She helped me pack a snack in a paper bag when it was clear my stubborn streak was wider than the hint of a smile at the corner of her lips.
I remember getting as far as the back yard via the front door before stopping to devour the homemade cookies she’d wrapped in wax paper for me. I’d found a shady spot up against the house under the eaves where I could sit and imagine an exotic life taming tigers, riding elephants and training monkeys.
There’s something about wild animals that still appeals to the wild child in me. Maybe it's that feral feeling of living off your wits and whim; it was called play, back when play was unscheduled and haphazard, and summers were devoted to roaming the jungles of our curiosity on bicycles with banana seats, like a pack of wild animals hunting for prey.
I felt a bit like that wild child again, riding our safari cycles through the 740 acres of Zoo Miami, formerly Miami MetroZoo (okay, maybe not all 740 acres). I think the wild child piece could be a family trait.
Marci walked and strolled the newest family member, Isla’s 2-month-old sister Lanie,
The first diorama, the Asian Exhibit, was home to the Bengal tiger, the national animal of both India and Bangladesh. Her home shown in the background was based on five ruins in India where tigers have been known to take over abandoned temples. She is one of three tigers in residence at Zoo Miami. She seemed quite content with her digs, sailing on a sea of tranquility (alas, perhaps she was imagining a life with Pi) from her side of the moat and split rail fence.
Before Zoo Miami, there was the Crandon Park Zoo. In 1965, when Hurricane Betsy all but wiped out Crandon Park Zoo, (250 animals were lost as a result of that hurricane), County officials applied for 600 acres further south where the old Richmond Naval Air Station had been located. In 1981 Miami MetroZoo, now called Zoo Miami, opened and continued to evolve into the world renowned showcase it is today.
When Category 5 Hurricane Andrew made landfall in South Florida on August 24th, 1992, Zoo Miami lost 5,000 trees, and 300 birds living in the Wings of Asia aviary. The aviary was completely demolished, as was 25,524 homes in south Miami, including my sister Lynda’s home. One hundred sixty thousand people were suddenly homeless following Hurricane Andrew. The chaos in the aftermath was as traumatizing as the destruction.
No chaos the morning we went through the aviary, with the exception of our smallest wild child anxious to dive into some action.
This majestic and intelligent pachyderm, aka elephant named Machito, was busy demonstrating how to forage for food when we came by. I guess so, given he digests only 40% of what he eats as an herbivore. What doesn’t get digested comes out as dung balls weighting approximately 4 pounds each. Elephants can drop up to 100 of these bombs in one day. That equates to one majestic Preparation H bill.
At least for me, a trip to the zoo always highlights the fragile bond between man and wild beast and the need for respect between the two. It’s a humbling experience to be reminded of the sheer multitude of gifts life has to bestow on this planet we share.
I’m always left feeling small in the shadow of so much untamed beauty.
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The Bottom Line on Miami’s Metro Zoo:
Verdict: Go for the kids, or the kid in you. It’s the next best thing to Noah’s Arc! It’s great family fun, it’s very clean, it’s educational without the homework or the tests.
How to Get There: FromMiami Beach, take 395 West to the 836 West. Pass the Miami International Airport. 836 West dead-ends into the Florida Turnpike. Turn left onto it, continue south to exit 16. Leave Turnpike-come down ramp to your right. You are close to the Zoo. Make a right off the exit and then make another right at 152nd Street. You will then be going west on SW 152nd Street. Move to the left lane and enter the Zoo at SW 124th Avenue to your
Insider Information: Check out their website first (their interactive map of the zoo is especially helpful) to decide what you’d like to see before you go. We went wild (literally and figuratively) on our safari cycles relying on serendipity to guide us. I regret we missed the Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station in the African Exhibit where kids can get eye-to-eye with reticulated giraffes, a species of giraffe common to zoos. If you truly want to see the entire zoo, you can purchase tickets that allow you to return for several days in a row. There are plenty of coupon options with Miami being a very tourist driven area. Simply try an internet search of Miami MetroZoo and coupons to see what’s available. Get to the zoo early if you want to rent a safari cycle. They typically go fast and the rental lines can eat up 15-20 minutes.
Nearby Food: There are several cafes onsite situated around the park. We did not stay to eat lunch because of the little ones in tow.