very active. There was one that was really putting on a show for the zoo guests. He was perched at ground level about a foot or two in front of a window and this is gonna sound gross… he was eating, regurgitating into his hand, and eating it all over again and again and again. We could have passed hours just watching the gorillas go about their business and for all I know we were there for at least 1 hour but who knows. Again the enclosures were huge and beautiful and again the animals appeared to be very comfortable and were very active and in the forefront.
This really is a super summarized version of our trip to the zoo and there are major holes in what we saw vs. what we still have to see. But you get the idea. Bronx Zoo = awesome. Oh and when we were finally ready to leave, you know after the pelicans, we took one of those shuttles back to the Wild Asia zoo entrance/exit.
Wild Asia tour:
More awesome photos: