Tuesday, July 10, 2012

African Lion Safari

Another item on our summer bucket list was a trip to the zoo.  I was thinking about trying to make it to the St. Louis zoo after our big trip was over but the thought of packing up again sounds a bit much!  Plus, close to my parent's house is African Lion Safari and I've been wanting to go for a long time... the last time I was there was over 20 years ago!!!
My fear was that African Lion Safari was a drive through "road side" zoo like the one we have close to us in Fayetteville.  I refuse to visit "zoos" of any type that are not accredited....the accreditation puts my mind at ease knowing their animals are cared for properly and I encourage others to try to practice the same thing... there is no good in taking your children to see animals that are not happy or healthy because their care is below standard!  I do not want to support people that use animals for their personal gain verses using captive animals to teach children about the animals, conservation, and proper care for all of God's creatures!  So, with that in mind, I got on ALS website and saw that they had all of the proper accreditations and was excited to start planning our trip!
Turns out not much planning went into it.... we woke up this morning, Nina had the day off, and as we were eating breakfast I was telling her about the safari (verses going to the Toronto zoo where there is LOTS of walking to be done) and she said, "Let's go today!"  And with that, we were off!
 The safari opens at 10 and we were there at 10:05!!!  The first thing we did was drive through the safari part of the park.  The kids thought it was so cool to be out of their seats (two of them upfront with me) and looking at the animals up-close!!!
There were so many cool animals big and small to be seen!  As we drove, we had to keep our eyes peeled for what we might find! 
Some animals off in the distance and some right next to the car.... like these lions munching on a bone!
 Look how regal they look!!!  Seeing these lions here took me back to the 2 weeks Brad and I spent traveling throughout southern Africa and going on safaris!!!!  Man, makes me want to go back!!!  I'd love to take the kids to Africa when they are older but, for now, this safari is just their speed!
There were so many fun and silly things to see like the baboons climbing all over this van!!!  The kids wanted SO bad for the baboons to climb on our car but they were too busy at the van so we moved on... that was one nice thing, we could go at our own pace... if a car wanted to pass us they could!
 If we were enjoying watching something, we stayed!  When the excitement wore off we drove on to see what was around the next corner!
Some animals got the kids excited and they were glued to the window.... others had the kids a bit intimidated and they backed up from the window or stuck close to Nina for protection!
 The ostriches were fun....
 They capture Ethan's attention!
 And then they peaked in our window and that wasn't so fun at first....
And then the ostrich started to do a funny pecking thing and that made us laugh and warm up to their curiosity!
 Owen quickly learned that the ostrich would follow his finger and try to peck at it as he moved his finger around!  That was a lot of fun!!!  We spent several minutes here interacting with the ostriches!
We were all having fun!!!  I don't know what Ethan liked more, the animals or being out of his car seat climbing around in the car!!!
 We moved on to see so many more animals!!!  I loved watching the kids point out what they were seeing and telling each other all about what was going on out in the "wild"!
 Having this zebra family walk right by our car was exciting!!!!
And then this giraffe came up for a close look.... her size was a bit intimidating and she got right next to the car and peered in O's window... he backed up to safety!
 It was SO neat to get a look this close-up!!!
And then we got to watch her walk in front of our car... able to study her movement and all of the interesting markings that make her a giraffe!
Another fun thing on the safari were all of the babies!!!  There were lots of babies!!!  This momma had twins following her around!!!  We also love to find nursing babies!!!  Ever since Owen was little he would point out baby cows nursing on their momma!!!  So beautiful!
This little guy peaked in as I rolled the window down! One thing that this safari did that the one back home doesn't do is it has a lot of safari trucks out and about amongst the animals making sure the animals are safe and people are not breaking the rules; feeding and petting the animals.  A truck in front of us was petting the zebras and a safari truck came speeding up beside them to tell them to leave the animals alone!  I was glad to see how well the animals were protected!
