Discovering the Whims of Whiskers and Wings
As a father and animal lover, visits to the zoo with Eamon and Neve are easily one of my most cherished pastimes. Love of animals is a legacy passed down from generations in my family, and it's a tradition I'm keen to uphold. The excitement of wandering around, cherishing the biodiversity our planet possesses, wondering at the bountiful variety of creatures, is an experience that remains unique to all our zoo outings. Some animals, though, hold a more cherished place in our memories. Here, I’ll share my list of must-see animals when visiting a zoo.
Certainly, any list of this sort is going to be subjective. For some, the majestic stride of a giraffe would evoke amazement, while others may be more enthralled by the playfulness of a troop of monkeys. In short, the appeal of what’s beautiful, interesting or "must-see" is wide and varied. Yet, my list has been shaped by my personal experiences and the reactions of my children as well as my lovable Labrador, Thor, who though can't visit the zoo, its essence certainly transcends to him through stories and toys.
Prowling the Big Cats – The Majestic Felines
There’s this palpable thrill when you see a tiger or a lion for the first time. With their predatory gaze that seems to look right through you and their powerfully toned bodies adorned with deadly claws, one cannot help but feel a mixture of awe and fear. I recall a sunny day during an outing to the zoo when we saw a Bengal Tiger. Neve gasped in excitement, Eamon's eyes widened, and I must admit, I felt my heart miss a beat. The sheer size, mixed with the dignified gait, and that amber fur with black stripes, it was a sight to behold.
Lions, having occupied a place of pride in cultural and literary symbolism across the world, are equally memorable. With their daunting roar and grand countenance, my kids joyously compare them to Thor, our Labrador. Although, how they think our loving goofball could even remotely compare to the King of the Jungle is beyond me!
A Parade of Sorts – The Avian Wonders
Nothing quite compares to my fascination with birds. The plethora of colours, the harmony in their songs and their graceful flight – it's almost mystifying. Be it the noble Eagle, high up in the sky, the vibrantly coloured Macaws or the cheeky little Sparrows, every bird has a charm of its own. Some zoos even have walk-through aviaries which are an excellent way to observe birds up close. It's easy to lose track of time just observing these creatures interacting with each other, flying around and occasionally giving a delighted squawk.
The Rainbow Lorikeet, native to my beloved Australia, is a particular favourite. Their vibrant plumage that looks painted on, and their playful nature is something that amuses my kids to no end. Then, there’s the notorious Laughing Kookaburra, whose laughter-like call fills the air with a distinctive note of mirth, much to the amusement of Eamon and Neve.
Slithering Charm – The Reptile Encounter
Reptiles, despite the instinctive fear they often evoke, are a wonder of nature. Their distinguishing cold skin, vibrant scales, and unique adaptation skills make them equally intriguing to watch. Among the list of reptiles at the zoo, one of my family's absolute favourite is the Saltwater Crocodile, another of Australia's wildlife pride. Their eerie stillness, only broken with lightning speed when catching prey is a thrilling sight.
Then there are the snakes - the sleek, muscular bodies adorned with intricate scale patterns are an excellent testament to nature's handiwork. A particular snake species that often captures the imagination is the Anaconda, known for its bulk and power. Despite the shivers they might send down our spines, the fascination remains.
The Underwater Spectacle – Aquatic Life
Aquariums within zoos provide a gateway to explore the blue depths of our planet right on the surface. The colourful coral formations, the rhythmic sway of underwater plants, and the plethora of marine life swimming around – it's like entering an entirely different world. The Great Barrier Reef, as well as some of the exotic fish species that it houses, can be seen in many aquariums in Australia. The Clownfish – a crowd pleaser, thanks mainly to the animated film Finding Nemo, is an absolute must-see.
The Seahorse with its unique shape and slow, gentle mannerisms makes for an endearing view. Sting Rays, with their wing-like fins and slender tails, are fascinating to observe, especially when they glide seamlessly through the water. Blue Tangs, popularly known as Dory from the eponymous animated movie, with her bright blue body, are an aquatic spectacle not to miss.
In conclusion, zoos are teeming with countless species each more intriguing than the last. However, this aforementioned list serves as a guide to those few which, according to me, should be given special attention on your next family outing to the zoo. Other than the animals, remember to appreciate the overall experience – the picnic lunches, the interactive sessions, the tranquillity of the surroundings and the sheer joy of being with family. Rest assured, your trip will be nothing short of a wild adventure! Don't forget to get a zoo map to help guide your journey and let the exploration begin!