Sunday, June 19, 2011

Seals, Tigers, and Bears, oh my!

It's been a week, but as promised, I wanted to share more pics of our visit to Louisville last weekend, including our cool behind-the-scenes tour at the Louisville Zoo.

Kate enjoyed the tour of Nala and Popi's backyard paradise...
And Saturday afternoon, we went to the local splash park with my old friend Lindsay and her son Jack. We met the new baby, Emmalea, too! Jack is now four, but isn't too cool to play with a two-year-old girl. Sweet boy!
The playground at the splash park is the newest thing in playground-design, apparently. Matt and I joked it was like Nuni and Nuni's playground--everything was so sleek and modern, and they even had a slide that you ride by hooking your legs around the outside of the track--weird.
Sunday, we went to the zoo. Since we're members of the Nashville Zoo, we got in free! Those "reciprocal zoo" deals they have going on are great (I thought we just got a discount). The Nashville Zoo's design is so pleasant, with winding, tree-lined walkways and very natural habitats, but Louisville has a lot of big animals that Nashville does not--bears, lions, polar bears, etc.

Our special tour began in Glacier Run, a new area they've created for a more immersive arctic-animal exhibit. Taking a cue from Disney, the exhibit brings visitors into a "story," namely that a far-northern town is being encroached upon by glaciers and the animals have been getting more daring in their ventures into the town.
For this grizzly bear viewing area, designed like a loading dock, they've got a pickup truck that is half inside the windows and half outside, so you can sit in the cab and actually be jostled around by the grizzlies climbing and playing in the truck bed! The reflection obscures it somewhat, but here the bears are playing with big plastic trash cans in the truck bed.
And here, the "glacier" has crumbled a road into the town, raising the visitor's sense of danger before she sees the arctic beasts!

We got to go into the backsides of the habitats to see where the animals hang out when out of visitors' view. Flash wasn't working too well back there, so these pics are blurry, but I wanted to share how cool it was to be so close to the animals. The keeper called the seal over, and she jumped out of the water and slid over to us, even splashing water on us!

We stood mere feet from a polar bear, and inches from a grizzly bear! We were definitely warned not to lean near the bars in this case!
In the tropical "Islands" exhibit (where I got spat on by the orangutan, you'll recall), we saw the tigers get their lunch, jumping up and down for pieces of meat, and Mom and Matt even got some tiger drool on them from passing under a metal bridge a tiger was crossing.
We were pretty tired by the end of our tour, but dropped in on the giraffes, lions, and elephants before going. We stopped briefly by the camels, but given our track record with spit that day...
What a fun day. Check out how much Kate's grown since the last time we put her on this bronze elephant in July 2009!

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