California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park

I have posted about Golden Gate Park in San Francisco before but there is even more to talk about.  The California Academy of Sciences is a world class science center which proves entertaining for adults and children.  I was visiting the sites nearby and had a few hours to kill and thought it would be a fun stop. It’s been a few years since I last visited and the dinosaurs were visiting this time around!

One of my favorite features is the living roof which is reminiscent of a hobbit house being bulbous with port hole windows. From the roof one can see 360 degree views of the spacious and green park and get a burst of sea air.

Next on the list of my favorites is the indoor rain forest.  No time to travel south of the equator? Come here and see some lovely tress, flowers, birds, frogs, and butterflies native to the world’s rain forests.  Science center guides are available to educate children on butterfly and bird species and their habitats.

Not enough for you?  Head downstairs to a spacious and impressive aquarium where the littles can touch sea creatures in a tide pool and walk under the fish tanks. Don’t forget a visit to the famous albino alligator on your way out of the natural history museum area.  And bring a picnic because there is no better place to sit and enjoy the sunshine in the City by the Bay!

Don’t miss this wonderful stop on your next trip to San Francisco!

Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an institution that I’ve been visiting since I was born. It is a world class aquarium highlighting every part of the sea and it’s glorious creatures. It keeps getting better and better despite the heavy crowds. One could, and likely should, spend multiple days visiting the aquarium early in the morning to avoid crowds and frustration. Below are a few highlights from my humble iPhone. In the afternoons and evenings, to avoid crowds, visit the beautiful Los Lobos State Park, Carmel-by-the-sea or eat in the quaint Pacific Grove. The touristy area immediately surrounding the aquarium is a bit too peoply for me so evacuate and head for the surrounding charm. 

Have you ever been? The aquarium has changed so much over the years. They do wonderful work and deserve every ounce of success.

Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) Open House

My grandmother used to tell me stories of an animal sanctuary nearby that took care of retired show animals.  Well, it turns out that the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) has two locations, one in Galt and another in San Andreas, California.  I know she always wanted to visit the place but it was never open to the public during her lifetime.

A lovely soul named Pat Derby started this organization in the ’80s after she saw animals in show business being neglected, abused, or abandoned after filming.  She and her husband ultimately created a sanctuary where they have taken in Elephants, Big cats, Bears, and more.  Pat has since passed away but her mission is being carried on by a large group of wonderful people.

I finally had the opportunity to visit one of the locations for a charitable open house.  We were able to see Brown Bears, Bengal Tigers, and Elephants.  We were able to explore the grounds and meet the trainers and learn more about the non-profit.  It was a very wet day but it was worth being out in the rain to get a taste of what this wonderful organization does.

For more information on PAWS I encourage you to visit their website by clicking here.

The Elephant trainer displaying his method of positive reinforcement training helpful in caring for the animals without use of bull hooks or other pain methods

Sacramento Zoo

Well, everyone.  It was inevitable I would finally take a few photos at my local Sacramento Zoo.  I spent a few hours checking out my childhood zoo and snapping a few photos recently.  Sadly, a lot of the animals are in enclosures that made it difficult to photograph without getting cages in the photos but I hope you enjoy the animal energy despite occasional cage sighting.

I have visited the San Diego Zoo, the Belize Zoo, the Safari West Zoo in Sonoma, California, and the Phoenix Zoo  since starting my blog.  Check out those links if you never saw them or would like to revisit them again.  Some of the animal shots are my favorites of all time and I love to share them whenever I get the chance.

Do you have a great Zoo near you that I need to visit?

Safari in the Sonoma Serengeti – Safari West Zoo

I was fortunate enough to attend a Safari West Photography Expedition Workshop.  I am pretty sure you could see the smile plastered on my face from space.  I spent last weekend with full access to all of the glorious animals lovingly cared for at the 400 acre Safari West Zoo in Santa Rosa, California.

The program was an instructional workshop on wildlife photography.  We were taken out all over the huge property for viewings of all of the animal specimens they have on site.  We were provided up close and personal access to the smaller animals and birds even able to enter in to some enclosures.

I spent the night in an awesome tent cabin which enabled me to listen to all sorts of “whoop whoop,” growls, beeps, and bumps in the night.  The cabins were incredibly comfortable and can be rented allowing visitors overnight access to the facility.

“Base Camp” provided a wonderful BBQ style dinner and lunch for overnight visitors.  And believe it or not they have spectacular collections of wine and craft beers.  (They even provide a beer tasting safari tour for groups! Sign up now!)

