When ever we want to get away from it all we head to the zoo, calling it a mental health day. It really works. No stress. Cell phone turned off. Just jungle and botanical gardens with animals from all over the world.
We love the lions, tigers, leopards, ocelots, panthers and bears, oh my!
We always head first to the left to visit the black bear hammock. The bears have everything from picnic tables to a cave. Their food is placed all over the huge area in the largest black bear habitat at an accredited zoo east of the Mississippi.
Then, we circle the whole zoo, visiting all our old friends. Glass windowsallow close and personal near contact with all the animals. But, don’t count on the animals to pose in front of the windows. Get there at feeding time and meet the keepers who give interesting information on the residents.
Feeding the alligators is something to watch, but do not try this at home. The reptiles were raised at the zoo and know exactly when the feeding will be done. They turn up on their own twice a day to be “hand” fed by their handlers, who still have hands!
On our most recent mental health day we were surprised to see something new, the giraffes eating right by the fence in a temporary enclosure near theJungle Café. We got a close look and good photos.
There are seven young males, all under three years old. Young giraffes are easier to transport than older giraffes, and can adapt quicker to their new homes with new herd mates.
The new and much larger giraffe habitat will be open in 2012, and the ladies will be added later.
The first Saturday of the month is a free zoo day for Collier County residents. Just bring your photo ID with address on it. Wear walking shoes and don’t forget your camera. And, don’t ignore the botanical gardens. The plants don’t move as fast as the animals, but some of them are pretty spectacular, too. Zoo hours: 9 to 5.