The first problem was that I had been told that you were not allowed to park an RV at the zoo. I had the option of taking the red trolley tour and parking over there, but I really like having my motorhome near me if I decide I need something from it. Plus I would have had to ride 30 minutes from the trolley stop to get to the zoo, so I decided to get there early and just see what the zoo parking situation looked like.
There were absolutely NO "no parking RV signs" anywhere in the big lot, plus there were already four RVs parked there, so I took this spot at the far end of the lot. Not that I am faced out in case I get cars parked tightly against me. (Learned this lesson at a shopping center a few days ago and barely made it out with the help of a friend!)
First thing was to head for the busiest thing in the zoo--the panda exhibit! This zoo is very hilly, and this walkway down to Panda Canyon was full of palms and ferns. I imagine it is cool on hot days!
Panda Canyon is on a pleasant roadway in a valley. Note that the pavement is wet due to the rain last night. The skies were still cloudy today and the temps were chilly, made worse with a brisk wind. Brrrr. Coldest time I have ever been to a zoo and I should have dressed more warmly.
This cute guy is a red panda.
You are allowed to visit only the outdoor panda exhibit and it is tightly controlled, with attendants making sure you do not stay too long in one spot and that noise is kept down. I did not feel overly rushed, however. The first exhibit had mom, Bai Yun, outside.
Bai Yun is probably too old to have any more cubs, but she was in the pacing mode that female pandas get just before they go into estrus.
Here she is taking a very long drink from her personal water fountain.
More pacing back and forth.
Next door is the exhibit space for her most recent cub, three-year-old Xiao Liwu.
Mostly, he spent his time working at eating the huge pile of bamboo.
Now THIS is my idea of a staircase! Just step on and up the hillside you go!
Looking down at the panda gift shop. Of course they have a panda gift shop! And a lot more gift shops throughout the zoo.
Aha! Found the tiger.
And a couple of very lazy lions.
At least the leopard was awake.
I really did not try to see the entire zoo on this day. For one thing, I was extremely cold. For another, there is just too much to see in one day, so I focused on taking a guided tram ride and then spending a lot of time watching the elephants. This photo was taken from the top of the double-decker bus.
There are three large outdoor elephant exhibit areas. Two areas are shared by the six females, and the third is occupied by the lone bull. In addition, this is the elephant care center. Apparently, there is no indoor elephant housing as there is in northern zoos I have visited. There is space in this open building to hold elephants while they clean exhibit areas and to provide medical care.
Each of the outdoor areas has two of these big "trees." They can suspend food and toys from these, and they provide shade in hot weather. There are also places in the trunks of the trees to hold hay which the elephants can access. You can see the big male next to the left "tree."
Look at the size of these tusks! You can see him reaching into the hay feeder in this photo.
As I walked past one of the areas for three of the females, I saw that the keepers had moved the elephants to a holding area and were spreading out food and hay. Lots of kale, lettuce, celery, and other goodies were spread around. In the meantime, the elephants were watching from the fence and anxiously swaying back and forth. The crowd expected them to race out when the big doors were finally opened, but you can see what they did in this video.
By this point, my back was killing me and I had reached my 4-5 hour theme park limit, so I took the overhead cable ride back to the entrance to head for home.
They are building a huge new "Africa Rocks" area, which will not be finished before next summer. Here is a news story about it: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Groundbreaking-Africa-Rocks-Exhibit-San-Diego-Zoo-319639711.html
This is a fantastic zoo, but very large, and very crowded because of spring break. Next time I come here, it will be during the school year, but NOT during a holiday or spring break because of the crowds. There was a lot I did not see, so I will definitely come back in the next couple of years.