Monday, February 27, 2012

Birthday Outing to the Taronga Zoo

My littlest one turned 4 yesterday.  It has been four years since Kenyon emerged into the world sunny-side up, with the doctor exclaiming that he had the longest eyelashes she'd ever seen on a newborn.  In that moment, our family became complete and Kenyon has added something wonderful to it.

Back in Denver while we planned this year-long exchange, we talked often about how Kenyon was going to be the first one in the family to celebrate a birthday in Australia.  To celebrate the occasion, we decided to head to Sydney and spend the day at Taronga Zoo (thanks, Nana and Papa!).  We are well-versed in the best of what the Denver Zoo has to offer, so we were all looking forward to checking out a different city's take on the animal kingdom.

I don't enjoy partaking in the futile and painful exercise comparing the cost of living in Australia, but friends in Denver, consider this--a day pass to the Taronga Zoo for our family was $112.20 (and this involved craftily being on Denver time to make Kenyon still 3 years old, or the cost would have gone up another $22).

For $2 LESS, we could have bought a family membership to the Denver Zoo and enjoyed countless outings over the span of a year.  Laugh or cry, right?  I laugh, with empty pockets gritted teeth.

Granted, the Taronga Zoo is beautiful, and we enjoyed the ferry ride over and the gondola ride up to the top.

an aerial view of the elephant enclosure as we  headed up the hill in the gondola
photo credit: Taronga Zoo
The Taronga Zoo offers a camping experience that sounds absolutely amazing--sleeping in safari tents with real beds, up-close animal encounters, and behind-the-scenes access to the zoo experience such as feeding giraffes and petting seals.  It is wildly popular, already booked through March and much of April, so as I planned our day trip I excitedly checked the booking information to see if we should camp there as well.  Well, the fee would be $1120 for the five of us, so unless the Taronga Zoo is providing scholarships for an earnest, animal-loving family visiting from overseas, the above picture will have to suffice.  Looks pretty spectacular, though, doesn't it?

The Denver Zoo has all the animals you'd expect at a good quality zoo--tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, penguins, chimps, what we enjoyed the most about Taronga was seeing animals we don't see at home.

Not only had I never seen a tree kangaroo, I'd never heard of one, either.

Of course, I had already seen the cutest animal to ever grace the Earth (discussed in this post), but you can never have too much wombat, can you?  The one at the zoo didn't look quite as fluffy and adorable as the one I almost snuggled at Wilsons Prom, but this one did look pretty darn endearing looking up with little corn bits stuck to his nose.
The free-flying bird show was amazing--firstly, with this view as a backdrop, it couldn't be boring--
but with an Andean condor, red-tailed black cockatoos, a Brahminy kite, and an owl among many others, the show was entertaining and really impressive.  I didn't know Australia was called the Land of Parrots, but it makes sense because what kind of paradise has gorgeous parrots and cockatoos flying around the neighborhood?  This here paradise does, folks.

A cassowary is alternatively one the most striking and imposing creatures, clearly a remnant of the dinosaur age.
I could live at the gorilla enclosure, looking into the eyes of our distant relatives.  The silverback was exceptionally massive, even when he daintily bent over and scooped up a carrot nubbin during feeding time.
He sat with his back towards us as he ate as if he couldn't be bothered to engage in any niceties with his houseguests.  None of us were willing to call him on it, either.

The momma gorilla had a curious one-year old baby that repeatedly tried to wander out of her mom's watchful eye and explore a bit, but each time that momma immediately outstretched her long arm and scooped that baby right back onto her lap.   I mentally cautioned her about helicopter parenting and suggested she might have a look-see at Free Range Kids.  Look, lady, nobody was hovering over me and intervening when I was cruelly and unfairly made to be Boss Hogg every single time we played Dukes of Hazzard growing up, just because I was the youngest, and I turned out ok.  Whether she was a protective helicopter gorilla or a Tiger gorilla not wanting her daughter to be engaged in a frivolous activity such as frolicking when she could be learning the apeviolin, I could tell she was not the kind of mom I'd want to be stuck with at the playground.  But I digress.

Later, I was admiring the stout adorableness of Kenyon the pygmy hippopotamus.  When we are around various animal species in the wild or in captivity, we inevitably wind up having the 'if you could be any animal, what would it be' discussion.  While different animals come up now and then, the longstanding popular answer is a seal or otter, because they are always having heaps of fun and are so effortless in the water (although for Sam it's also a toss-up with a bird because of the ability to fly factor).  Looking at the pygmy hippo lazily relaxing its bloated body in the water, I thought that wouldn't be such a bad life, either.  And then just as I was thinking that, the hippo made some sort of explosive bowel movement in the water (the nearby ducks wisely moved away quickly) and continued to lie in it.  Ok, I changed my answer back to otter.
Before the poop explosion, my eyes glazed over a bit as I dreamed of my next incarnation as a pygmy hippo, and when they refocused I happened to see this:
A golden orb spider.  While I do appreciate the interesting yellow web they weave, he clearly didn't read the memo that was sent out after the visit from the monster beast from hell huntsman spider, which forbade any spider from coming within a 10 foot radius of me.  What's that you say?  I came into his territory, not the other way around?  Don't bother me with these pesky specifics, all I know is I don't want any of these things near me, period.

Kenyon was able to choose something fun from the gift shop from Nana and Papa, and I used every tactic from my undergrad Psych courses (that degree has got to be useful for something!) to get him to choose the wombat stuffed animal, to no avail.  He is the proud owner of a koala mom and baby (named Climber and Eucalyptus--I'm guessing he gets his naming creativity, or the lack thereof, from his mother), and they have been inseparable ever since.
On the way home, Kenyon fell asleep on Jackson and Jackson said he was keeping still even though it was uncomfortable for his arm, because he wanted Kenyon to rest peacefully.  That's true love right there, buddy.
We capped off the day with the standard 'Happy Birthday To You' and, as requested, a cake with berry frosting and blueberries on top.
Kenyon, as you enter this next year of life, you are feisty and sharp as a whip, smoothly reading BOB books as long as you're in the mood to do so.  You've resisted writing until last week at school, when a successful 'K' on paper led to a flurry of workbook letter practice at home until your father came through the door from work.  You have the biggest internal woodstove, and excitedly strip off all your clothing before any nap or bedtime.  This makes for delicious snuggles, and I'm soaking it all in because your brothers don't do that sort of thing anymore.  You recently said you were going to cut your eyelashes because they were too long and got in the way.  I know sometimes when you cry and rub your eyes, your upper lashes are so long that they do fold down and get caught in between your eye and your lower lid until I carefully help you extract them, but like a male peacock strutting his gorgeous train, be proud of those eyelashes that strangers comment on every single day.  While you still do inexplicable toddler things like fling toys at your brothers for no reason, you also are equally as thoughtful when you want to be.  With the confidence of having your two older brothers leading the way, I am so enjoying watching you grow.  I love you more than life itself, kiddo.

1 comment: