Friday, September 26, 2014

Binder Park Zoo Trip

We are lucky to have great zoos of all sizes in Michigan.  One of my favorites is Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek.  I've been to this zoo several times and it never disappoints.  My children's schools and daycare usually take annual field trips so I try to make that one of the field trips I take with them.  
On this field trip, we started out with a special up close viewing of a few small creatures - the hedgehog...
turtle...
and dove (we got to pet this one with our pinkies on the way out the door.
I handed my daughter the camera and she captured most of the zoo guests along the way (this is a long post!) - funny little prairie dogs...
this chillin' Red Panda...
hard to see but those are African wild dogs...

The thing that makes this zoo unique is its Wild Africa portion.  You ride a zebra-striped tram (featuring an African tour guide's voice telling you all about your destination) out to a separate area of the zoo that is set up like an African Village.  
There is a large grasslands area with a mix of friendly grass-eaters...

Including one of the main attractions - the giraffes!






You walk around a boardwalk and up through a village with huts that are at land level with the animals 
(and this giant termite home) and feature viewing areas.



Then you walk up a hill that takes you to a "treehouse" platform that puts you at head level with the very friendly giraffes.  You can buy lettuce there to feed the giraffes by hand.



Aren't these babies so sweet!
They really are so cool to see up close - look at that pattern!


You'll pass through a hut into a netted bird tunnel with all kinds of colorful winged guests.




A one mile walking loop leads you from one village to another while asking fun questions along the parts of the trail between animal habitats.
 Boars...
 monkeys (do you see her baby snuggled in front of her?)...
 he was so adorable...
 more monkeys (not skunks!)...see how she is cleaning the fur of the monkey laying down?
 
Another bird enclosure houses larger birds like these storks.

Near the end of the loop is another village - more of a small farming village setup.  This tiny little home is divided into areas for preparing food and sleeping.
 Cattle...
 
 Guinea hens...
and the cattle barn.
After taking the tram back to the main part of the zoo, there is a merry-go-round and educational amphi-theater.  A boardwalk allows you to walk over the wolf enclosure.
 The children's mini-zoo includes a walk-in goat enclosure...
 miniature ponies...
 bunnies...(including a tunnel for small kids to go through under the bunny enclosure)
 donkeys...
llamas...a giant dinosaur with an area where kids can "dig for bones"...and a small train ride.




Some of the other guests in the front area - she didn't get pictures of everything like the kangaroos...
A trip through the covered bridge over the fish ladder will take you to the new black bear exhibit.

These youngesters were a hoot as they battled for their spots in the shade.

The snow leopard is also a hot attraction.
An overview of the zoo map.  

It is a great zoo for people of all ages - plan pretty much the whole day if you like to see everything, linger a bit, or if you have smaller kids who are walking.  There are plenty of options for food, shade and taking breaks.  I prefer to hit the Wild Africa area first thing in the morning before it gets too hot - if you go in the afternoon it will start to feel like you really are in Africa.  The main zoo is good for strollers or wheelchairs but you most likely will not want to do the one mile loop to see all of Wild Africa - a good portion of that terrain is hilly, rough and not paved.

Have you been to this zoo?  What is your favorite part?