Friday, March 26, 2010

Visit "Africa Live TWO" at the San Antonio Zoo!

I am a huge fan of our fabulous San Antonio Zoo, so when I heard that Phase II of "Africa Live!" had opened, I wanted to rush right out. But after hearing about 18,000+ crowds during spring break, I decided it could wait a week.

The key feature of Phase I is the enormous hippopotamus tank, a vast improvement over their old habitat (in which you mostly just saw their snouts). The tank has an underwater viewing area so you can view them in their natural habitat. (The vast plumbing system, set out back of the building, always fascinates me. Their original river habitats naturally flush and refresh their surroundings. Minus that flowing water, a rather robust plumbing system is obviously required to, um, keep things tidy and fresh.) The new section is out the back door of the Phase I building.

Walking outdoors into an enormous aviary, you're immediately surrounded by African birds, some flying around, some on the ground. Pictured is a blue-bellied roller. (My camera has a nice zoom, but I really was that close.) Other birds include starlings, ibis, egrets, and guineafowl. Colobus monkeys frolic in a glassed enclosure on the side. And the peculiar okapi (an odd mix of zebra, giraffe, and elk) has a nice open enclosure as well.

As you walk through the exhibit past the African wild dog enclosure, you come out at the existing elephant display. A new restaurant, Baraza Cafe, features grilled items and a nice overlook into the Phase II area.

You can view all of the exhibit from above as well. Continue on around, turning right across from the red river hog's home. There's a nice, small overlook area that provides a great view of the entire exhibit.

Zoo hours are 9:00 am - 5:00 pm year-round. Warning: parking can and does fill up on pretty weekends. I was there on a Friday, and the two closest lots filled and closed by noon.

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