Friday, June 29, 2012

Freshwater Oasis Opening Date

Since Spring many readers have been asking the question, "What is the Discovery Cove Freshwater Oasis opening date?" Well, we can finally tell you that Freshwater Oasis is now officially open! Freshwater Oasis is included with admission to Discovery Cove, an all-inclusive tropical day resort where guests can swim with dolphins, snorkel with colorful fish and rays, hand-feed exotic birds and relax on pristine beaches, plus enjoy unlimited admission for 14 days to sister parks SeaWorld and Aquatica in Orlando. Yes, the attraction was originally supposed to open mid-spring/early summer but the good news it is now open and is worth the wait!

Now open at Discovery Cove in Orlando is Freshwater Oasis, an all-new attraction featuring wading adventures and face-to-face encounters with playful otters and curious marmosets.  Designed with a rainforest canopy above and sparkling-clear springs below, Freshwater Oasis is a natural fit within Discovery Cove’s tropical atmosphere. Guests can wade, wander, swim and float in the water-filled trails and discover marmoset monkeys and playful Asian otters. (Please note, you don't actually swim in the tank with the otters like you do the dolphins and sting rays, they are separated and you view them through a glass wall just like any other exhibit).

Where is Discovery Cove? Discovery Cove is part of Sea World resort in Orlando, Florida where you can swim with dolphins.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Columbus Zoo Stingray Bay Video

Stingray Bay at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is now open to the public. I recently visited the new attraction and took some video of the majestic stingrays doing their thing. You will see two types of rays at Stingray Bay: the smaller cownose stingray and the larger Southern stingrays. This 18,000 gallon saltwater tank allows guests to touch and feed stingrays. Timed tickets are given out if you want to come back later but in our case we were able to get in the building almost immediately after purchasing our tickets (and thoroughly washing our hands). A cup of food to feed the stingrays costs $2 (not sure if feeding is allowed only at certain times of the day or not).

Cownose stingrays are members of the eagle ray family and are found in the Atlantic Ocean. The cownose has a series of teeth and dental plates used for crushing oyster shells and clams. The cownose ray typically does have a stinger on the end of its tail with venom that cause bee sting like symptoms. Of course, this tails have been ground or clipped so as not to harm or hurt any of the visitors who wish to pet these magnificent creatures. So yes, they are safe to touch.

The southern stingray is also found in the Atlantic Ocean. Its flattened body is ideal for life on the bottom of the ocean. The ray’s spine contains a poisonous mucous which, though not fatal to humans, is extremely painful if you are unfortunate enough to step on one. The small openings on its head are called spiracles and they allow the ray to take in water while buried in the sea floor sand. Females often grow larger than males and can be up to 150 centimeters across!

Stingray Bay Tips - Best Way to Touch Stingrays 
As you can see in the video, the trick is to submerge your hand all the way in the hard and don't move it around. If you do this the stingray will come to you! If you try to reach out and pet them they will swim away quickly. This really works! 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Columbus Zoo Update: Safari Africa and Stingray Bay

Safari Africa expansion has been approved and Stingray Bay is now officially open.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s African safari expansion plans were officially approved by the zoo’s board last week. The 43-acre exhibit will be built at a cost of $30 million dollars and will be open in time for the summer season in 2014. An artist’s overhead rendering of the expansion was featured in the latest issue of the Beastly Banner, the zoo’s quarterly magazine for zoo members. It’ll be north of the polar bear exhibit and will be accessible through the northeast corner of the North America exhibit. They also mentioned  that a new trolley or other vehicle system will provide transportation to the area from inside the front gate to Safari Africa for those who need it (for the size of the zoo a transportation system of some sort is rally needed in my opinion but very expensive to maintain).

Safari Africa is a long time coming for fans of the Columbus Zoo. Plans for a similar exhibit were first announced back in the 1990s but was repeatedly delayed as other projects and regions were prioritized ahead of it.

We can finally accurately answer your question: Is sting ray bay open? Located in Jungle Jack’s Landing near Zoombezi Bay (the Columbus waterpark), Stingray Bay will feature an 18,000-gallon saltwater pool for dozens of cownose and southern stingrays to call home.

Please note, this attraction is not free and is not included within the regular zoo admission. The pricing structure is as follows:

Stingray Bay is as follows:
Non-member children and adults $3
Columbus Zoo member children and adults $2
Zoombezi Bay season pass holder $2
Gold membership holder Free
Ride wristband holder at $8 Free
Stingray feeding (one cup) $2

Visit my previous post to see some pictures of Stingray Bay at the Columbus Zoo.

