Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

California: San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Recycled signs spread the park's conservation message.
Forty minutes or so north of the much-acclaimed San Diego Zoo is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in the hills and canyons near Escondido.  It started out as a breeding area for zoo animals but was eventually opened to the public, rebranded as a "safari park" and now is yet another Southern California attraction. (Click HERE for the Safari Park's website.)
     Given the absence of some animals anyone would expect to see here -- hippos, chimpanzees, to name a couple -- I got the impression that the park is still a work in progress. I assume it will become more fully developed and more encyclopedic as time goes on. As it is, it's a major breeding zoo for rhinos and other threatened animals. Some animals born there have been introduced into the wild in Africa.
     Jane and I are fortunate to have spent several weeks on safari in Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa (click HERE for postings about the experience). This park is really a zoo, although a very, very large one, much larger than the San Diego Zoo itself. Parts of it mimic the plains in Africa and the Australian Outback, and parts of it are simply displays of bats or skinks or other animals. Many kinds of African antelope share a large canyon with giraffes and other beasts. The size of the place, however, means that it's difficult to view many of the animals closely, though the park offers "insider" and other tours at an additional cost that get visitors much closer to the animals.
     Conservation is a constant theme at the park, so it's disconcerting to see plastic straws distributed automatically with soft drinks and that the drinks are in plasticized but not reusable cups. This at a time when tiny bits of plastic are turning up in much of the seafood we eat.
     We spent several hours at the park on Oct. 23, 2018, with Jane carrying a clipboard and answering questions about the park in a "scavenger hunt" as part of her training to be a volunteer at the San Diego Zoo in the city. I followed her around, offered her no worthwhile help, and took a few photos.
A three-banded armadillo. 

A Sumatran tiger paces in its enclosure. Yes, the fence was the only barrier between
visitors and the big cat.

The tiger takes a dip. Other big cats at the park include
cheetahs and lions. 

The Safari Park is set among the arid hills and canyons near Escondido in northern San Diego County.

A kangaroo rests in the Australian Outback exhibit.

Touching is allowed. There's a hand-washing station just
outside the Outback exhibit.

These looked like natural rocks to me, perhaps shaped a bit and artfully rearranged. 

While plants and animals from all over the world can be found in the park, some areas
look like natural Southern California landscapes. 

A prehensile-tailed skink.

Animals are given "enrichment" items like this large
block to handle and play with. All the elephants are
African and from Swaziland.

Little Mkhaya, less than a month old when we saw her, is getting back on her feet after laying down. 

A nyala, one of many kinds of African
antelope at the park.

East Africa crowned cranes. 

The park is particularly proud of its success in
breeding rhinos.

Ruppell's vulture is one of several vultures at the park,
including the California condor.

As in Africa, I lost track of how to distinguish among the many different kinds of
African antelopes. To make matters more confusing, many of them are known by
more than one name.

I'm almost certain these are oryx. 

"What do you mean, Toys R Us is out of business?" 

These are lesser flamingos, not quite as striking as the larger and pinker Chilean flamingos.

The African Sacred Ibis was worshiped in ancient Egypt  as a representation
 of the god Thoth, giver of  wisdom, knowledge and writing.

The Kikulu Colobus is from Kenya's highlands
east of the Rift Valley.

A female Southern Gerenuk. In the wild they're found from
Somalia to Tanzania.

The magnificent eland. We saw these animals in Africa, but we could never
get close enough for a decent photo, even with a good zoom lens. 

More elands. 

Some sort of sawdust-like play area accounts for the debris in this
gorilla's fur. My impression is that the gorillas at the main zoo
have a more stimulating environment, but perhaps the gorillas
here like the quiet life.

For an additional fee, a tethered balloon gives visitors
a bird's eye view of the park.

Friday, October 19, 2018

California: San Diego's Sunrise Highway

The two-lane Sunrise Highway (S1) runs between Interstate 8 and State Road 79
in eastern San Diego County, skimming beside and up into the Vallecito Mountains and
 providing access to the Cleveland National Forest, Cuyamaca Rancho State Park
and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

About an hour east of San Diego but still in San Diego County, the Sunrise Highway is a world away from the busy coast and the jammed highways of the city.  It's a full-day trip if you take hiking seriously, a bit less than that if you settle for an hour or so on one of the trails in Cleveland National Forest, which was established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1908 and is 460,000 acres (720 square miles) of rocks, canyons, pines and scrub.

Other than trailheads (including access points to the Pacific Crest Trail) and a couple of lodges and cafes, there's little to see along the 24 miles of the Sunrise Highway except magnificent views of the Vallecito Mountains to the east. The Salton Sea is on the other side of the mountains, and perhaps the sliver of blue water we spied a couple of times was the sea. Or perhaps it was just another of the several artificial lakes that dot the area.

Here are some snapshots taken along the highway, starting from the southern end.
The Vallecito Mountains rise in the distance in this view from the Sunrise Highway.

We drove the Sunrise Highway on Oct. 19, 2018, a sunny
and hot day in San Diego (high in the 80s at sea level),
but the temperature dropped to 60 once we were 5,000 feet
and more above sea level. The humidity was 29 percent, so
the chill felt even chillier.

Dead trees resemble art works along one
trail in Cleveland National Forest. Maybe
they were killed in the forest's famous
2003 Cedar Fire, one of the worst wildfires
in the state's history.

Pine trees, even big ones like this, have thin foliage.

Another remnant of the 2003 Cedar Fire? Yet the
little pine beside it does not seem discouraged.

Jane said this tree reminded her of the charred tree where
Smokey Bear was found in New Mexico in 1950.

More apparent fire damage ... and regrowth.

A view of Anza-Borrega Desert State Park.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

No trees, just brush in this desert.

Isolated rocks stick up like termite mounds in the plains of Africa. 

Some piles of rocks resembled Inuit inukshuks and others resembled
African kopjes. There are warnings about rattlesnakes and mountain
lions, and I can easily imagine one if not both waiting at these
rocks for an unaware hiker.