This past Saturday is was 27 (33 with the humidex or 80.6 and 91.4 Fahrenheit for you Americans) so needless to say, it was a good day to stay cool. The Metro Toronto Zoo has a lot of shady areas and some of its pavilions are air conditioned. There is always a great cross breeze and shade on the ZooMobile (a bus with multiple cars which takes you on a grand tour of the zoo) as well as the Endangered Animals Carousel. But nothing can beat the Splash Island splash pad in the Kids Zoo, a section of the zoo set up specifically for the youngest zoo visitors, my daughter included. When we arrived at the zoo, she wanted to go to the Kids Zoo first, and I’m pretty sure it only had a bit to do with the actual animals. You see, they have a giant sand pit near the end of the Kids Zoo section, which is conveniently shaded (for the kids. The adults have to sit out in the hot sun and fry while their little tikes beg for ‘one more minute’). And this of course, is my daughter’s favourite place because she can dig, pretend she’s an explorer and create her own little world.
At last though, we got to the Splash Island splash pad just outside the Kids Zoo. Calling it a simple ‘splash pad’ is a bit like calling Disney Land a simple ‘amusement park’. This place is huge, and full of all kinds of animals (not real ones of course) which spout and spray water out of various orifices, two big buckets cleverly disguised as rain clouds which overturn when full and soak the kiddies while they squeal in delight, two water slides, a ‘pirate ship’ and a well shaded area for the parents who want to sit and relax to hang out. The best part is that your child can’t simply run off since there are guards at the only entrance and exit to the splash pad. And since there are no places for water to pool, your kid can’t slip and drown. It’s quite a fun place. I have had many opportunities to check it out as my daughter and I have gone to the zoo many, many times since she was about two months old and have noticed a few amusing things. The person or people who designed this place were very creative. There are sections marked off as Wetlands where the frogs and geese and ducks hang out, Oceans where the polar bears, seals, orcas and walruses hang out and Rivers where you can hang out on a beaver’s tail, climb a super slippery moose or cross the ‘river’ on a low bridge.
What I find amusing though, is the ducks. Anyone who has seen a duck and spent any time at all watching them, knows that they like to dive to catch their prey. As they’re doing this, all you can see is their backsides, wiggling around. So, while the seals have water spraying out their nose, the whales have it coming out of a blow hole, the loon has it shooting majestically from their wings, the duck…well, the duck has the water spraying directly out of its butt. Oh man. Gets me every time!
After a significant amount of time in this splash pad where my daughter went down both slides multiple times, we finally decided it was time to go see some other animals. So, we hopped on the ZooMobile, did a tour of the zoo and stopped at Tundra Trek. For any of you who have never been to the zoo or not been since they introduced the Tundra Trek on August 1, 2009, this is where you get to see all the animals of Canada’s great Tundra: the Caribou, the Arctic Fox, the Arctic Wolf, the Artic Owl and the Polar Bears. The most recent attraction to the Polar Bear exhibit is the second baby polar bear to be born in as many years. His name is Humphrey and really, I think a lot of tourists come to the zoo just to see him. He was born November 2013 and man is he cute! Yes, he’s going to grow up to be monstrous and could most likely down my child as a quick snack when he gets older, but for now, he’s an adorable teddy bear.
As we were wandering through the Tundra, learning about healing medicine the Cree make and how they live in Goose Camps for part of the year in really interesting looking tents, we noticed the latest attraction: the TundraAir Zipline. I joked with my daughter about the fact that it comes down a little bit right over the wolf pen. Later we were watching people get on the lift and she turned to me and asked, “Are they getting on there and going over the pen so the wolves can get fed?” I couldn’t help but laugh. If my daughter becomes a writer like me, she may very well be Stephen King’s greatest rival. Seriously. What a crazy sense of humour!
From the Tundra we took a path to warmer climes: The Mayan Temple Ruin. I love this exhibit but we rarely get here because my daughter usually prefers to veer off in search of the African animals, the Penguins of the Cape specifically. Today though, I was able to steer her to the Mayan Temple Ruins with the promise of flamingo sightings. We saw really loud Scarlet and Blue Macaws, a couple Capybaras, wandered under the falls they have set up there (and discovered that my daughter truly doesn’t believe there can be any falls larger than those – time to plan a trip to Niagara Falls and truly blow her mind!), the flamingos who have ‘knees’ that bend backwards so they can ‘lie down’ when they sleep and not just stand on one leg as they are shown doing in nature films and pictures, Spider monkeys (which my daughter quickly pointed out were a boy and a girl because ‘one of them has a penis’ – I nearly died. Grateful no one else was around to hear her) and two Jaguars – one completely black and the other looking a lot like a Leopard.
On our way back to the gate we stopped in the Americas Pavilion where we saw a lot of cool animals. The coolest though, was these guys:
Then we found the lizards. Normally I steer clear of this area, along with the snakes. But this time I was a bit braver and got to see a few really cool looking guys. Take this Gila Monster for example:
Or this weird creature hanging out in the frog pen:
I of course got a video of them since they wouldn’t sit still either. The whole time they were dumping sand over themselves. I figure they were either taking a sand bath or trying to dig through the bottom of the aquarium and escape.
So, all in all yesterday was a really fun day. Every time we go to the zoo we see something new. The last time we went we sat down at a picnic table for lunch and a male Peacock walked right under my daughter’s chair, looking for scraps. I love the Toronto Zoo. Can’t wait to go back!