Additional tags:
columbus ohio safari
safari columbus ohio

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ZooAmerica 2012 Trip Report and Review

While visiting Hershey world (as some people like to call it) this past Memorial Day Weekend I had the opportunity to visit Hershey Zoo America, a North American Wildlife Park. This quaint little zoo is located in Hershey, Pa. right next door to HersheyPark amusement park. Zoo America pa  (also spelled Zooamerica) is home to animals found in North America, such as the river otter, bobcat, American alligator, etc. Visiting ZooAmerica is a great way to take a break from the vomit inducing rides and long hot lines at HersheyPark. Admission to the zoo is free with your ticket to HersheyPark or you can buy admission to the zoo separately. The park has many trees and is very well shaded throughout.

The mountain lions at the Hershey zoo where extremely active, more so than I have seen them at any other zoo in the country. In fact, one of the cats was being very vocal as well – something I had never heard before! Timber wolves and black bear are the other large mammals on display. One of the best exhibits at Hershey Park Zoo America is the prairie dog enclosure. The cute critters were very active and the exhibit allowed you to get pretty close to them too.

Zoo America Hershey Pa gets a lot of flak for having small and outdated enclosures, which I agree with, but I would rather the animals be kept there than at some exotic animal farm in Zanesville, Ohio or at the even more pathetic cages at Lagoon Park. On a sad note, this is the same Pennsylvania zoo where the two bison had to be euthanized due to rapidly rising flood waters back in September of 2011. As far as I could tell, the former bison exhibit sits on the bank of the creek and remains empty to this day.

Overall, ZooAmerica, the Hershey Pa zoo, is a nice little zoo and is a great place to visit if you’re at HersheyPark but I otherwise wouldn’t go too far out of my way to visit. I would rather go to the nearby ElkCountry to see wild herds of elk rather then see the three that ZooAmerica has in their little pen – but that’s just my opinion.

Pictured below is the ZooAmerica 2012 park map.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Columbus Zoo 2012 Stingray Bay Update

My wife and I visited the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium this morning to check out the status of several projects. First off, there is no visible sign of any construction or work being done on the new Safari Africa2014 expansion from INSIDE the zoo. That's not to say they aren't pushing dirt around or doing any other preliminary site preparation but if there is none of it was viewable from my vantage point inside the zoo.

Second, the new interactive touch pool exhibit for 2012, Stingray Bay, is not open yet. Signs posted near the new attraction state a "mid-June" opening. It looks like the queue line was the only unfinished aspect from the outside. This brand new enclosed salt water pool will allow Columbus Zoo visitors to touch and even feed the southern and cownose rays.

One disappointing observation: there is an additional fee to touch and feed the stingrays of $3 for non-members and $2 for zoo members, unless you have the highest level of zoo membership (Gold I think) or have a ride all day wristband.

Stingray Bay is located in Jungle Jack's Landing in-between the zoo and the Zoombezi Bay waterpark. Look closely at the Columbus Zoo 2012 map below to see exactly where Stingray Bay is. Does anyone know what was in that spot last year – was another building there or was it just an empty patch of land?

Speaking of Jungle Jack Hanna, he was at the zoo today! We were quite surprised, while observing the polar bears underwater, to look over and see Jack Hanna himself, dressed in his usual safari khakis. I believe he was in town filming a segment for Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild earlier this week at the Wilds in Zanesville, Ohio. What a nice guy, real down to earth. What you see is exactly what you get with Jack, just one of the many reasons why he is an easy guy to like.

 That's all for now. Hopefully on our next visit the exhibit will be open. Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave a comment below to discuss.

UPDATE 6-18-12: Stingray Bay is now open!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Elk Country Visitor Center Review

Once again, I must diverge from my usual zoo theme to share another wonderful opportunity to visit animals in their natural habitat. Did you know there are elk in Pennsylvania? After conquering Skyrush at HersehyPark, we traveled to one of the best places to few the elk herd is the Elk Country Visitor Center located in the northern region of the state known as the Pennsylvania Wilds. The Benezette elk viewing center is one of the best places to observe (and possibly even get up close to) the elk all year round – and not just from the safety of a vehicle.

Built in 2010, I found the Elk County Visitor Centerto be very high tech and state-of-the-art. In fact, I would argue that it is not only one of the best PA visitor centers, but that it is also one of the best visitor centers I have ever been to anywhere. There are a ton of cool displays including multiple giant touch screens featuring a variety of useful elk information. I highly recommend visiting if you are in the area. The drive from I-80 is about thirty to forty minutes but is quite scenic and beautiful.

There are a few short trails around the visitor center leading to three elk viewing blinds looking out over different fields and meadows. Sadly, it was too hot and late in the day for us to catch a glimpse of any hoofed creatures. We did however see their tracks in the mud so we knew they were there and nearby. I recommend waking up early as the best time to view wildlife is at dawn or at dusk. The animals will be more active in the cooler weather during the fall season as well.

Just a few miles up the road from the Elk County Visitor Center is Winslow Hill, another great area to view the elk. And if the elk are all hiding like on my recent trip you can still snap a few pictures of the panoramic view.