Since we had the day off yesterday, I schlepped the kids to our local Safari Park for a little walk on the wild side. If you know anything about San Diego, you’ve probably heard about the World Famous San Diego Zoo (and that is how it refers to itself, the World Famous San Diego Zoo- there’s confidence!) but you might not have heard about its wallflower sibling, the San Diego Wild Animal Park/Safari Park/whatever it’s being called these days.
Aside from its location in an often sweltering inland valley, which makes sense since it is supposed to approximate an actual African savannah, the Wild Animal Park is my favorite of the two parks. Its central feature is a huge open space populated by herds of wild beasties, which you circle around in a giant tram and admire from afar while the driver tells you interesting facts about their biology. It’s a science nerd dream come true.
Alas, your average tourist is not a science nerd and demands a bit more flash and pizazz to compete with Legoland and Sea World, so in order to stay competitive our little Wild Animal Park had to change several things:
- Rebranding itself as the Safari Park, because while wild animals are nuisances, safaris are exotic.
- Add a zipline (if you’ve watched Sister Wives, not that I have, but if you caught the promos or anything on your way to the BBC channel, this is where the guy took wife number 4 on their honeymoon, and they did this.)
- Add a hot air balloon
- Add a SpongeBob motion simulator ride (how this fits in to the theme is beyond me)
All of which you get charged up the wazoo for, of course, on top of the park entry fee.
So I take the children, thinking that despite the Tyrannosaur debacle at the Natural History Museum there must be some form of genetic imprinting whereby they like the wild beasts, only to have my daughter sullenly stare at the back of the seat in front of her for the entire tram ride while my son picked his nose.
We were passing by critically endangered rhinos, magnificent creatures all, and the most I could get was a non committal “eh” when I asked them if this wasn’t so, so cool.
They did, however, love the SpongeBob motion simulator.
On the way out, I forced- yes, forced- them to pass by the gorilla exhibit. As my “I only care about your well being” and “I really think you’re out of your dang mind” husband nixed my suggestion of a 10th anniversary trip to the Virunga National Park to see the gorillas in their natural habitat, this is the closest my inner primatologist gets and I need to take advantage of it.
They were whining, as it was towards the end of the day, and 4 year olds can get that way.
He studied me sideways, assessing my seriousness before deciding I was teasing, and decided that he did not want to stay with the gorillas.
“Why not?” I asked. “They have it made. No school. No clothes. You just hang out and- look! That person is tossing them tomatoes! Your favorite!” We watched the gorillas expertly grab the flying tomatoes as they passed overhead. “This is the life. You sure you don’t want to stay?”
Then I saw a female approach from the north end, slowly and heavily. She was very pregnant. “Check it out!” I said. “That gorilla’s going to be a mom! She’s pregnant! Isn’t that amazing?”
“How do they get the gorilla out?” my daughter asked.
“She gets it out herself,” my mother vaguely offered, while I went for the old “Well, time to go kids! Off we go!” and then we left.
On the way home, I debriefed them. “What was your favorite part?” I asked, forgetting to tell them the SpongeBob ride didn’t count towards their answer.
“SpongeBob!” my son predictably answered.
My daughter smiled, then said, “the pregnant gorilla.”
Maybe there’s some hope for them after all.