One “wild” weekend

For the record, camping is not my thing. But if it’s not yours either and you’re going to do it anyway, the San Diego Wild Animal Park really knows how to set you up for it – especially if your mom-in-law’s generosity has booked you a “premium” tent with a wooden floor, an actual platform bed, and sleeping bags and pads provided for the kids, so we really had to bring very little except a change of clothes and toothbrushes. There was a decent cookout dinner on Saturday night and a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning, and even the weather was agreeable – a warm-but-not-hot day cooled off to very nice sleeping weather. (The bathrooms were well-kept, too, which is always a plus.)

Our tent area bordered the elephant yards, but others were set up with on an overlook of the camp common area and the savanna, where you could watch giraffes, antelope, rhinos, and cranes (and the occasional local rabbit) going about their business. The elephants weren’t bad neighbors, though – less noisy (and smelly) than one might expect.

I suspect that campers might get a little more out of the evening activities in June and July when the days are longer – it was already fully dark a little more than halfway through our “dusk” walk, which started around 7 PM, so some animals were quite difficult to see – but it was still interesting and fun in early September, if harder to photograph. Having worked at a zoo for four years (I know a lot of people describe their workplaces as “a zoo,” but mine really was, all the time!), I know that the really cool stuff to see is what’s behind the scenes of the public exhibits, and Roar & Snore did offer a taste of that, if you were up to some hiking.

Our after-dinner excursion on Saturday night was a walk to Lion Camp and the “Heart of Africa” area deep inside the park. We had the chance to see the lion cubs and their moms in their bedrooms for the night, and get as close to the big male lion as the pane of glass between us would allow (he was pretty curious about us too, apparently). It was getting darker as we stopped to see Tall Girl’s favorite animals, the cheetahs, and after that my bad eyes had trouble seeing who was in some of the exhibits we visited, even with the help of some strong flashlights (movement helped). We returned to camp for hot chocolate and s’mores – it’s not camping without s’mores, right? – and The Boy was pretty beat, so he and his dad returned to the tent while Tall Girl and I took a hike out to visit the California Condor and her neighbors. The view of the stars from atop Condor Ridge was gorgeous, but we were getting pretty tired on the walk back too, so that was it for us.

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On Sunday morning we went behind the scenes of the tiger and elephant areas, and being just two fences away – no glass – from a full-grown male tiger is definitely an experience. The African elephants are awaiting a birth in their herd, but it didn’t happen during our visit, although we did get to see some older babies. Once we were officially checked out of camp, we went back into the park for the Balloon Safari, which offers great photo ops from a helium balloon that rises (on a cable) about 400 feet above the park, and the new tram ride around the African savanna. Then we went back to Camp Grandma to pick up our own wild animal and head home, exhausted but very open to Roaring & Snoring again, some other time.

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