Visitors can walk amongst the animals while waiting for their scheduled three hour jeep tour.  On the tour or on foot one can enjoy Flamingoes, Cheetah, Giraffe, Rhino, Zebra, Ostrich, Antelope, Crane, Guinea Fowl, Hornbill, Ibis, Malayan Great Argus Pheasant, Spoonbill, Tortoise, Hyenas, Blue Duiker, Bongo, Cape Buffalo, Gazelle, Kudu, Impala, Hogs, Watusi Cattle, Wildebeest, Macaw, Colobus Monkey, and Lemurs. (Say that three times fast!)  And those are just some of the animals I saw!


I can only hope that you get a fraction of the enjoyment from these photos as I had in taking them.  What a spectacular treat it was to be so close to these animals and to observe how magnificent they really are.  Kudos to Safari West for taking such fantastic care of the animals and for sharing them with the rest of us in a top notch way.


I mean seriously? Look at this bird?


Is this not the prettiest little face?


Flamingo from a different angle


Giraffe are the sweetest most awkward creatures


The Rhino were running around like they were on a sugar high while I was there. What a treat it was to see them active.


This ostrich was trying to tell me something? What do you think she was trying to say?


Sweet little moment between mama and baby Zebra


Gloriously beautiful Cheetah


This guy just looks smart doesn’t he?


back side of a pheasant showing his colors.


Hyena but he wasn’t laughing


Look at the colors on this guy’s face!


The color on this Ibis is spectacular


Woah. Nice Bill.


This bird looks like the back of a bald old man.

For more information on Safari West please click here.

For more posts on other Zoos or animals I have visited or photographed I would be honored if you would click here

Belize Zoo

If you haven’t figured out yet from some of my previous posts I love visiting Zoos.

Phoenix Zoo

San Diego Zoo

Alas, I especially love a beautiful Zoo where I feel the animals are well cared for and have a lot of room to roam and be, well, animals.  The Belize Zoo is a wonderful example.  This Zoo was started in response to a documentary made on Belizean animals some time ago.  After the documentary was filmed many of the animals used in filming the movie had become socialized to humans and could therefore not be released back to the wild.  The documentarian decided to start the Belize Zoo to care for these animals.  The Zoo staff now specializes in caring for animals that have been abused and injured.  The Zoo doubles as a botanical garden with fine examples of local plants and plenty of shade on a hot day.  The Zoo also boasts a lovely gift shop whose proceeds go to the care of the animals in the Zoo.

The Zoo houses creatures native only to Belize.  The Tapir, one of Belize’s national animals is proudly on display.  The Tapir along with various monkeys, big cats, deer, birds (Toucans being my favorite), turtles, crocodiles,  and more.  The Harpy Eagle was of particular interest to me looking part Eagle and part Owl. Mother Nature’s great sense of humor is on display in grand style at the Belize Zoo.

For a $2.50 donation, the Zoo allows visitors to feed one of their Toucans.  This was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  Little Runty the Toucan was a joyous and excitable bird who enjoyed eating raisins right out of my hand.  His beak is light as a feather, thank goodness, since he has to fly with that enormous thing on the front of his colorful head.


The Zoo also allows for visitors to get in a cage and have one of the big cats roam around and climb on top of them.  I hesitated to have a gorgeous and enormous cat do tricks for me so I passed on this opportunity much to my husband’s chagrin.

Wild birds, Jungle Bunnies, and Lizards roam the Zoo in complete freedom.  They are as entertaining as the animals kept in captivity.  In fact, one can do a fair amount of bird watching at this Zoo both inside and outside of the cages.

I would highly recommend a visit to this Zoo for anyone visiting Belize.  It is one of the gems of Belize and is a very good way to spend a nice morning or afternoon.  My only criticism of the Zoo would be with its Cafe.  (It only boasted American standards like chicken fingers and hamburgers when I was looking for street tacos, chicken with rice, panades, salbutes, tostadas, garnaches, etc.

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Phoenix Wildlife Zoo & Aquarium

While visiting family in Phoenix we decided to feed our mutual love of animals by visiting Phoenix’s Wildlife Zoo and Aquarium. I have to be honest…I was wondering how it was possible to have a zoo in the intolerable Phoenix heat. (Thankfully it was a perfect 88 degrees during my fall visit.) Well, it turns out the park was built on an old piece of agricultural property with TONS of mature trees and lots of luxurious shade.

Highlights for me were watching people feed the giraffes, eating next to the shark tank, petting a manta ray, colorful poison frogs, black panthers, penguins, turtles, white tigers, a sloth, and hundreds of lovely birds.

I never grow tired of admiring exotic animals who seem well cared for. It’s a wonderful way to visit with family who I don’t get to see often enough.

So here’s to family homecomings shared with furry friends!

Please excuse the lack of fancy good camera photos. These are a few fun photos taken with my iPhone.