Sunday, January 13, 2008

Visiting Monarto Zoo

This weekend we went to the Monarto Zoological park. Monarto is an open-range animal sanctuary which is really like a zoo without any cages. All of the animals are in open fields as they would in their natural habitat and zoo visitors are taken around on buses to each enclosure or they can also go on walking trails. It's a bit like going on safari, I suppose.

Monarto is about 45 minutes out of the city via the freeway, not too far away. We haven't visited before so it was a bit exciting for all of us. We didn't really plan this particular visit, being the spontaneous bunch that we are. Just to illustrate how spontaneous the trip was, 5 minutes on the road and we had to turn back because we forgot the camera! Good thing too, because the kids didn't go to the toilet before we left so we had them go otherwise we would have had to make a pit stop off the freeway.

We got to the zoo about noon and about time to eat our picnic lunch. It was a good day to go as it wasn't too hot and after lunch We took the next scheduled bus tour. As the bus went in and out of the different animal enclosures through electronic gates, it sort of reminded of Jurassic park where double gates have to be opened and closed individually. Good thing that there weren't too many dangerous animals in this particular Zoo. Monarto Zoo was first created as a breeding zoo for endangered species so we got to see interesting animals like Przewalksi's Horse; a sort of forerunner of modern horses originally found in Mongolia. We got to see some Oryx, Addax and bison and conventional animals like rhinos, giraffes, lions and cheetahs up close. Or at least as close as the tour bus could get to them.

There were quite a few things that struck interesting not just about the zoo itself but the animals they had. Like, for example, I never knew that bison shed their winter coats or that they had winter coats at all. They shed them by rubbing against hard objects like logs and even the fences around their enclosures. We saw quite a few baby animals, like a baby rhino, a baby giraffe and baby lion cubs. Testament to the zoo's successful breeding programs. Oh, and zebras in the "wild" didn't look black and white at all, more brown than black stripes really.. :)

The girl was really interested throughout the tour and had a hand at using the camera. The boy, however, got bored halfway through and spent the rest of the tour with his head on my lap, pretending to sleep.

After the hour or so long tour, we went back to the visitor's center where we got to see some bilbies and meerkats. Near the end of the visit we found ourselves at the gift shop. The girl was so insistent on buying a souvenir of our trip to the zoo so we gave them a set budget. The little boy didn't take long to find something he wanted within the budget. The girl, however, was getting a bit frustrated that the little items she wanted was more than what what we allotted. In the end, I convinced her to choose a little finger puppet even if she didn't want to in the first place. But, as she was choosing which puppet to get, she found one that she really liked and was feeling good about it. She felt even better when the cashier remarked that our girl choose the cutest of the lot!

Anyway, it was an uneventful ride home. To keep the kids occupied for the short trip, we had a little sing-a-long to some of the kids favourite music from The Sound of Music and the Beatles courtesy of our in-car DJ ( the wife ). An eclectic selection if I ever heard one!

More photos on our flickr page. Click here.

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