After the drive-through part of the safari we got out of the car and went into the park.  The first stop was a boat ride!  Going for a group shot with my kids and Ethan wants to nurse... typical!  He just wants to show off that he can nurse anywhere... like all of the baby animals we saw!! : )
We saw a lot of primate species and some bird species on our boat ride!!!  And the breeze was a nice addition to our warm day!
We heard that the elephant bath was a MUST SEE so after the boat ride we went to the pond where the elephants bathe and we wanted on the street to see them march by in a line pass the crowd as they made their way to the watering hole!  Owen thought this was SO cool!
 And so did I!!!
As the elephants ran to the water they tooted their horns... it was so neat to hear!!!  They were running for two reasons; excitement to get to the water and running for the dog that keeps them in line!!!  There is a herd dog whose job it is to keep the elephants in the water and makes sure they don't try to get out until it is time.  It was neat to watch the dog lay on the grass with his eyes glued to the elephants watching their every move!!!
The elephants ate lots of grass/seaweed off the bottom of the pond, drank lots of water, and swam around!  So cool to watch up-close!
 These 4 elephants came up close to the fence while two older ones stayed in the middle of the pond.
 Owen stayed and watched these guys for 15 minutes watching their every move!!!!
 Then it got hot in the sun, standing in one place, and he was ready to go to the splash pad to cool off!
So we headed to cool off!!!  I love how these two are always side-by-side.  Sometimes holding hands, sometimes not but, they are usually very close.  They are two peas in a pod giving each other confidence to go explore the world!
Here they set off to explore together!  This splash pad was awesome!!!  Deep parts for light swimming, shallow parts for playing, slides, sprinklers, and then a big area with bigger slides for big kids and it was all free and new!!!!
 Ethan napped in the shade with the big kids played!!!  All of the excitement of the safari wore him out!
This slide was a favorite!!  Owen would get a running start, like on his slip-n-slide, and they dive and go sliding into the water!
 Addyson even gave it a go!!  Without the power of a running start, she had a bit of a harder time making it all the way down without assistance but that didn't stop her from having fun and doing it over and over again!
 She even tried to go on her hiney and still had troubles.  Maybe she is too light!  Oh well, she was having fun!
 And then Ethan woke up in time to get in on the fun!!!!  He LOVES water!!!  He isn't phased by the splashing and getting water in his face, nope, he loves it!
 And he loves practicing standing up!!!!  That is what he did over and over again!!!!  Soon he will be standing on his own without the aid of the water!
 There he goes!
 Happy baby!!!  The water was so cool and a nice break from the heat!!!!
 And here is a picture from our new waterproof camera!!!!  Takes great pictures!!!
 And fun pictures!!!!  This one is with the camera in the water looking up at Ethan! We had a great time at the splash pad and were cooled off enough to go see more animals!
Our last stop in the park, after the bird show, was the train ride.... how lucky are the kids to be getting two train rides in two days!!!  They better not get use to this! ; )
 The breeze on the train ride also gave us a nice break from the neat!!!!
Love this little stinker who insists on breaking rules!!!  You are suppose to remain seated on the train and she kept insisting on standing up!!!!  That girl!!!  Such a dare devil!  But it is hard to be made when she is beaming with such cuteness and that "look" in her eyes!!!!
Ethan had fun on the train but man, is it hard to hold an active baby and try to take it all in AND take pictures!!!!  This little guy doesn't like to sit still for very long!!!  He is ON the GO!!!!  I tried to distract him with as many things as I could to keep his attention but it doesn't last long!!!  Let's get off this train and get moving!!!
I think Owen got the most out of it.  He is at the age where he can sit still and enjoy everything there is to off.  He sits back and asks questions trying to take it all in and learn as much as possible.  I love his curiosity and his love for animals!  This day was perfect for him!
 Really, it was perfect for ALL of us!!!!  It was an amazing day and such a surprise of a day!  Again, we didn't have this planned so for a last minute thing, it was SO perfect!  We got to the park at 10, drove through the safari until 11:30, and left the park and 3 and there was NO whining!!!!  The kids were great and took it all in!!!  I couldn't believe they had lasted that long on the go with NO nap and were still SO happy!!!!  We were all grinning from ear to ear as we headed to the car!  If you are ever in the Toronto area, make your way to African Lion Safari... you won't be disappointed!!!!

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